Free tai chi, Huia Lodge Late event, Fri 15 Mar 2024

Beautiful Edwardian buildings in a park at sunset.

Huia Lodge Discovery Hub, Cornwall Park

The Huia Lodge Discovery Hub, in beautiful Cornwall Park, is staying open late on Friday 15 March 2024, and everyone is invited!

Energize your body and soul at this FREE Huia Lodge Late event from 5 – 7pm. I’ll be part of vibrancy with my rejuvenating, 15-minute tai chi drop-in sessions during the evening.

Join me on Friday 15 March to shake off the week’s stress so you can embrace a fun evening with lots of other activities, performances and exhibitions.

Location: Huia Lodge Discovery Hub next to the Cornwall Park Bistro (the old tea kiosk).

Address: Michael Horton Drive, Cornwall Park, Auckland 1051. Refer to Google street map: https://maps.app.goo.gl/m85TZUQmcFVPQVZC7

If you are coming to the park with a vehicle, the parking closest to the Huia Lodge Discovery Hub is ONLY accessible from the Greenlane Road West entrance to the park.

The event is organised by the park’s events team. You don’t need to book or register. This event is FREE. Just come, bring whānau and friends and enjoy the fun.

Rain date: Friday 22 March 2024, 5 – 7pm

Find out more

Free summer tai chi from January to March 2024

FREE tai chi and qigong sessions with Jocelyn Watkin and/or another instructor from Kia Ora Tai Chi will be held (weather dependent) in Cornwall Park (in Auckland) every Sunday morning, 9am, and Tuesday evening, 6pm. Starting on Sunday 21 January and finishing on Tuesday 26 March 2022.

These sessions are free for anyone and are suitable for all ages and abilities. Beginners will be very welcome.

Dates and times:

  • Starting Sunday 21 January 2024, 9 – 9.45am and every Sunday morning until 24th March 2024 (weather permitting)
  • Starting Tuesday 23 January 2024, 6 – 6.45pm and every Tuesday evening until 26th March 2024 (weather permitting).

Location in the park: Same as in previous years. If coming into the park from Greenlane Road West, you’ll be on Pōhutukawa Drive (the main road into the park). The tai chi sessions will be under the trees on the left-hand-side about half-way up Pōhutukawa Drive. (If you get to the roundabout, you’ve gone too far.)

Registration is not required, just show up 5 -10 minutes before each session starts.

As all of the sessions are outdoors, the weather needs to be on our side to go ahead. If you are uncertain on whether the session will be held you can:

I can’t wait to see everyone again who attended in previous years and also to meet anyone new, who would love to try tai chi and qigong this summer.

Curious about tai chi and qigong? Find out more here: https://www.kiaorataichi.nz/tai-chi/

A big thank you to founder of the park, Sir John Logan Campbell, for his gift of Cornwall Park to the people of Auckland. Also, huge thanks to the Cornwall Park Trust Board, which administers his legacy and provides funding for these sessions so you can attend for free.

2023: Good things happened with Kia Ora Tai Chi

2023 has had many challenges but also much to celebrate and be thankful for.

January to March 2023: Record attendance at summer tai chi and qigong in Cornwall Park 
353 participants attended over 17 sessions, making last summer (my 6th in the park) my best ever. This was despite having to cancel six lessons due to rain, more rain, and then a big cyclone.

Over six summers, I have now introduced the delights and health benefits of tai chi and qigong to a total 1,352 participants.

Special thanks to Barry, Juliana and Pauline for your valuable help as co-instructors in the park.

All are welcome to attend the 2024 season of free summer tai chi and qigong in Cornwall Park. Ideal for beginners of all ages and abilities. Details in this link: https://www.kiaorataichi.nz/free-tai-chi/ 

Snow Rabbit/Lotus Qigong became a hot favourite in 2023

This was going to be a ‘oncer’ in Cornwall Park for the Lunar/Chinese New Year in February.

However, attendees became so entranced by the lovely, flowing movements and the charming narrative about the little snow rabbit dreaming of Spring, that they always requested it at each session in the park. The delight of Snow Rabbit Qigong has spread to all of my other classes.

2024 will be the Year of the Dragon and there’s lots of scope to teach a form of dragon qigong. I can’t wait!

Spinning and twirling in 2023

In March, I teamed up with SpinPoi, Cornwall Park and the Re-Creators team for a free, zero-waste poi making workshop and SpinPoi lesson.

What a fantastic collaboration! The team from Re-Creators showed all attendees how to make poi from reclaimed t-shirts and wool stuffing for every part of the poi. Excess scraps were incorporated back in, to make this a truly zero-waste activity.

At the event, people of all ages and abilities jumped at the chance to make a set of poi. As soon as each person and/or family group finished their creations I was there to show them how to spin, twirl and swing their poi.

Check out video of this really fun event: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aT4tQ0cqLVQ

Later in 2023, I upgraded my SpinPoi qualification and taught SpinPoi to a group of adults with autism.

I was also honoured to be appointed (one of three) to the global Lead Instructor Team for SpinPoi. My area of expertise on this team is the kaupapa/principles of teaching.

April and May 2023: TV stars with my tai chi group at Acacia Cove Retirement Village

Myself and several of my older students at Acacia had the opportunity to trial a new app for fall prevention, called Nymbl. This app supports the important skill of dual-tasking by getting you to do combo of movement and quizzes (that’s the dual-tasking bit), which in turn helps you to improve your balance.

We were featured twice on TV3 about our experiences with Nymbl and you can watch here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WnE5yhzFI1Q  (There might be an annoying advertising clip at the start. Just click “Skip Ad” as soon as you get the chance to do so.)

