De-stressing the city

| 18 Aug 2015 | 11:30

Ron Navarre has made it his mission to de-stress Manhattan. Recognizing the fact that most doctor visits result in a diagnosis of “It’s stress related,” he has put together a healing process full of holistic practices — including Tai Chi, Chi Qong, Reiki, yoga and meditation.

His company, StressDefense, is based on a core technique of grounding and centering one’s self in the present. And since everyone experiences stress, he teaches a wide range of groups, from students in a classroom to businessmen in a seminar. His practice also includes designing individual holistic health and healing practices for cancer patients.

An actor himself, who was once in A Chorus Line on Broadway, he has been teaching at The Lee Strasberg Theater & Film Institute for 18 years, instructing performers on the principles of Tai Chi.

You received a full scholarship to the Royal Winnipeg Ballet in Canada. Then, at 19, you developed patellar tendonitis and were told your dancing career was over.I started dancing very late, when I was almost 17. And I tried to do years of work in a very short amount of time. It takes, on average, about seven years for a body to adjust to classical ballet, which is what I was training in. And I tried to do it in a year, and as a consequence of that, I pushed so hard that I developed patellar tendonitis in both knees. And that’s pretty serious. Took me off my feet for nine months.

You first came to New York at 21 to find work as a performer. What was it like when you got here?Yes, I came here in 1982 to perform as a dancer, singer and actor. Once I got here, I was fortunate enough to meet people who were already in the business and were able to guide me very quickly. So I sort of fell into it. I was here about six weeks and got a job. I got into A Chorus Line and was then invited to join the Broadway company.

You started your practice while you were still on Broadway.Yes, I started my holistic health practice while I was still performing. I did an apprenticeship as a shiatsu therapist and studied yoga, Tai Chi, Chi Qong. And I was teaching classes and working with people privately while I was still performing on Broadway. That sort of branched off into working with specific types of people, performers, obviously, and then I got into people who were having surgeries, like hip and knee replacements, and then started working with cancer patients 10 years ago. I work with a lot of cancer patients now.

Give an example of a cancer patient who responded well to your therapy.What I do with a cancer patient is I help them custom design a healing practice for themselves. And I incorporate the elements of all these different modalities that I can draw upon. I have some people that I work with in their 40s, some in their 80s. All different types of cancer. They’re going through treatments, usually some form of chemotherapy, radiation and or surgery. It depends on where they are in the treatment process and what they have to deal with. One gentleman I worked with for a long time, who was a professor with IBM and a mathematician, had prostate cancer for 30 years. By the time I had met him, he was in his late 70s. He had just had extensive surgery to remove some cancerous lymph nodes from his back. But his wound wasn’t healing and it had been several weeks since his surgery. So what I did with him is teach him what it meant to heal. And what that entails, primarily, is having enough energy for the body to heal itself. And he was very low on energy. So I taught him how to breathe. I taught him breathing exercises, some Chi Qong. How to focus and meditate in a way that would reduce his stress that was coming from his emotional reaction to his medical condition. I gradually gave him more physical exercises based on Tai Chi and Chi Qong, and his wound healed in a matter of about three weeks. And everybody was quite amazed by that. It’s not a mystery. He was depleting himself daily by stressing over it, so the body is not going to heal. Breath is your primary source of energy and if you’re not breathing fully, then you’re not going to metabolize your energy to begin with.

Through working with cancer patients, you developed a technique called Rei Qong. Explain that.Essentially it’s principles from Reiki, which is a healing practice from Japan, and Chi Qong, a Chinese practice and one of the five branches of Chinese medicine. When I started working with cancer patients who were in the hospital, they couldn’t even get out of bed. So I had to modify and adapt certain exercises and principles to make it something that they could do. There are elements of self-massage, grounding and centering, meditation and movement.

What do you want people to know about what stress does to your body and how to manage it?A lot of it is basically our own creation. It’s how we react or respond to our life. Some people suffer from a lot of anxiety. I did; I had panic attacks for many years. That’s what motivated me to master this skill set that I teach. That was one of my best teachers. It motivated me to learn all these different tools and techniques. If you can manage your energy, you can manage stress. It’s not so much just time management or organizational management. It’s state-of-being management and that comes down to focus, energy and intention. If you learn any meditative technique, you’re learning that as well to a certain degree. How you apply it is really the issue. And that’s what I work on with people, individually, and in groups. So if I’m teaching a college class, I’m relating this technique to their situation as a college student. Their everyday stresses. If I work with a big company, I’m relating it to their specific lifestyle. I also work with a lot of doctors and lawyers as well as artists.

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