Winter Solstice DAO YOGA class

When seasons change, our Qi (life force energy) should automatically, according to natural law, adjust to match nature’s new frequency. In our modern life this does not always happen smoothly or naturally. Without a smooth transition we are more vulnerable to imbalance and illness. Water is the element that represents and resonates with winter, so we will use it in this class to help during this special and important time of transition—winter solstice.  The yin organ for winter is the kidneys. The healing sound is “Choo,” and the energy colour is a deep blue and/or black.

Winter brings us to the time and place of moving inward. It is a very yin, slow, quiet, still, and meditative time. Just as nature draws inward and slows while growth takes a pause, it is our time for deep resting, regeneration, building and conserving energy, and filling up our reserves. Winter is also a time to tend to and transform fear, stress, and loneliness. I’ve wondered lately if the busy and bright Christmas season, with all of its spending, socializing, drinking, and overeating, has become an acceptable way to escape our intuitive need and natural drive to sit down with the darkness—to embrace it and feel it and learn from it.

The balancing emotions and virtues of the water element, which reside in the spirit of the kidneys, include deep calm and peace, deep wisdom and self-understanding, stillness, determination, will power, and the ability to go with the flow—like water—and adapt to the constant and inevitable changes in our lives.

Dao yogic movements and postures include a focus on the body’s energy pathways (meridians), as well as healing sounds, breathwork, and Qi Self-massage (acupressure points). We rest in the postures and movements (all on the mat, no standing) to allow for a deep release—safe and relaxing opening of the body’s held energies, tension, and connective tissues—so that healing and balancing Qi can flow.

I’m looking forward to practicing with you.

Namaste,
Sandra

© Sandra Tonn

Home Practice workshop

I often hear from qigong students that they have trouble remembering what they learn in our qigong classes and so cannot practice qigong at home. Memorizing movements and sequences is not the goal of qigong in class or for at home. Memorizing is a mental practice. Qigong is a practice that is very much rooted in the body. I do not memorize qigong. I practice it until I know it, in my body and my energy, and you can do the same.

Understanding how to work with your energy and knowing ways in which to do so is a more authentic and rewarding means of establishing a home practice. With an intention to help your Qi flow, some trust in your own wisdom, and some practical experience and guidance, a home practice can greatly increase the benefits you are already cultivating through attending regular group practice.

Even a brief, but regular, home practice is amazingly transforming and powerful. In the upcoming Home Practice workshop, I will outline how to structure a home practice, whether you want a short daily practice, a weekly long practice, or something in between.

 

The workshop, and your accompanying booklet, will cover the following:

  • Eight options for meditation
  • The most important and potent Qi self-massage (acupressure) points from which to choose a short, medium, or full practice.
  • How to structure a standing qigong flow practice including options for:
    • Opening the flow of Qi
    • Warming up the spine
    • Clearing and purging
    • Daoist Yang Tonifying movement
    • Daoist Five Yin Tonifying movements
    • Centering, circulating, and storing Qi
    • Ending your session

Your take-home booklet also includes a chart for the five yin organs along with their associated element and season, energy colour, acquired emotions, and natural virtues, as well as a summary page to help you choose options with which to format your practice.

Attendance will be limited to 15. Please do not sign up if you cannot fully commit to attending. If the workshop has a wait list I will offer it again as soon as possible. This workshop has been created from my heart and passion to empower you to invite qigong into your life outside of class time, in whatever little or big way that is perfect for you.

Email me to register.

Namaste,
Sandra

© Sandra Tonn

Inner Smile Meditation

The Inner Smile Meditation is an amazingly simple and powerful practice that will literally change your body, mind, spirit and life. It is a thousands-year-old, traditional Daoist practice for inner alchemy—to transform low-grade energy into flowing, healing high-grade energy. Low energy, when in excess, stuck, or stagnant, negatively affects our Qi, or life force energy, and may contribute to chronic disease. The inner smile, with its energy of love and joy, can transform energy in the organs, glands, muscles, nervous system, bones—the entire body.

