If we haven't met before, or even if we have, let me tell you a little bit about my personal journey and history with tai chi and qigong and the reasons why I'm an advocate of this form of healthy exercise.
I attended my first tai chi class in London, in 1992, when I was 27 years old. At the time, I had been experiencing some anxiety and depression and I had also been suffering from asthma and various allergies. I would say, in retrospect, that I was cut off from my body and was repressing my feelings and emotions. Not a good place to be! I remember that first tai chi class being such a revelation - I left the class feeling calmer, more relaxed, but also energised and uplifted. I was intrigued by this glimpse into the Chinese system of medicine and well-being. My depression lifted and I could feel the chi energy tingling in my fingers. From that moment on, I was hooked.
I attended this weekly class with Paul Tucker for a year and then found myself working as an administrator at The City Lit in Drury Lane, London. As a perk of the job, we were able to choose a class for free, so I enrolled on the Tai Chi and Qigong Intensive, which was a 3 hour session run by Glyn Williams (in the lineage of Cheng Man Ching) each Saturday morning. I attended an extra one or two classes during the week aswell. I knew that I had found my life-path and that one day I would teach this to others. As I was attending so many classes and practising at home, my health and well being improved dramatically over the following years.
My underlying anxiety was reduced and replaced by a calmness I had never known before. It was if someone had laid a blanket of tranquility over my previously highly-strung nervous system. I was able to leave my asthma inhalers in the cupboard as the deep, diaphragmatic breathing practice had not only strengthened my lungs and my internal organs, it had released me from a chronic shortness of breath and lack of vital energy that had been with me since I was a child. Some years later, when having a medical assessment for a job, I was told, to my delight, that I was no longer considered asthmatic after performing the lung function test.
With my new found optimism and improved health, I felt increasingly at home in my body and developed an interest in bodywork and the ways in which the body and mind work together to promote healing. For 3 years, I trained with Chris Jarmey (European Shiatsu School) to become a shiatsu practitioner and developed a deeper understanding of the mind/body/spirit connection, the way Chi (energy) moves through our body and how we can influence this for the better. I was also able to expand my understanding of Chinese Medicine and delve into the Oriental philosophies of Taoism and Buddhism . For 5 years or so, I had my own part-time shiatsu practice in London and I worked in a clinic to help people suffering from addictions through the use of bodywork and qigong.
My tai chi and qigong practices were now at a sufficient level for me to teach classes at The City Lit and then expand further to teach for the Corporation of London, the NHS, the Labour Party HQ and other individuals and corporations. This was going smoothly until I gave birth to twins when I was 38. Talk about a life-changing moment! Unable to afford London childcare costs so that I could continue my work, I had no option but to move closer to my parents so they could help look after my son and daughter. That meant a move to Newcastle-upon-Tyne...
I managed to last 18 months after the twins were born before I knew I had to start teaching tai chi and qigong again - some say you teach what you most need to learn! The classes built up gradually to around 10 a week - I was teaching for North Tyneside Council and Newcastle City Council, as well as running private classes - but I was unable to continue with the shiatsu due to the demands of being a parent. The only difficulty with this stage of my life was that I had no resident tai chi teacher and was relying on videos from my London teacher, which meant that my progress stagnated to some degree.
Around 2012, I began to study Mindfulness. Having completed an 8 week course, I found that the lessons and exercises translated incredibly well into the tai chi and qigong practice. I was experiencing mindfulness in movement and this was happening not only in the classes, but in my day to day movement through life. I learned how to better manage my feelings and emotions and release some long-buried psychological blocks. The substantial decrease in the chatter of the mind opened up space for a more spiritual approach to life. I found myself feeling increasingly at home in the natural world, experiencing an affinity with trees, plants, animals, even insects! The more in touch I became with my own subtle energy, the more I was able to discern and celebrate it in the natural world around me.
Meeting Master Lok and the Phoenix in Graceful Clouds of Blessing Form
In June 2015, I was fortunate to attend a workshop in Durham, where the River Wear Tai Chi School were hosting a Master from Hong Kong called Joe Lok. To say I was impressed by this Master was an understatement. He seemed to take qigong to a whole new level, something I had not had access to in the UK before. I tried to learn his Phoenix Form at home, but found it a little challenging. Much to my delight, Master Lok returned to England the following year and I was able to spend 3 days learning from him in Whitby, sufficient time to pick up the basics, as well as purchase a video for home study.
Upon arriving home from the retreat, I immersed myself in Master Lok's Tai Chi Qigong system known as Phoenix in Graceful Clouds of Blessing. Practising regularly, I again found my health and well-being improving through the Phoenix study. I was able to travel to Hong Kong to train privately with Master Lok. A few very important tweaks to my posture and body structure and some new knowledge has enabled me to feel the chi (my vital energy) moving through my body like never before. I began teaching the Phoenix to my students in April 2017 and most found that they too felt a lot more energy in their body and found that the flow was so enjoyable that it was relatively easy for them to learn the Form.
In September, 2017, Master Lok visited us in Newcastle and was impressed by the progress we had made in a relatively short time. He ran a 3 hour workshop which was very well received. The students were presented with certificates and I was graded by Master Lok and received my Instructor level grade.
I remain convinced by my 25 years or so of tai chi and qigong practice that it has so much to offer us in terms of our physical, mental and spiritual well-being. If you would like to find out more, then click on Tai Chi Qigong link at the top of the page and you can read about the many benefits that can be obtained from practising regularly. If you would like to try out a class, please click on the 'Classes' link.
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