BENNINGTON >> When an individual gets a serious medical diagnosis, being defeated might be the first and last state of emotions they encounter. Qigong (chee-gong) instructor Nate Sumner has met cancer patients who have overcome those negative feelings and outlived their prognosis.

For 12 weeks, Southwestern Vermont Medical Center (SVMC) is offering a qigong course for cancer survivors and their support team members at no cost. The basis of the course is to learn balancing postures and creative visualization techniques under the traditional Chinese medical approach. Exercises involve slow physical movement and deep breathing while maintaining focus.

Sumner instructs at Villari's Martial Arts Center in Williamstown, Mass. and is certified through the Qigong Learning Institute in Lake Forest, CA as a Medical Qigong Practitioner, which is the first step toward becoming a Doctor of Medical Qigong. He is a fifth degree black belt as well as a master trainer and has been doing martial arts for about 20 years.

Sumner explained that the practice is like a guided meditation and helps participants balance the energies in their body. It is very similar to tai chi, acupuncture and reiki.

"It's not moving away from western medicine--its qigong with western medicine," he said. "I hope they [participants] make a routine out of the exercises they learn and use qigong as a vacation and don't rush the practice."


At the start of the class, participants share their experiences with meditating and if they see flashes of color or notice any other sensations. One of the members, Lydia Armstrong, enjoys qigong and believes it's aiding in her recovery.

"I like it," she said. "It's helping. It' a different kind of relaxing, not boring. I get lost in the relaxation. I recommend it to others all the time."

In 2014, the American Cancer Society reported on a breast cancer survivor who practiced tai chi and qigong to help her relax and obtain a peaceful mind. The survivor sought out something to quiet her mind and help her body heal. Now she's been practicing for 10 years and teaches her own classes.

"The intent is positive thinking and positive reinforcement," Sumner said. "I add exercises each week and encourage them to work on them at home."

The five elements in the body that Sumner targets are wood, earth, metal, fire and water.

"If things in our body are out of balance then that's not right," he said. "This is excellent for cancer patients to teach positive thinking and guide energy to better health. More than often they are quick to give up and can't find peace."

Qigong dates back to 206 B.C. and introduced the natural powers of heaven, earth and man by studying the relationships of the three, according to It wasn't until the Zhou dynasty (1122-934 B.C.) that breathing techniques were incorporated and then muscle changing exercises were added between 502-1911 A.D. when priests found that it improved their health and strength. Later it was integrated into martial arts.

—Makayla-Courtney McGeeney can be reached at (802)-447-7567, ext. 118.