The best way to understand the trans formative power of this meditation is to experience it, but there is also a growing amount of scientific information today that helps to explain the many benefits and effectiveness of this ancient practice. We now know, for example, through neuroscientific research, that the act of smiling activates neurotransmitters (chemical signals in the brain) that help to counteract stress.1 A smile also triggers the release of the so-called “feel good” neurotransmitters (dopamine, endorphins, and serotonin), which not only makes us feel good, but also can positively affect heart rate and blood pressure.Endorphins are also powerful natural pain relievers, and serotonin is a natural antidepressant. 3,4

The science of psychoneuroimmunology has explained that the physical act of smiling boosts immunity. When we smile the brain assumes all is well and that we’re happy, and happy people live longer. 5,6 If you’ve ever felt uplifted, loved, or relieved when someone smiled at you, you’ve experienced the powerful energy of a smile. A smile can literally change our energy.

In the Inner Smile Meditation practice, we open and activate the heart-mind—the heart centre, which emits electromagnetic energy that changes according to our present emotions. The heart also sends more signals to the brain than visa versa, influencing the brains’ perception, emotional experience, and higher mental processes.7

In the practice, we use our intention and visualization to capture the essence or energy of a smile and bring it into the body. The eyes, including the inner eye we use to visualize, are connected to all the organs and glands by way of the autonomic nervous system, which regulates their actions. With focus we move the inner smile energy through the body and do our transforming with the help of each organ’s natural virtues. We use colour, sensations, and our breath. The result is powerful and, when done regularly, cumulative and evolutionary.

I remember doing an hour-long Inner Smile Meditation one day when something incredible happened. I was working in the lungs and had been for many weeks. To be specific, I was working with grief. All of a sudden, the heart was radiating energy of love and the liver sent up some compassion. Instead of just trying to get rid of my grief and the physical symptoms and blocks it had caused, I realized I needed to acknowledge it with the softness and power of love and compassion. I was amazed at the wisdom of my organs and body, and excited to know that the Inner Smile Meditation could help in such a profound way.

Simple but powerful, this technique is natural, easy to do, and so very, very effective. You get to know your body and its organs and other structures in an entirely new way. A friendly, supportive, and loving way. It is a gentle tool that can do heavy work, melting long frozen fear, softening hard anger, and freeing stuck anxiety. Practice regularly and feel how it transforms you, your day, your health, and your life.

At the Inner Smile Meditation workshop we will take the time to dive deeper into this practice, learn and experience the benefits and techniques, and also try the different, even quick, ways to use it in your every day life. Your take-home booklet will provide more information, resources, and instruction.

Namaste,
Sandra

References:

  1. Abel E. and Kruger M. “Smile Intensity in Photographs Predicts Longevity,” Psychological Science, 2010: 21, 542–544.
  2. Seaward, Brian Luke. “Managing Stress: Principles and strategies for health and well-being,” Jones and Bartlett Publishers, Sudbury, Massachusetts, 2006.
  3. Lane, Richard DR, et al. Neural correlates of conscious emotional experience. In R.D. Lane & L. Nadel (Eds.), CognitiveNeuroscience of Emotion, 2000: 345-370.
  4. Karren KJ, et al. “Mind/Body Health: The effect of attitudes, emotions and relationships,” Benjamin Cummings, New York, New York, 20009.
  5. Beres, A. “Does happiness help healing? Immune response of hospitalized children may change during visits of the Smiling Hospital Foundation’s Artists,” Orvosi Hetilap, 2011.
  6. Lawrence, E. et al. “Happiness and longevity in the United States,” Social Science & Medicine, 2015: 115-119.
  7. “The Mysteries of the Heart,” HeartMath®Institute, Boulder Creek, California, 2017. Retrieved from: https://www.heartmath.org/resources/infographic/mysteries-of-the-heart/

© Sandra Tonn

FALL QIGONG

This practice of qigong matches nature and its season of fall by focusing on the element of metal and its corresponding organs, the lungs (yin), and the large intestine (yang). The corresponding sense organ for this season is the nose as well as our largest organ, the skin.

The lungs, like metal, offer strength, structure, and all the ability to bring in Qi from our external sources of life energy. This element, as with the lungs, large intestine, nose and skin, governs the ability to take in and let go—of oxygen and carbon dioxide, nutrition and waste, energy, ideas, habits, relationships, life. The lungs offer protection as well as a home for courage, integrity, grief, and sorrow.

The acquired emotions or states of the lungs when out of balance, deficient or in excess, may include grief, sadness, sorrow, depression, shame, guilt, and despair, as well as anxiety. The balancing and natural virtues of the lungs include integrity, resiliency, courage, strength, reverence, justice, righteousness, and detachment.

