June has been a busy month at Kathryn Matheson Nutrition. Research, client consultations, public education, and Qigong classes have all kept me busy. In particular, I was delighted to host my first outdoor Qigong class at Rogers Cove here in Peterborough!
I first discovered Qigong when I started attending classes at Peterborough Yoga in my neighbourhood. I was on a leave from work and seeking new ways to support my physical and mental health. I had been attending yoga classes regularly for a while when my instructor suggested that I might like to try Qigong. I had never heard of it before, so decided to give it a try.
My first class was wonderful! The movements and breathwork helped me to relax my body to the best of my ability, and to focus my mind on the present moment. I came away feeling calm yet also energized. I looked forward to the class every week. After I had been practicing for some time, I decided that I would like to set the goal of becoming certified to teach Qigong to others.
Under the direction of the wonderful Laura Nugent, I participated in 200-hour teacher training and earned my certification through Peterborough Yoga, in compliance with Zen Wellness and the National Qigong Association in the United States. It took a great deal of practice and concentration, and patience on Laura’s part, but I was slowly able to transition away from the stiff movements and awkwardness that had first characterized my practice. In the summer of 2021, I took additional training with Laura, so that I can broaden my teaching over time to include additional movements and meditations. I still have much to learn, but I am delighted to be able to teach others as a part of my journey.
There are many different forms of Qigong. In accordance with my training, I teach Medical Qigong, which seeks to relieve imbalances through using a variety of breathing techniques and body positions that adjust the circulation of Qi, or bio-magnetic energy, throughout the body and open up points blocked by physical, mental, or emotional stress.
Practicing Qigong can be regulating and restorative for the body. With breath and movement we can promote the flow of our lymphatic fluid. Lymphatic fluid or lymph is fluid that drains from our cells and tissues and is reabsorbed back into circulation, helping to maintain blood volume and pressure. It contains substances such as nutrients, damaged cells, bacteria, and viruses, which are filtered through nodes to remove foreign material. Lymph also transports white blood cells called lymphocytes that help the body to remove this material and fight infection. Qigong can also help to increase circulation of blood throughout the body that is rich in both oxygen and nutrients.
Our Qigong practice can also help us to strengthen our mind-body connection. When our mind is focused on our breath and movement there is less space for distractions or worrying thoughts to creep in. This can help us to feel calmer, which can in turn promote clearer thinking. This aspect of Qigong is especially attractive to me. As someone who has always had a busy mind, I find that my focus has improved both through my ongoing practice and the nutritional changes I have introduced.
Qigong can also help us to nourish our spirit. By spirit I mean that part of us that “is not physical and that consists of [our] character and feelings” (https://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/spirit). By practicing Qigong we can become more aware of nature’s rhythm and by doing so strengthen our own sense of purpose. As I began to work on improving my own quality of life and wellbeing, it became obvious to me that I had neglected this aspect of things for a very long time. This does not mean that I felt compelled to follow any particular spiritual approach, but rather that in addition to my body and mind, I needed to cultivate and nourish that part of me that is the essence of who I am and how I make my way in the world. Indeed, we can all find different ways of doing this that resonate with our own lives and priorities.
Qigong can be accessible to people of varying abilities and ages. It does not require a lot of space, or expensive equipment, and it can be easily incorporated into a daily routine. But perhaps what I like most of all about Qigong is that it has the potential to build community. It brings people together to breathe, move, and enjoy each other’s company. I am very grateful for everyone I have met over the course of teaching Qigong so far. I look forward to continuing to deepen and share my practice with others.
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