Penang offers a plethora of opportunities to try the ancient mind-body practices of Tai Chi, Qi Gong and Yoga, each one of them both invigorating for the body and calming for the mind.
Tai Chi, originally an ancient Chinese martial art, is usually practiced these days as a graceful form of exercise. It involves a series of slow circular, stretching, and balance movements accompanied by deep breathing. John Hanna and Veronica Greer conduct free Tai Chi classes in Armenian Park, at the junction of Armenian Street and Acheen Street in George Town, from April to September, every Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, from 7.15am until 8.15am, unless it is raining. The classes begin with easy warm-up exercises and light stretching to loosen the body, followed by Qi Gong and Tai Chi. They welcome everyone from beginners to experienced practitioners, and the class of the day is tailored accordingly. You can get more details by checking their very comprehensive website www.taichipenang.com.
There are also a number of Martial Arts Centres in Penang, some of which also offer Tai Chi. For example ZhongHua Internal Wushu Centre in Solok Terengganu holds classes on Mondays and Thursday at 8.30pm. You can reach them through their facebook page www.facebook.com/ZhongHuaInternalWushuCentre. Or you can simply head over to Penang Botanic Gardens any morning, and ask to join one of the groups practicing there.
Qigong, or cultivating the power of Qi, the Chinese concept of life energy, also involves coordinated body movements, but is more focused on breath and meditation than Taichi. In Penang it is possible both to practice Qigong oneself, and to go to a therapist who uses Qigong therapy, by using their hands to balance the client’s energy system.
The Penang Qigong Association has a centre in Butterworth, and also one on the island, on Taman Berjaya, in Pulau Tikus. Two-hour classes are held at the centre in Pulau Tikus on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday mornings at 8.30am, and on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings at 7.30pm. The instructors all have between ten and fifteen years experience practicing Qigong. Classes are held by Chai Lin in Chinese, and by Alexander in English.
Beginners and visitors are welcome to join classes free of charge, but should they become interested to progress, they are asked to register for the First Level, which involves paying RM 60 a month to attend the classes, and RM 480 for a week-long instruction period. The RM 480 also includes a T-shirt, CD and other materials. You are recommended to call Alex or Chai Lin on 012 566 5013 before attending class to double-check the current schedule.
The centre also benefits from a Master, who does not teach, but does perform Qigong healing by appointment at the same telephone number.
Alternatively, Mr Ooi Kean Hin is a Zhineng Qigong therapist and instructor based in Air Itam. You can make an appointment to visit him for a healing session on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays between 11am to 4pm, or enquire about training classes, which are held at his Serenity Therapy & Health Centre in Bayan Lepas. He can be reached on 016 451 1103 and firstname.lastname@example.org. More details are available on his website https://qigongzhineng.wordpress.com/about/
Yoga is perhaps the best-known and most widely-practiced of these three ancient mind-body activities, and has taken off in a big way in Penang in recent years. No matter what your level, preferred style of yoga and time availability, you will almost certainly find something that suits. The Penang Yoga facebook group has links to all the studios and teachers on the island and the mainland, and also is the place to find special events and workshops. But here is a short list of a few of the most central places.
The Sunalini Yoga studio is in a renovated shop house in Hutton Lane in George Town. Sunalini teaches Iyengar yoga with one class most days of the week and private lessons available. Classes are suitable for all levels, and the price for drop-ins is RM 35 per class. Send a message to Sunalini through her facebook page, www.facebook.com/SunaliniYoga, to book a mat.
Wholey Wonder is a yoga studio and vegan cafe within the Hin Bus Depot contemporary arts complex. The “my yoga schedule” tab on their facebook page www.facebook.com/wholeywonder gives you the latest days and times of their yin, vinyasa, ashtanga and hatha classes. Or you can call them on 04-218 9006. Drop-ins pay RM 25 per class.
Located at Vantage, a strip mall close to Straits Quay, de Yoga House offers classes in a variety of styles, including hatha, power, yin and aerial yoga. There are classes every day, mornings, evenings or both. The weekly schedule is posted on their facebook page, www.facebook.com/DeYogaHouse, or you can call them on 016-449-2776. Drop-ins pay RM 50 per class.