Blocks or imbalance in the metal element, are often related to constipation, diarrhea, headache, lung disorders (such as asthma), sinus congestion, allergies, fatigue, and loss of enthusiasm for life. Unresolved grief is often at the root of many physical lung problems. Holding on to the energy of grief, sadness, and the past I the lungs can lead to colon ailments. When we hold, instead of feeling emotions and allowing them to move through us, we stop and block energy flow.

When open and balanced, metal Qi is experienced as the ability to encounter difficulty with openness and strength, quiet integrity, confidence, and a willingness to release physical and emotional wastes, including old beliefs, habits and behaviours, and unhealthy relationships.

The ability to experience our moments as precious and be present in them, whether they are happy or sad, is the power of lung Qi. Strong and balanced lung Qi and the metal element provide us with the courage to bring in life and also to let it move through us in a timely way.

Our fall practice will use the inner smile meditation and lung healing sound to practice the alchemy of transforming held or stuck energy. Our Qi self-massage will focus on stimulating the lung and large intestine meridians (energy pathways) to further allow for energetic balance and flow. Our stretching, posture, breath work, and flowing qigong movements will connect us with our lungs, open, clear, purge, tone, and cultivate fresh and supportive Qi into the physical and energy bodies.

We will work with the healing sound for the lungs, which is “Ssss,” and the energy colour, which is a pure, brilliant white. We will practice Ocean Breathing, Tiger Claws, the Daoist Five Tonification movements for Heart and Lungs, Lung Healing Sound, Silken Form, Compassionate Heart Qigong, and more.

See the fall schedule here.

Namste,
Sandra

 

© Sandra Tonn

QI WALKING

This week we will take advantage of our outdoor classroom to learn and practice Qi Walking, also known as Guo Lin Qigong or Walking Qigong.

Qi Walking is traditionally practiced in the morning, outside in the fresh air. This powerful practice is best known for its benefits to those living with cancer, but it is also a wonderful practice for anyone needing rejuvenation, cleansing, energizing, and transformation of low grade energy into higher grade energy. Those with chronic fatigue, adrenal fatigue, depression, high blood pressure, hormone imbalance, autoimmune disease, sluggish liver, anemia, diabetes, high stress, anxiety, and more.

The practice of Qi Walking was developed in the 1960s by qigong master Guo Lin. She developed the practice in response to a serious cancer diagnosis, and much conventional treatment. She claims to have Qi walked her cancer into remission and did, in fact, lived for more 40 years, eventually dying, not of cancer, but of old age. Today, this specific form of qigong has been studied scientifically, such as in a recent randomized controlled trial using women with breast cancer, which concluded the Guo Lin Qigong offered improvements in quality of life including in the areas of anxiety, depression and immunological function.1

Qi walking increases the oxygen level in the body without a big cardiovascular output. The theory is that with more oxygen cancer cells cannot grow. No matter what our health status, with more oxygen there is more circulation and more life force Qi flowing.

Its history and specific theories and proof of its effectiveness aside, Qi Walking is something that is best experienced for oneself. I find it fun and invigorating. I do it when I’m very tired or simply want to cultivate a feeling of optimism and empowerment. It is a wonderful practice for discharging what you want to let go of and filling up with whatever you need. You can practice it alone, but it is super powerful when practiced as a group.

See you soon for some Qi Walking. You can see my qigong class schedule here.

Namste,
Sandra

  1. Liu, P et al. The efficacy of Guolin-Qigong on the body-mind health of Chinese women with breast cancer: a randomized controlled trial. Quality of Life Research, 26(9), September 2017: 2321-2331. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28421384

© Sandra Tonn

EARTH QI

Late summer qigong practice resonates with the element earth—the centre of all the other elements and seasons. Earth qigong is all about balance, centeredness, and trust. Earth is our source of nourishment, grounding, gravity, and stability. Earth is our mother and she is our home.

The organs that correspond to earth element and late summer are the spleen (yin organ), and the stomach (yang organ). The sense organ is the mouth (taste), which makes sense during this time of abundant food Qi. The healing sound is a grounding “Whoo” and the energy colour is yellow, like the rich yellow of the blooming sunflower this time of year.

Physically, the spleen, which is about the same size as the heart and sits just behind the stomach on the left side of the body, is an important organ of digestion. It governs our food Qi by extracting and converting the pure essence of our food and liquid.

