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Sun Do: Still Breathing After All These Years

The Sun Do practice space at the Clothespin Factory, 1 Granite Street, Montpelier. Photo by Betsy Forrest.
By Martin Kemple

In the mid 1990s, a group of people in Montpelier began practicing a yoga breathing meditation called Sun Do. Almost daily in late afternoons, or early in the pre-dawn hours, they diligently practiced in a downtown yoga studio which they retro-fitted themselves. 

The group has expanded and contracted over the years, but today, almost 30 years later, most of them are still at it. In the early 2000s, they moved to the Clothespin Factory at 1 Granite Street, where they still practice seven mornings a week, plus Wednesday afternoons. They also participate in more intensive multi-day retreats four times a year at the Sun Do Retreat Center in Barnet, as well as a nine-day ‘Mountain Retreat’ during the summer.

Sun Do is an ancient holistic practice that includes yoga postures, structured breathing meditation, and exercises to increase strength and flexibility. Specific breathing techniques combined with simple postures are aimed at stimulating internal energy (called “Ki” by the Japanese and Koreans, or “Qi” or “Chi” by the Chinese). By tapping into the body’s natural energy center, practitioners can better maintain an ongoing balance between physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being. 

Yet those who have been practicing Sun Do for a long time often find it difficult to describe why the practice is so compelling and why they’ve stuck with it for so long — except that it works. It builds energy, increases flexibility, and enhances a deep sense of calm and inner confidence in the body.

Betsy Barstow of Adamant has been practicing Sun Do continuously since 1994. She says that the practice “tailors itself to the needs of the individual — whether those be physical, emotional, etc.” 

“When I start my days by practicing,” she says, “I feel prepared for anything that can happen because I’m coming from a more centered, tranquil place. I feel like I’ve nourished myself.” She adds: “If I miss a few days, I notice a difference in how I approach things. Sun Do is a very balanced practice, it’s very centering for me, and I like the physical aspect.”

Betsy Forrest started in 1995 and has been doing it ever since.“I’m 71 and still strong and flexible thanks to Sun Do,” she says. “I can’t imagine what my life would be without it.”

As the long-time coordinator of the Montpelier Sun Do group, she points out that people who have taken up the practice over the years have reported remarkable results. “Some practitioners have claimed that it’s cured their depression, and helped with injuries, such as back injuries,” she says. 

Beginners are welcome on Wednesdays, from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. starting Feb. 1. The cost is $15 per class, or $70 for six classes. The first class is free with no obligation to complete the series of beginner classes. Early morning classes are also available. Contact bforrest777@gmail.com with questions.

Martin Kemple is a mental health counselor working with families and adolescents as well as adults in life transition. He practices Sun Do and lives in Worcester. For more information go to sundomontpeliervt.org.