Doncaster mum Sharon Hill had been dealt a series of terrible blows in life.
Sharon, from Stainforth, lost her young son in a car crash. She lost her management consultancy business after her marriage crumbled.
And a fall down stairs left her with spinal damage.
For three years, it left her taking antidepressants.
But now, she is off the pills. And she puts her improvement down to taking up a form of traditional Chinese exercise, known as Qigong, at a community centre in Stainforth.
And she’s not the only one crediting the lessons for a improvement in her health. Others say they can now walk without crutches.
Meg Allen, originally from Stainforth, but now living in Thorne, set up the group earlier this year.
She started to learn Qigong after her marriage fell apart, and severe back pain left her dependent on painkillers.
She says her back pain slowly diminished and her self-confidence returned following the breakdown of her marriage. She trained to teach, and developed her own style.
She says she is psychic, and sees colours when she run her sessions.
She teaches simple exercises by performing slow and gentle movements which are combined with a controlled breathing pattern.
She believes it helps improve balance and coordination, relieves pain, encourages mobility, and helps to reduce stress. She says the body slowly moves, the mind remains centred on the breathing pattern, creating a feeling of inner peace and tranquility.
But she is adamant that it is not an alternative to conventional medicine and that those who come to her should continue to see their doctors.
“It works in a similar way to acupuncture,” she said.
“It is about natural healing energy.”
Sharon said she cried the second time she came to one of the sessions. “It was a natural release,” she said.
“I don’t know where it came from, but I just released it all in front of complete strangers. I felt enlightened spiritually and mentally.
“I hadn’t cried like that since I lost my son.
“I Lost my son when he was aged only five. I went through a bad divorce where I lost everything I’d worked for. I thought ‘what’s the reason to be here?’
“Coming here has helped me relax, and helped me spiritually. I feel there is more to life than things I’ve been worrying over, and when I’m at home I still try to use the teachings I’ve learned here.”
Sharon lost her son in a car crash in the 1980s. The car had pulled in off the road. But another car struck it at speed. the car caught fire, and although she was able to get one son out, she was unable to help the other.
“Coming here helps me deal with other things in my life,” she said.
Sharon comes to the sessions with her sister, Janet Coates, aged 62.
Janet was taking strong prescription painkillers for osteoarthritis from the age of 30. She was struggling to walk, and doctors, concerned about her use of the medication, stopped it in 2017.
She started the Qigong sessions in May. “On a scale of one to 10, the pain was 10, she said. “I used to walk with a walking stick, but I don't use a stick any more.
“I used to get panic attacks, but this has calmed me down. My muscles used to hurt with fibromyalgia, but that has stopped.”
Self-employed benefits welfare officer, Helen Butler credits the sessions restoring feeling in her feet.
Helen, from Hatfield, suffers from spina bifida, and has walked with a stick for years. “I thought coming here would be mainly about relaxation,” she said. “Having spina bifida meant I never felt much sensation in my feet. But recently I have started feeling feeling me toes, which is weird when I have not felt them in past, other than after intense physio.
“It was surprising that something like that happened so quickly. I’m curious about how much else could happen.”
Former factory worker Anne Brown spent two weeks in critical care in hospital after having a tracheotomy. There was always a light on while she was having her treatment.
The result of this for the 73-year-old from Stainforth, was that she could not sleep without a light on. She started coming to the Qigong session in January, She says it has helped her sleep. “I no longer sleep with the light on,” she said. “I’ve also stopped seeing a chiropractor about me back.
“I enjoy coming here, and that’s the main thing for me, but it has made a difference to me in how I feel.”
Another Stainforth resident, Linda Appleby, said she had problems with artritis and sleeping. She credits the sessions for helping her sleep, and reducing her dependence on a walking stick.
“”I used to have to sit down to do the exercises here," she said. “I can do them standing up now. I have a walking stick, but now I only use it on uncertain ground.”
Meg said: “Qi is enegy, and gong is using the energy. It is the same principle as acupuncture, but there are no needles – it is about the breath.. We breath to move the energy blockage. It can be spiritual, emotional or physical energy. It has been done in China for thousands of years.
“We use very slow exercises that can be done sitting down or standing up.
“It is all about relaxing.
“I am just a normal grandmother teaching this.
“We imaging energy balls in the palms of our hands. The energy is there and we start to direct it that towards the part of the body that needs healing.
“Whatever people do, they still need to work with their doctors, but I see this as an additional way of healing.”