The Power of Community: Finding Connection Through Qigong Classes

A common misconception of qigong is that it is a solitary practice, not least because a lot of the qigong videos online show just one person. And while practising on your own has the advantage of time and convenience, have you considered the benefits of group sessions?

Practising qigong with others can add a whole other dimension to it. In fact, there are many potential benefits: community and connection; motivation; a supportive environment for personal growth, health and wellbeing; enhancement of your qigong practice and the positive experience of synchronous movement. I cover those advantages in more detail below, so read on to find out more.

Community and Connection

You may think that there is limited opportunity for social interaction at a qigong class and that everyone is quietly focused on what they are doing the whole time, but that is not the case. Training with others involves interacting with the instructor, interacting with other students and more broadly feeling a sense of community.

Interacting with others in a class can involve catching up with each other before and after, sharing how we experience the movements during the class and laughing together. As one of my students says in her testimonial on my website:

“The small groups are lovely. We have a laugh, chats and generally try to help each other.”

As well as serving as a regular opportunity to meet up with existing friends and share a positive experience, a qigong class can also be a great way to make new friends and acquaintances by building connections with like-minded individuals.

I have certainly found qigong practitioners to be gentle, kind and supportive people, which really drew me to the practice. I have made some good new friends through it and a mutually supportive network, which is priceless. For example, through my own qigong teacher, I have found a meditation group to join, and through a student of mine, I have found a lovely yoga class within a short walk from home. What a wonderful ripple effect!

And of course, the camaraderie between individuals can enhance the perception of friendliness of the group as a whole. The overall sense of community and connection in a qigong class can help to foster positive feelings, such as empathy, acceptance, warmth, regard and genuineness. If you are shy by nature, the supportive atmosphere may encourage you out of your shell and help you to develop your social skills in a way that feels safe for you.

As Peter Wayne says in his book The Harvard Medical School Guide to Tai Chi “A strong body of research suggests that these forms of social support and sense of connection have huge, positive impacts on health, in terms of disease prevention, recovery rates, and remission following events such as heart attacks and cancer diagnosis. Simply stated, being and feeling connected to others makes you healthier and happier, and fosters a longer life.” I will explore the benefits to health and wellbeing next, along with the potential for personal development.

A Supportive Environment for Personal Growth, Health and Wellbeing

If you're anything like me, you like to know why, not just what. So, when I'm leading a qigong class, I like to weave the theory behind the movements into it. Understanding the purpose of each practice can enhance its effects because it keeps your mind focused and intentional, which is a key part of qigong.

I also share my knowledge of health and wellbeing in class where appropriate. A classic example is why good posture is so important and why we work on it in qigong. I have had more than one student tell that they have used the qigong meditation techniques from class to help them relax in the dentist’s chair!

And of course there are the other potential benefits of a regular qigong practice in everyday life: body awareness, efficiency of movement, injury prevention, good posture, better balance and co-ordination, strengthening muscles and bones, increased vital energy, improved concentration and relaxation. You can find out more about those in my previous blog post 10 Potential Health Benefits of Qigong.

It is a two-way process, and I learn from students too, for example how qigong benefits them or what else they might have found helpful in managing a particular health condition. And of course, students support each other through sharing their own experiences of qigong and particular practices.


You may have the best of intentions to do qigong regularly, but it is easy to fall off the wagon when it comes to keeping ourselves accountable. Life gets in the way and you can end up putting yourself last, dropping self-care in place of the needs of others and the demands of life.

The beauty of practising with a group is the additional motivation you get - your qigong buddies can help keep you accountable, motivating you to turn up on a regular basis. It can also be an opportunity to support friends and acquaintances in improving their health and wellbeing by encouraging them to come along and join in, which is empowering for both parties.

In his research paper ‘The Sociology of Qi Gong’, Paul Posadzki explains that “the better the interpersonal relationships, the more engaged individuals are in enhancing their health and the better their prospects for future wellness and psychological health.”

How Social Connection Can Enhance Your Qigong Practice

In his research paper cited above, Paul Posadzki says that “beneficial, positive social experiences may in turn strengthen the physiological effects of Qi Gong exercises.” What a wonderful synergy that we can tap into!

