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Almir Alicelebic
Almir Alicelebic.

Breathing Lessons

Nurse Almir Alicelebic brings an element of kung fu to the bedside

A man arrives in the ER with a racing heartbeat. A nurse takes the man’s pulse. It’s over 150, well above the normal range of 60 to 100 beats per minute.

At the Weeneebayko hospital in Moose Factory, Ontario, nurse Almir Alicelebic (BScN 2009) not only provides the appropriate care for atrial fibrillation, he teaches the patient how to slow down his frantic heartbeat with a Kungrobics breathing technique. He also refers the patient to his weekly Kungrobics class, which he holds at a health centre.

Alicelebic learned Kungrobics in Toronto, and the practice emphasizes the breath work used in kung fu training. Alicelebic, 25, finds that it promotes health and fosters feelings of well-being. As a nursing student, he introduced Kungrobics to Na-Me-Res, a shelter in Toronto for native men. “The breathing exercises were quite successful for some of the residents, especially ones off the street with cravings, anxiety and non-clinical depression,” says Alicelebic, noting that a treatment program is also necessary for people dealing with cravings. At the end of his placement, he taught Kungrobics to a First Nations counsellor at the shelter to ensure the practice could continue. The counsellor thought the movements resembled those of the animal spirits depicted in traditional native dances.

“My favourite successes come from the bedside,” continues Alicelebic, who has offered the breathing exercises to patients battling everything from arthritis to suicidal feelings. He is now hoping to work with a physician to integrate Kungrobics into the Weeneebayko hospital’s traditional healing program.

Five years ago, when Alicelebic started studying Kungrobics, he just wanted to learn a martial art. “I had no idea to what extent it would shift my perception, morality and outlook on life,” he says. “I’ve been extending this sort of thinking into my everyday life, and I’ve been noticing more while being happy with less.”

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