A couple of years ago someone suggested that I should try qigong (pronounced chi gong), they thought I would like it. I didn’t even know what it was so I promptly went off to Google it!
Luckily my first encounter with qigong was with the modern and integrative style of Lee Holden, an American qigong master who has taken all that he has learnt from the traditional masters of the East and distilled it into an engaging style perfect for our modern culture.
After a few months of practicing integrative qigong I was hooked and I wanted to share what I had found so I started teaching classes at some of my local community centres. My knowledge and experience was limited so I enrolled to undertake a Qigong instructor course and through that I received my first taste of traditional qigong. It was a lot different to the integrative style I had been practicing but I enjoyed the experience and there was great value in understanding some of the underpinning fundamentals.
I continued to practice, teach and to explore some of the 2500(!) traditional forms and incorporate into my style various movements and aspects, it was however the integrative style that resonated with me most. Through my experience and teaching of qigong I found my meditation practice and then went on to study mindfulness meditation and began to incorporate different elements of that into my classes and workshops.
am very passionate about my practice and about sharing qigong with others but I was finding there were obstacles in reaching everyday people and popularising qigong as a mainstream wellbeing practice. People either didn’t know what it was (or how to pronounce it!!) or they had some encounter with it but didn’t find it particularly engaging.
Qigong for me was like the experience of Savansana (the final relaxation posture of lying down after a yoga class) except instead of just at the end - all the way through! Also, that wonderful feeling of relaxation and awareness could be achieved through just a few minutes of practice!
I couldn’t understand why more people weren’t practicing qigong or interested in trying it so I decided I needed to find out. I went to every qigong class I could find and there were two things I noticed:
1. Every class was different
2. Most classes were not engaging
Some classes consisted of mostly standing postures, basically where you stand in a particular position for an extended period of time - not very engaging and pretty confronting for a first time experience of the practice. Some classes brought together breath work and a few basic movements - also not very engaging, particularly for someone who is overstimulated and consumed by excessive thinking due of their high pressure career or busy lifestyle. Some classes concentrated on walking qigong, I think its great but if you went to a class for the first time and you spent most of it walking in circles waving your arms up and down I can’t imagine it would resonate deeply. Other classes focused on internal energy, the idea of moving energy around the body - most people have forgotten they have a body and they certainly can’t feel their internal energy!
All of the classes I attended were based on various forms of traditional qigong. Through my experience of these classes I realised why qigong wasn’t a popular or mainstream wellbeing practice. Either the general experience of it wasn’t engaging and stimulating enough or it was too esoteric.
Traditional qigong is beautiful but like many practices steeped in tradition, it is in my opinion; overly choreographed, static and rigid. To really experience the benefits it requires a long term commitment, patience and hours of practice to perfect and master. While there is much to be esteemed about practice, commitment and mastery, in the context of our fast-paced, overstimulated and busy lifestyles not many people have the desire, time, patience or dedication for a practice like traditional qigong.
While I now understand why qigong isn’t a popular and mainstream wellbeing activity I am certainly not deterred from teaching and spreading my integrative qigong style with the world! I have always been pioneering and ready to tackle a challenge so while at times I feel like giving up on my mission to bring integrative qigong to people far and wide. Every day I am reminded as to how much I love practising, I love teaching and I love how it really is something that can help people to improve their health and wellbeing in a time that it is so desperately needed by so many.
If you’d like to try out integrative qigong come to one of my classes or workshops, you’ll find details on my website. I also offer private (health insurance rebates apply in some cases) and Skype sessions. Also check out my ‘About’ page for videos and information on the health benefits.
I hope to see you at a class or workshop soon!
Nicole L Betts
Nicole Betts is an internationally accredited Qigong & Meditation Teacher, Fitness Instructor and Holistic Health Coach.