For example, those physiological effects might include a calming effect on the nervous system, so a lower heart rate and blood pressure, and reduced anxiety, as reported by Chun-Yi Lin et al. in their research paper ‘Acute Physiological and Psychological Effects of Qigong Exercise in Older Practitioners.’ Also “a physiologic impact on immune system functioning and inflammatory responses,” as described by Byeongsang Oh et al. in ‘The Effects of Tai Chi and Qigong on Immune Responses: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.’

Paul Posadzki also explains that “Qi Gong exercises are complicated sequences of sometimes hundreds of movements that may be more easily memorised thanks to others’ presence or help.” We can clearly see the opposite of that when we are trying to balance and start to wobble if we see someone else wobbling. The positive influences are perhaps less obvious, but are undoubtedly there, helping us to move slowly, smoothly and with grace in a qigong class. Synchronicity of movement comes into play here, so I cover that next.

The Benefits of Synchronous Movement

A qigong class involves moving together, often in time with each other. That synchronised movement is like dance: instinctive, natural and deeply nurturing. It can engender a sense of unity and common purpose. In his blog post ‘Social Benefits of Synchronization’ in Psychology Today, Shahram Heshmat explains in more depth how interpersonal synchrony can benefit interactions and wellbeing.

To summarise, practising qigong with others is holistic in that it benefits both mind and body through community, connection, motivation and support. Not only do you stand to benefit from the qigong itself, but also from the social connection of working in synchrony with a group, potentially enhancing the effect of the qigong, especially in terms of increased psychological wellbeing and immune function, and reduced stress and disease.

If you would like to experience the benefits of joining a qigong class and you are local to Reading in the UK, do get in touch by emailing or call me on 07528 708650.


The Harvard Medical School Guide to Tai Chi, Peter Wayne.

‘The Sociology of Qi Gong: A qualitative study,’ Paul Posadzki, Complementary Therapies in Medicine (2010) 18.

‘Acute Physiological and Psychological Effects of Qigong Exercise in Older Practitioners,’ Chun-Yi Lin, Tze-Taur Wei, Chen-Chen Wang, Wan-Chen Chen, Yu-Min Wang and Song-Yen Tsai, Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2018: 4960978.,qigong%20exercise%20in%20older%20practitioners.

‘The Effects of Tai Chi and Qigong on Immune Responses: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis,’ Byeongsang Oh,Kyeore Bae, Gillian Lamoury, Thomas Eade, Frances Boyle, Brian Corless, Stephen Clarke, Albert Yeung, David Rosenthal, Lidia Schapira, and Michael Back.

Medicines (Basel). 2020 Jul; 7(7): 39.

‘Social Benefits of Synchronization,’ Shahram Heshmat, Psychology Today, Dec 2021:

How to Experience Anger in a Healthy Way

I am writing this post at the start of spring, when energy is rising, like the sap in the trees. In traditional Chinese medicine, the internal organs associated with this season are the liver and the gallbladder. If the liver is out of balance, it can manifest as the emotion anger, so I am going to explore anger in this post. It is certainly an emotion that I have experienced strongly throughout my life, but over the years I have learned (and am still learning) to use it in a positive way instead of being consumed by the negative aspects of it. And of course, anger can manifest at the personal level, for example being cut up in traffic, and at the global level, for example with military aggression, lack of action on climate change or countless societal injustices.

Being Aware of Anger

In his book A Monk’s Guide to Happiness, Gelong Thubten explains that “Anger and fear can make us deeply unhappy: we become consumed by negativity, which even undermines our immune system. Carrying that resentment is like carrying a hot coal; the more we hold onto it, the more it burns us. Wouldn’t we rather put it down?” To let go of the hot coal of anger we first need to become aware of it. Many people are disconnected from their true feelings, so it is important to be able to recognise the emotion anger and all the forms that it can take. It can be helpful to know that irritation and frustration are forms of anger, as is hate. Scepticism and sarcasm are also indicators of underlying anger.

Anger as a Messenger

“Like all our feelings, anger is a form of communication, it brings us a message,” (Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and David Kessler in Life Lessons). That message could be that we are being hurt, psychologically or physically, or that our needs are not being met or heard. Or it could be that something is not in alignment with our values and beliefs. Anger is a natural response to certain situations, it is only problematic if:

  • we are not even aware of it
  • we try to suppress it
  • it is out of proportion to the stimulus
  • or we get stuck in the emotion.