Energetically, the earth provides us with a centre, enabling us to balance our lives and live with harmony. Emotionally, earth element helps us to digest and absorb our life experience, and is associated with growing, nourishing, producing (as in a late summer harvest), and change.

Emotions and states held in the spleen may include worry, anxiety, nervousness, overthinking, obsession, and self-worth issues. The balancing and natural energies of the spleen include trust, openness, resolution, centeredness, balance, and equanimity.

Imbalance, blocks, excess or deficiency in the earth energy may show up as mouth sores, digestive ailments, fatigue, weight challenges, allergies, chronic immune disorders, candidiasis, disrupted cycles, and addiction. The classic symptom of earth element imbalance is seen in the person who is unable to receive love and support but is very good at giving it to others.

As always, the other elements (and organs) play a role in the health of the spleen and balance of earth element. Wood (liver) regulates earth (spleen), just as tree roots hold soil. Compassion and kindness (liver) can help to regulate worry and imbalance (spleen). Fire (heart) is the mother of Earth (spleen) just as late summer is born of summer and joy gives birth to openness. Working with the spleen now, in late summer, will also help us when fall comes and we enter the domain of the element metal with its organ focus of the lungs. The ability to trust, be open and take in nourishment (spleen) can result in the production of integrity, strength, and the ability to let go (metal).

Flowing and balanced spleen Qi helps us to find our balance, our centre, to take in life and to trust in the divine unfolding of our journey. To help us with this we will practice Three Source Breathing, Earth Qigong, the amazingly healing Qi Walking, Buddha Holds Up the Earth, and more. We will also revisit some outdoor favourites such as Tree Qigong, Compassionate Heart Qigong, and Crane Walking.

To see the qigong drop-in class schedule, click here.

I look forward to practicing with you.

Namaste,
Sandra

© Sandra Tonn

SUN QI

Whether the sun is shining or not, summer is a time of yang—lots of activity and yang energy. Qigong is a perfect way to slow down a bit—to cultivate balance using the mindful movements and breathing of qigong. In summer we work with sun energy—opening up to the spark of life and radiant light that sustains our life on Earth—but we also invite in the balancing, cooling, and grounding energies and elements of water and earth.

Fire is the element of summer’s yin organ—the heart. When we work with the heart (our middle dantian/energy centre) we are in the domain of the “palace of the spirit,” where our seat of consciousness sits. With a heart-centred practice we can release and enhance the flow of joy, passion, sincerity, love, honour, and happiness.

Heart Qi is the most powerful energy we have as humans. Blocks, imbalance, excess, or deficiency in energy here may result in experiences of sadness, hastiness, or hatred, and manifest in the form of heart disease, hot flashes, anxiety, or depression.

By opening, purging, strengthening, and cultivating Qi we can significantly impact the health, balance, and harmony of our heart energy, entire body, and life.

Over the next five weeks of Sun Qigong, we will practice with the animals of the heart—the crane and elephant. We’ll move Qi along not only the heart meridian (energy pathway), but also the triple heater, pericardium, and small intestine (the yang organ for summer) meridians.

Come out to Willingdon Beach, D.A. Evans Park, or Lindsay Park to practice under the sky and beside the trees and open your heart to all the healing and soothing life force energy available to you.

To see the summer qigong drop-in class schedule, click here.

I look forward to practicing with you.

Namaste,
Sandra

© Sandra Tonn

TREE QI

From a qigong perspective, trees are considered guardians of the earth—they transform environmental toxins into clean, fresh air. In short, they are the filters of the planet. Also, as with everything from a Daoist viewpoint, trees contain and radiate energy. If you’ve ever spent an afternoon in the shade of a tree, leaned your back up against one for a rest, walked through a forest, or even gazed at a tree out a window, you’ve probably experienced the distinctly rejuvenating and healing energy of trees.

When we engage with trees in a conscious way, with intention and awareness, we open to a powerful vibration and exchange of energy.

Qigong with pine trees is traditionally said to be extremely cleansing, especially if the tree is higher up on a hill or a mountain. Willow trees are grounding, poplars vibrate with the metal (lungs) element, apple trees are thought to be helpful for balancing the fire (heart) element. We have abundant opportunity to practice qigong with the wonderful cedar tree—long known by First Nations to have healing power.

