Spotlight: Ramel Rones, Tai Chi Master and Mind/Body Instructor

29 Mar, 2022

Veteran Tai Chi and Qigong Instructor Provides Complementary Care at Zakim Center

Qigong, meditation, and Tai Chi instructor Ramel Rones’ main goal for his courses at the Leonard P. Zakim Center for Integrative Therapies and Healthy Living is to empower patients and their families. “Through Qigong, I give patients the tools to deal with their symptoms,” he says.

He has been teaching these practices at Dana-Farber for almost two decades, offering courses to patients, their families, and staff. “My patient students range from just diagnosed to those in treatment, and to, finally, survivors. They can all benefit at every stage of the cancer journey.”

Rones says that Qigong, Tai Chi, and meditation may help manage treatment symptoms like frozen shoulders, chronic pain, joint pain, lower back pain, migraines and osteoporosis.

“When I started, this was all called alternative care, but that has changed to integrative, which I think is more suitable,” he says. His courses are part of a wide-ranging curriculum of passive and active therapies the Zakim Center offers, which include massage and acupuncture.

Now almost 60, Rones was exposed to the benefits of Tai Chi as a teenager in Israel. He was very active in track and field, but dealt with continuous neck and back pain, along with recurring sinus infections and digestive issues. After a gauntlet of physicians couldn’t identify the causes of these symptoms, Rones’ mother took him to an acupuncture specialist.

“In the 70s, there was no focus on flexibility. Yoga wasn’t popular in the west. Nobody could identify my issue,” he says. “This guy laid me down on a table and attempted to push my knees up to my chest and they barely reached halfway. He immediately said, ‘Ah, here’s problem.’”

The specialist began working on Rones’ flexibility and referred him to a friend who taught Kung Fu, Qigong and Tai Chi. Rones fell in love immediately, and after a few years of practicing in Israel he moved to Boston to study under Kung Fu, Qigong and Tai Chi master, Dr. Yang Jwing-Ming.

Rones admits that he wasn’t initially interested in the Tai Chi and Qigong's healing practices. “I was young when I started practicing,” he says. “I wasn’t so interested in the slow stuff. I wanted to learn Kung Fu and how to fight—Bruce Lee was very popular at the time. My teacher’s trick was that he would promise to teach me that stuff, but only if we meditated for 45 minutes before and after.”

With a rigorous 6-day training schedule, Rones became a successful fighter and even won competitions in China, but he’d soon learn there was more to the ancient practices. “One day my teacher told me, ‘Listen, if you want to fight well, you will have to learn how to heal,’” he says.

That conversation set Rones on a new path. As he learned of the healing properties of Tai Chi and Qigong, he began teaching it himself. After publishing two Qigong/Tai Chi book series on the subject, Sunrise and Sunset Tai Chi, Rones began teaching classes at Dana-Farber, and other medical institutions in the area.

His courses at the Zakim Center are comprehensive. “I call Tai Chi and Qigong 'sophisticated exercise'—you are still getting exercise in the same way you do when you do western exercise, but you also integrate a focus on the breath, and on the mind,” he explains.

Along with physical well-being, Rones uses his teachings to promote mental and spiritual health. This can help patients deal with the challenges of a daunting diagnosis or treatment plan. “Positive thinking and getting in touch with your spirituality can be incredibly helpful in a medical situation,” Rones explains.

Rones says Tai Chi, Qigong, and meditation can also benefit staff and faculty at Dana-Farber. “Many of us sit at our computers all day which can be detrimental to our posture. The first obvious benefit of practicing Tai Chi and Qigong regularly for staff is improving flexibility and strength to correct those issues,” he says.

But the mental and spiritual benefits can also be helpful. “My courses can help with the daily stressors in our work,” he explains. “The ability to calm your mind and reduce stress—or as I like to say, ‘Be more Zen’—will help you deal with outside forces in a more effective way and make better decisions.”

Rones teaches 45-minutes courses to patients, family, and staff through the Zakim Center three times a week—Monday, Wednesday, and Friday—via Zoom. 

- Lukas Harnisch-Weidauer