Forgiveness as an Antidote to Anger

Very often our response to a situation hurts us more and for longer than the initial insult. Our reaction is the real enemy, not the person who offended us. We can control our own actions, but not theirs. We can use forgiveness as an antidote to anger, by realising that the insult was most likely not intentional or, if it was, that it came from a place of deep negativity and a lack of self control. Very often we do not really know what someone else is going through or what place their negative actions have come from, but we do know that we all struggle to control our emotions at times and so we can forgive that. Forgiveness does not condone the anger-inducing behaviour, instead it frees us from further suffering.

Breaking the Cycle of Anger

Meditation and mindfulness practices are one way that we can gain more control over our own emotions and so avoid inducing anger in others, helping to break the cycle. As Eckhart Tolle observes in The Power of Now “people who carry a lot of anger inside without being aware of it and without expressing it are more likely to be attacked, verbally or or even physically, by other angry people, and often for no apparent reason. They have a strong emanation of anger that certain people pick up subliminally and that triggers their own latent anger.”

Anger as a Motivating Force

Eckhart Tolle’s explanation of emotions and anger struck me when I first read it “Emotion arises at the place where mind and body meet. It is the body’s reaction to your mind - or you might say, a reflection of your mind in the body. For example, an attack thought or hostile thought will create a build-up of energy in the body that we call anger.” That is how I try to look at anger now, as a form of energy, which I can transmute into something positive, into healthy action. If I feel anger, I look for the most appropriate, considered action to take in response. Instead of reacting, I respond. A recent article in Positive News resonated with me recently Chris Packham on why he’s angry, yet hopeful in which he explains “I was a very angry young man and I’m a very angry old man. But I’ve always done everything within my power to turn that anger into something positive.” And in her book How to End Injustice Everywhere, I was interested to see Melanie Joy describe anger as a motivating emotion. She also says that “Anger is an appropriate and legitimate emotional reaction to injustice.” Anger very much is a rising energy.

Exploring Anger through Journalling

Journalling can be a healthy way to explore any feelings of anger that you may have, starting with acknowledging the emotion. My recent post on journalling may help you with that. You could ask yourself these questions:

  • What effect is this anger having on me?

  • What message is this anger sending me?

  • Where is the other person coming from?

  • What is or was driving their behaviour?

  • Why should I forgive?

  • How can I forgive?

  • What positive, considered action can I take to help me move forward using the motivating energy of my anger?

I hope that you have found something here to help you use anger in a healthy way, as a force for good, both within and without, personally and in the wider world.

What is Wellbeing Coaching and How Could You Benefit?

Is there an aspect of your life that is not working for you? Perhaps you want to improve your physical or mental health, or you are worried about your financial situation, or are not happy with where you are living or how you are living, perhaps you feel a lack of direction or drive or you are finding certain relationships challenging. We all have our challenges, no one and no one life is perfect. “The fundamental aim of wellbeing coaching is to facilitate a state of clarity and awareness of beliefs and behaviours in an individual to empower them to create real and measurable improvement in health and wellbeing,” Elaine Wilkins, founder of The Chrysalis Effect. It is about supporting you to get from where you are to where you want to be.

The wellbeing coaching that I practice takes a holistic approach, working with the person as a whole, body and mind, by looking at the eight key areas of life: nutritional health, finances, emotional health, environment, lifestyle and pace, relationships, movement and life purpose. By working on one area of your life, you can start to see shifts in the right direction in other areas too, so don’t panic, you don’t need to work on all of it all at once! Coaching is an unpeeling of the onion, which is why we schedule several sessions to work on one layer or challenge at a time.

Wellbeing coaching takes a structured approach and is primarily future focused and goal oriented so that you have a clear vision of what you are working towards and the steps to take to achieve your goals. It takes a non-directive approach, drawing on your inner wisdom rather than telling you what to do. As explained in the coaching bible Co-Active Coaching “The coach and coachee have equal, though different, roles. They are co-active in the relationship, so they are collaborators, working together for the benefit of the coachee.”

Of course, we don’t know what we don’t know, so as a wellbeing coach I can offer suggestions if appropriate, for example a book recommendation; a link to a website, podcast or video; recommending a particular therapy; or a referral to another practitioner for specialist support. One of the reasons that I was drawn to wellbeing coaching was to make good use of the health and wellbeing knowledge that I have built up over my adult life by sharing it with others.

