Ok, SF Yogis, if you’ve been following along then you already know about my love for the practice of QiGong, the ancient Chinese art (and science) of energy healing, which one can practice as self-care administer to another person. If you’re not so familiar, you can read my little intro on the subject here. And if, like me, you’re already hooked because you’ve witnessed the strength and efficacy of this practice, you might want to become more involved, and say, maybe even teach it. And while there are 600+ yoga studios and counting in the Bay Area alone, and the practice is more powerful when practiced as a group, there aren’t many studios offering it yet. So, I contacted Lee Holden, a practitioner of 30+ years, co-author of several Mantak Chia books - the renowned Grandmaster and Daoist expert - and teacher’s teacher based in Santa Cruz. And turns out, he just revamped his teacher training (and student training) to offer classes online! So I signed up for an immersion and asked Ben Cox, Lee's right-hand at the studio, some questions…
First off, why is Yoga so popular and Qigong only just picking up speed, especially when there’s been so much interest in mind-body practice and healing?
Well, Yoga practice and principles were brought to the West in the 1960’s with many celebrities spreading the word, while Qigong practices were often kept secret. Masters would teach only a few disciples. It wasn’t widely taught in the West until after the Chinese cultural revolution, after Mantak Chia traveled around China studying and documenting the various forms, and eventually landed in NYC in the 1980’s. Interestingly, Chinese medicine, including acupuncture and Qigong, was among the most common form of medicine for prospectors in Northern California during the Gold Rush, due to the high population of Chinese and low access to people trained in Western medical traditions. But the practice didn't spread to mainstream culture from that point. Anyway, Qigong seems to be about 20 years behind Yoga, and picking up momentum.
Beyond that, it was often taught in a style that made sense from an Eastern cultural perspective. Westerners want to know why they’re doing something, they want instant results, and Easterners don’t often teach in that style. But now you have teachers like Lee Holden who have many decades of practice and the ability to teach to a Western audience. So, much like our modern Yoga practice is often revised for the Western palette, you’re starting to see that in Qigong.
Last, the teaching styles were often very esoteric and there are so many styles, varying from martial arts based to spiritual. Tai Chi gained some momentum as a martial style, as it’s designed to build power. But, you could study Tai Chi for 8 years and still not feel marked results, while Lee’s practice of medical and spiritual Qigong is impactful even after only 20 minutes.
That’s true - the first time I tried one of Lee’s classes, I felt like I was floating on a cloud. But why should I teach it?
We are living in a society where everyone is so busy - we’re dying of stress-related illnesses, our immune systems are weak, and our medical systems are flailing to keep up. Qigong is a preventative method of self-care that helps reduce stress, improve immune system Qi flow, and has a well-vetted effectiveness for many of our common ailments. It’s been used for thousands of years in China to prevent disease and the modern research on the practice is quite encouraging. It’s part of the self-care branch of Chinese Medicine so it’s like giving yourself acupuncture.
It’s great for any audience because one can do the practice standing, sitting, or even lying down. In fact, Weight Watchers has been using Lee’s method for over a year and their clients report feeling great, losing weight, and loving the practice! So it’s very accessible, especially for those who may desperately need to get their Qi flowing, but are intimidated by or simply unable to practice Yoga and other forms of exercise, breath-work, and meditation.
And what if I already have an ongoing Yoga teaching practice?
It’s a great compliment to Yoga. We’re finding that many Yoga teachers are signing up for our trainings because the studios want to add a Qigong class. It’s similar in principle - integrate mindful movement, breath-work, and visualization to integrate mind, body and spirit - but the practice is very different. It’s great to mix the two.
How do the online classes work?
We offer live-stream, pre-recorded video, and in-person classes. The first part of the training is an immersion, which is offered either in 4 parts over 4 weekends or over a 5-day period. So if you can’t make it to Santa Cruz one weekend, or you miss a class, we’ll send you a password for the recorded version or interactive livestream. In class, we talk about alignment, postures, energy meridians, how to structure a class, and philosophy so the students are well-equipped to share the practice.
To find out more about Lee Holden’s upcoming trainings - including many upcoming online and in-person in July! - please check out his website at https://www.holdenqigong.com/
Photo: Courtesy of Holden Qigong
Post written for SFYogaMag.com