Since June is late spring and early summer we will work with a tree focus. In qigong the liver, the yin organ associated with the spring season and the element wood, is known as the Tree of Life—rooting into the earth (yin) at the same time it reaches for the sky (yang). A lovely balance, like the balance of yin and yang energies in spring, grounding and balancing our energy before we move into the warmer, more active, yang energies of summer.

I invite you to come out and experience some Tree Qi. We will work with the Tree of Life (liver) meridian or energy pathway, to open up energy blocks and move stagnant energy, allowing life to flow through us. In addition to using the tree as a focus and reflecting their nourishment in our mindful movements, in each class we will also do qigong with the energy of trees—a traditional and absolutely peaceful, rejuvenating, and soothing practice.

Root down into what nourishes and supports you and reach for the sky to grow and blossom in whatever way feels absolutely perfect for you on this natural and incredible journey. When life seems to get busy, it is even more important to commit to your practice—to move and breathe with the natural flow of your deepest self.

Lao Tzu said, “Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.”

I’ll see you outside to create some natural, flowing space in your body and your life.

Namaste,
Sandra

© Sandra Tonn

SUMMER QIGONG

We’re two weeks away from the end of the Spring Qigong Series and people have been asking whether I will be teaching qigong in the summer. The short answer is, “Yes!”

The longer answer is that for me, personally, qigong is a way of life and I practice daily, all year round. Part of my commitment to qigong as a way of life is working to make it a significant part of my career so I can share it with others through significant offerings in our community. That means I am committed to making classes available year-round. I think you’ll find the more you do qigong and invite it into your routine, your body, and your life, the more you will realize its cumulative effect and want to keep building on and benefiting from it.

All of that being said, I recognize that summer is a busy time and that we want to be free to partake in summer activities and festivals and also to be outside. So…I’ve decided to make it as easy and convenient as possible for you to come out and continue a qigong practice.

Summer classes—for all of June, July, and August—will be all drop-in (no need to commit to a block of classes or notify me ahead of time). All summer classes will be only $10 each, and all the classes will be outdoors! Classes are all 50-60 minutes long and all standing so there is no need to bring anything. (Sitting, as always, is perfectly do-able, but please bring a portable chair.)

So, all you have to do is show up! In fact, I’ll be offering more classes than usual—four every week—so that you have more options for fitting your practice into your busy and shifting summer schedule.

There will be a three-week pause between spring and summer practice, except for the Qigong for Women workshop May 19th. During that pause I’ll be taking a week off work. Please note that I’ll be completely offline for some of that time—meditating, practicing, and being in nature—so don’t think I’m ignoring you if you message or email and I don’t respond. Then I will be preparing classes for the summer.

I’m so excited about practicing outdoors with you. Qigong outside, in nature, with the elements, is absolutely amazing. You’ll see. In June we’ll practice TREE QI, in July we’ll practice SUN QI, and in August, EARTH QI.

Here is the summer schedule, which is also available on my website at this link.

  • Tuesdays: 10-11 am at Willingdon Beach Park (rain or shine; meet by the Rotary Pavillion)
  • Tuesdays: 5:30-6:30 pm at Lindsay Park (7179 Cranberry St., East of Marlatt)
  • Thursdays: 10-11 am at A. Evans Park (6749 Drake St., between Manson and Ortona)
  • Saturdays: 10-11 am at Lindsay Park (7179 Cranberry St., East of Marlatt)

Please note that a business licence, commercial booking fee, and insurance has been paid to teach in these City of Powell River parks.

If you have any questions, just let me know.

Namaste,

Sandra

 

© Sandra Tonn

QIGONG for WOMEN workshop (Saturday, May 19, 2018)

Join Sandra as she guides you through a meditation, breath techniques, Qi self-massage, and standing Qi flow movements with a specific focus for supporting women in their body and life.

  • Empower three main energy centres
  • Balance hormones and nourish organs
  • Practice Qi self-massage and meditation
  • Increase Qi flow through energy pathways
  • Open the heart-mind, relax, and renew
  • Learn effective energy protection techniques
  • Find your centre.
  • Saturday, May 19th, 2018, 10 a.m. – noon
    Cranberry Community Hall (6828 Cranberry St., Powell River)
    $40 (price includes an original, printed resource for your home practice)
    Registration is required. To register email Sandra.