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Hoping to reduce their collective stress levels, increase their energy and improve their health, more than 50 Penn students headed into Logan Hall last night to explore the world of alternative healing. Sponsored by campus groups ranging from Student Health Services to the Office of the Vice Provost for University Life to the Yan Xin Qigong Club, the students were treated to an introductory class in Qigong Tai Chi -- a traditional form of Chinese exercises. According to Barry Kenneally, a worker in Student Health Services and the coordinator for the event, Qigong is "part of a comprehensive health and wellness program." Yu Chen, a Penn graduate student and president of the Yan Xin Qigong Club, explained that Qigong Tai Chi is different from regular Tai chi in that it emphasizes the cultivation of Qigong, or "vital energy." Chinese Qigong master Yan Xin was the first to combine Qigong with science in 1980. Dora Horbachevsky, a staff assistant in the Neurology and Oncology departments, addressed the participants in the beginning of the class. She is one of the two Qigong students who attested to its healthful effects. "[Qigong was] one of the best things that I ever did in my life," she said. "Now I can smile at my boss and be sincere about it." And Will Tayor, a teacher for the Fairmount Park Commission, had similar feelings. "Qigong has enabled me to be drug free," he said. The assets of Qigong include stress reduction, mental health improvement, physical health improvement, energy enhancement, concentration improvement and even weight-loss. "For chronic problems, [modern] medicine is now accepting that Qigong is a valid complementary treatment," said Kirsten Erwin, a biochemist at nearby Hahnemann University and four-year practitioner of Yan Xin Qigong. Near the end of the seminar, Long Gao, president of the International Yan Xin Qigong Health Institute of Martial Arts, showed a video of himself in action. "[Qigong is] being in harmony with the universe," he said. At the end of the seminar, University faculty and students were invited to participate in a nine-week program -- whose location has yet to be selected -- which will teach the movements of Yan Xin Qigong Tai Chi. The sessions, which will meet on Tuesday nights, will also focus on the cultivation of inner energy. Extra admission forms had to be photocopied, meaning that more people showed up for the seminar than had been expected. Most attendees were Penn students who had little or no experience with Qigong Tai Chi. "It was encouraging for me to hear of the health benefits," said Crystal Epps, a graduate student in Social Work who still suffers from a back injury sustained in a car accident two years ago. "It's nice that the University can provide students with alternative techniques," said Gabriel Ramos-Fernandez, a graduate student in Biology who practices Tai Chi.

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