If you're looking for a way to relieve stress while also improving your overall health, then an ancient Chinese exercise may be just what he doctor prescribed.

Qigong, relatively new in the States, albeit quickly growing, is an exercise that can help improve your health, relieve stress and balance the energy flow within your body.

Bill Wrenn has been practicing Qigong for three years and began teaching it more than a year ago. After being diagnosed with cancer and going through treatment, Wrenn found his body was pretty beaten up and after a suggestion by his acupuncturist, he pursued Qigong.

"Qigong might be the oldest form of organized exercise. It's a lot like Tai Chi except there isn't as much movement or footwork," Wrenn said. "It started to be practiced as a way to be healthier and cure disease."

Wrenn was taught the practice by Roger Jahnke at his Institute of Integral Qigong and Tai chi and from there he began teaching interested students around the area.

"Qigong is all about getting in touch with your energy flow and unlike yoga, it is done while standing or sitting. A lot of it is practiced outside as well because one of the goals of Qigong is to feel more in harmony with nature," he said.

The practice is still fairly new in the area but Wrenn said it continues to grow in popularity each year. In China, he said the exercise has become routine for many people who will go into a park to practice it.

"You get the double benefit of being outside and exercising. One of the bonuses is that you don't have to be completely mobile in order to practice it," he said.

As for Wrenn's students, he said he isn't sure why they became interested in Qigong, but he suspects much of the interest was due to previous health issues or the need for more exercise.

"Some people want to feel healthier and others just want to try it out because it's fun," Wrenn said.

Besides the physical exercise aspect of the practice, Wrenn said many people benefit from the stress relief Qigong offers.

"You're helping your mind to relax as well as your body. It's a good way to release tension and it relieves stress. That's one of the reasons it's becoming so popular because we are a high-stress society," he said.

As Qigong grows in popularity, Wrenn said he sees the practice following a similar route as yoga did 20 years ago.

"Yoga used to be pretty scarce 20 or 30 years ago but now there are yoga centers all over the place. Qigong is similar because it is becoming more widely available," Wrenn said.

Wrenn said many of the people who try it find themselves quickly becoming hooked.

"It becomes kind of addicting but in a good way," he said. "What really makes it appealing is that you can do it at home and you don't need a studio or mat in order to do it. I encourage people to practice at home for 10 or 15 minutes a day."

For more information about Qigong, visit Wrenn's website at www.movingharmony.com.