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Watering the Roots

Childhood qigong lessons later saved Alex Tuggle's life.

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Other kids' dads were into golf, gourmet cooking — maybe a little yoga. Alex Tuggle's dad was into qigong.

It all started in the late 1970s when the senior Tuggle, then a successful Southern California lawyer, sought an acupuncturist to help his wife. "By chance," says Tuggle, "one of his law clients recommended Hua-Ching Ni."

A world-renowned Taoist master who traces his wisdom through an unbroken succession spanning 74 generations back to the Han Dynasty, Ni arrived in the United States in 1976, shortly before Tuggle's mother became his patient. She was so pleased with the results that she began studying acupuncture herself. Meanwhile, the lawyer was learning yet another skill from Ni: qigong, which he liked so much that he became an instructor. Tuggle retains vivid childhood memories of practicing with his dad's group every Sunday morning in a park at age six or seven: "We had to wake up so early, those Sundays. I didn't want to go. My sister and I were the only children in the group. It was like church, except that nobody at school could relate."

But later, those childhood lessons would prove infinitely precious. Hit by a car while rollerblading at age twelve, Tuggle sustained a broken ankle and a serious head injury that kept him in intensive care for two weeks and a foot-to-hip cast for even longer. "I thank God that I survived such a devastating blow to my body," he reflects. But the accident's effects ran deep. As a young adult, Tuggle suffered painful neck stiffness and unbearable pressure in his head. After other treatments failed to help, he returned to his roots.

With qigong and acupuncture, "my muscles were able to loosen up. ... Through much practice and observation, I found certain techniques for relieving pain, muscle aches, orthopedic misalignment, and many other musculoskeletal ailments." These worked for him — as, he surmised, they had worked for countless others through the ages. Making up his mind to spread the wisdom, he followed in both of his parents' footsteps and is now a qigong instructor and licensed acupuncturist practicing in Oakland.

As he does every Monday evening, Tuggle teaches Sacred Turtle Qigong at the Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists Hall (1606 Bonita Ave., Berkeley) on July 27. Sacred Turtle Qigong targets the spine, back muscles, and kidneys: "For me it's been the most powerful healing tool." It involves stretching meridians, using the breath to visualize and guide energy through them. This visualization entails "drawing water energy up from deep inside the earth — the turtle represents the water element — then using it to nourish our spinal fluid, brain, bones, and kidneys, which are the main water organs." Tuggle proffers a favorite comparison: "Even if you cut a tree all the way down to the roots, but then you water the roots, it's going to grow back." 6 p.m., $5-$10. Holistic-Back-Relief.com

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