I will leave you with one of my favourite quotes from Co-Active Coaching “The classic definition of crazy is to continue to do things the same way. The truth is, if nothing changes, nothing changes. Very often, something new on the outside, like a new outcome, includes the creation of something new on the inside.”

To schedule a 30-minute free trial session to find out more about how wellbeing coaching could benefit you, email me at I provide coaching online via Zoom or in-person at my home in Caversham.

Four Potential Benefits of Massage

Whether you are feeling particularly under pressure at the moment, want to make massage a part of your regular self care or would like to use touch therapy for a chronic exhaustive condition, holistic massage can help you to relax and enhance your sense of wellbeing.

Being a holistic practice, massage works on the whole person, body and mind. Here are four examples of how massage can enhance your overall wellbeing.

1 Stress Reduction

Chronic stress is the root cause of many health problems, which is why countering stress is so important to health and wellbeing. You can read more about the impacts of stress in my post How Stress Aware Are You?

There are several ways in which massage can help with stress reduction. Right from the start, the ambience of the treatment room can have a calming effect with the warmth, soft lighting, scents, relaxing music and the comfort of the treatment couch and drapes. From the first massage strokes, the stimulation of the touch receptors in the skin can help to lower heart rate, blood pressure and cortisol levels. You can read more about that in my previous post The Value of Touch. Added to that, the manipulation of muscles during a massage can stimulate the release of endorphins, which are natural mood enhancers.

2 Pain Management

Whether you suffer from chronic pain or everyday aches and pains, massage can help by releasing tension and enhancing the blood flow within the tissues, which not only helps with pain reduction, but may also accelerate the body’s natural healing processes. The stress-reducing effect of massage also helps with pain management.

3 Improved Flexibility and Range of Motion

Regular massage treatments can promote suppleness and elasticity through the stretching and compressing of tissues. The greater freedom of movement not only feels good, but can help reduce the risk of injury.

4 Better Sleep

Sleep of a good quality and quantity is fundamental to health and wellbeing, as I explain more in my post Sleep as a Pillar of Health. By promoting physical and mental relaxation, massage can promote better sleep by making it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep. And don’t worry if you fall asleep on the couch, I take it as a compliment that you feel so relaxed and a sign that you needed the sleep. To fully benefit from the sleep-enhancing effect of a massage, plan to keep the rest of the day as quiet as possible.

As you can see, massage can have many potential benefits to health and wellbeing. Over the past few years I have learnt various massage techniques that I can use as appropriate in a treatment to tailor it to your particular needs. My aim is to help you to feel good during and after a treatment.

If you are interested in trying a holistic massage or would like to find out more about it, do get in touch on 07528 708650 or email I provide treatments at the Formula Health clinic in Pangbourne and you can book appointments through the clinic or directly with me. I also provide a mobile service in Berkshire and Buckinghamshire, so if you would like a massage in the comfort of your own home, please contact me directly.

The Story of Two Wolves

Years ago now I heard an old Cherokee story that has stuck with me. When I find myself thinking negatively, I remind myself of it. I came across it again recently and thought it would follow on nicely from my previous two posts on self compassion and meditation.

The story goes that a grandfather is talking with his grandson. “I have a fight going on within me,” the old man says. “It is taking place between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.”

The grandfather looks at the grandson and goes on. “The other embodies positive emotions. He is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. Both wolves are fighting to the death. The same fight is going on inside you and every other person, too.”

The grandson takes a moment to reflect on this. Eventually, he looks up at his grandfather and asks, “Which wolf will win?”

The old Cherokee replies simply “The one you feed.”

If you find yourself thinking negatively, then acknowledge the thoughts (without judgement) and your awareness of them before letting them go. Avoid getting caught up in them, analysing, ruminating. Don’t feed them. Equally, nurture positive thoughts and feelings. Dwell on those, give them more of your attention, feed them. Learn what generates those positive thoughts and feelings in you and do more of that, whether it is sleep, meditation, music, exercise, a creative activity, getting out in nature, being with people you find uplifting, whatever works for you. By uplifting yourself, you will uplift those around you too.