How three Eastern wellness traditions help Hendersonville zen out
Few would peg Gail Hagenbuch, a self-proclaimed “cosmic medicine woman” whose website expounds on the inherent properties of selenite, as an ex-paper pusher who left a Fortune 500 company in 2014. But there was a time when she toiled in the mire of corporate America, so sick she could barely stand for ten minutes without pain. That was before she discovered Qi Gong.
Pronounced chee-gung, this ancient Chinese practice literally means “energy work.” It is thought to be nearly 4,000 years old and involves a diverse set of very gentle movements designed to balance the body, breath, and mind. “It is like a meditation in motion,” says Hagenbuch, who teaches Qi Gong at The Horse Shoe Farm, an eighty-acre rural wellness retreat and spa in Henderson County. Though most of her students are guests staying at the riverfront resort, she thinks Qi Gong could be advantageous for everyone, especially as we all continue to recover from 2020.
From political polarization to a global pandemic, last year certainly felt less than cheerful. That much is clear from the exponential uptick in downloads of “mindfulness” apps like Calm and Headspace. And though these apps might be newfangled, mindfulness isn’t. Many Eastern wellness practices like Qi Gong are rooted in the idea of “living from the heart and not the mind,” says Hagenbuch. More plainly, these practices aim to get us out of our heads and into the moment.
Some traditions, like Taekwondo, also emphasize physical wellness. Founded by Kevin Fakhoury in 2015, the Fakhoury Academy of Taekwondo on Asheville Highway teaches traditional Taekwondo, a Korean martial art characterized by fast and effective kicking techniques. Fakhoury, who left a desk job as an engineer to found the academy, says “Taekwondo” literally translates to “the way of the hand and foot” and dates back to about 50 B.C.E.
“The Japanese were consummate horsemen and were constantly invading Korea because it was a great shipping port,” he says. “The Koreans came up with the idea of using a flying sidekick to knock the Japanese off their horses.”
As such, “every form that we teach is like a dance of self-defense,” explains Fakhoury. But, much like judo and karate, the art is also centered around mindfulness. The ready stance, or Joon Bi, requires an “almost meditative state,” says Fakhoury. “It’s a state of being relaxed, being calm, letting your brain be, and just settling into the moment.”
In that way, Taekwondo shares many similarities with yoga, an Eastern tradition that was introduced to the United States in the late 1800s and has since gained popularity both nationally and regionally. In 2014, after using hot yoga to recover from a running injury, Averee Refshauge opened Yoga and Massage (YAM) on South King Street. YAM now offers massages and yoga to all levels of practice. The studio has become such a local mainstay that it expanded to a Laurel Park location last year and will begin offering meditation workshops this fall.
But there are still many misunderstandings about yoga. “Of course, we offer yoga for people who just want to come in and get a good workout, but it’s also about more than that,” says Refshauge. “It’s all-encompassing—it’s about the mind, body, and spirit.”
Though many Westerners perceive yoga as simply an exercise in flexibility, the word “yoga” is derived from the Sanskrit root “yuj,” meaning to yoke or to join. Thus, the practice can be interpreted as a means of joining the mind and body through breathing and postures. It can also be interpreted as a way of life. “You can bring yoga into washing the dishes or driving your car or being at home with your family,” says Refshauge.
For many at YAM, yoga is a form of healing, as well. Like Refshauge, some come to the studio after a physical injury, finding the practice to be a gentle, low-impact exercise. But others come to the practice after experiencing trauma or long-term stress.
“When you’re crashing spiritually and mentally, you feel it in your body,” says Refshauge. “Yoga can be a way of healing yourself from the inside out.”
The Horse Shoe Farm (155 Horse Shoe Farm Drive, Hendersonville) typically offers Qi Gong classes to the public each Sunday from 10-11am. For more information and updates, visit thehorseshoefarm.com or call 828-393-3034. To learn about Fakhoury Academy of Taekwondo (1825 Asheville Hwy., Hendersonville), go to fakhourytkd.com or call 828-674-6267. For more information on YAM (410 South King St. & 1620 Brevard Road #10, Hendersonville), visit iamyam.com or call 828-214-7947.