Here are the links to download the Nymbl app, which is free for use in New Zealand, as it is funded for all New Zealanders by he Accident Compensation Commission (ACC):

You can find out more about the Nymbl app here: https://fallsfree.co.nz/

May 2023: Vantastic Vanuatu

My 1st ever international tai chi and qigong retreat was twelve months in the planning and then three years of postponements during the global pandemic. In May this year, we finally made it to the aptly named Paradise Cove Resort, in Vanuatu. The wait was definitely worth it.

I taught the magical 5-Element Qigong, with a deep dive into the elements of Earth, Fire, Wood, Water and Metal. I was blown away with how the participants responded to this and what they wrote in their journals. We also ‘dived’ into the health-boosting 12 Rivers Qigong.

There was plenty of time for diving into other activities, too, such as snorkeling in the calm lagoon at the resort’s beach, and outings to real rivers (not just rivers of qigong) and waterfalls. Can you imagine swimming up to and under a waterfall? Totally awesome.

Thank you to the very special people who never gave up hope that we’d finally get to Vanuatu and who made this retreat so wonderful: Juliana, Fran, Kevin, Sarah, Caroline, Constance and Marc.

June 2023: A new beginners class

Our usual evening class venue suddenly became unavailable at the start of the year. After waiting several months in the hope that we could get back there, we eventually settled permanently into a different venue.

This meant I could finally start a new evening class for beginners. I now have 20 ‘newbies’, who are keen and enthusiastic (and also addicted to Snow Rabbit Qigong).

Thank you to Ned for your help in finding our permanent “home” in Clendon, Manurewa. When compared with our previous venue it is so much better – warmer in winter, with brighter lighting and a better car park. Find out more about my evening classes here: https://www.kiaorataichi.nz/classes/

July 2023: Matariki and Mindfulness Month

Thank you for your help, support and donations during Mindfulness Month in July, which helped me to raise nearly $400 towards the Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand.

As well as daily, mindful activities during the month, I donated my teaching time for three mindful sessions of tai chi, qigong and restorative journaling during Matariki as a fund-raiser for the foundation. With other volunteers, we collectively raised over $55,000 for the foundation during Mindfulness Month.

Thank you so much everyone. Your generosity means that more New Zealanders will be able to get help with their mental health.

I plan to be part of Mindfulness Month again in 2024.

September 2023: Doing tai chi in the home of tai chi – China

Photo: Jocelyn in the centre of the photo, wearing red shirt and red shoes

I had an unexpected trip to China in September on a family matter. While I was in Honghu City (in Hubei Province), I was invited to join a local tai chi group for their training session.

For many years, I have been taught an ancient form of tai chi that is not common in China today. When I demonstrated that style of tai chi to the group in Honghu City, I received a completely unexpected invitation to come back and teach that form of tai chi to the group.

Once I was back in Aotearoa/NZ, I talked about this experience with my advanced students, and they’re keen to explore the idea of a visit to China. Of course, all of my students (including beginners) will be welcome, should I organise such a trip.

I keep in touch with the sifu (instructor) of that group. He is very encouraging about me returning to Honghu City. At this stage, we have set a provisional date of April 2025 for a group of my students to accompany me. There is a lot to do and think about before then and I’ll keep you posted.

Throughout 2023: Earth Art –  the art of letting go and coping with change

Earth art (also known as earth altars) are temporary art installations / designs / mandalas made from foraged leaves, flowers, shells, etc, that have fallen from trees or been released by the sea.

Over 2023, I explored how these installations can help with managing stress and change.

When practiced regularly, tai chi and qigong can be very effective for reducing stress. When combined with earth art, the stress relief is even greater.

Creating “art that doesn’t last” and then letting the wind, rain, time and tide change and reclaim it, helps us to understand and accept that change and impermanence is normal in the circle of life.

I am considering how best to offer a session on earth art with you in 2024.

Final words for 2023
Finally, a big thank you to everyone who has supported and encouraged me over 2023 and particularly:

  • Barry Vodanovich, for being my co-teacher both at Cornwall Park and also for my evening classes. He is our tai chi cane form master and many of you have learned this amazing tai chi form from him.
  • Grant Williams, for attending frequently and also helping as an assistant teacher.
  • Pat James, for leading the Acacia group in practice sessions when I couldn’t attend.
  • My lovely husband, Ken, who attends every evening class, puts the tables and chairs away, lugs my charts and posters from and back to the car, checks the attendance register, is the appointed fire warden, and who also accompanies my students back to their cars at the end of class, including lighting their steps with a torch in winter.

Lastly, all of you for attending my classes, workshops, retreats and sessions, for keeping in touch with texts and emails, for reading my e-newsletters and giving me such positive feedback; and for telling me how much you love tai chi and qigong.

What happens in vagus doesn’t stay in vagus

Silhouette of a man running with nerves and arteries lit up in bright colours in his bodyYou might have heard the expression “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” (as in Las Vegas).

However, this doesn’t apply to the vagus nerve in our bodies. What happens with that nerve affects our health and the health of our organs.

I’ve been reading about the vagus nerve and it’s fascinating. If you want to stop gambling with your health, place your bets on your vagus nerve.

In this article*, the vagus nerve is described as “one of 12 cranial nerves. Cranial means nerves that start directly from the cranium, or brain, and not the spinal cord.

It is the longest cranial nerve, emerging from the brain stem and extends down the neck into the chest and abdomen.

It is named after the Latin word for “wanderer”, because it wanders like a vagabond, sending out nerve fibers into different body parts: the digestive system, liver, spleen, pancreas, heart, and lungs.”

You could call the vagus nerve our body’s ‘chill out’ button.

Outline of a human head and torso showing the vagus nerve fibres stretching down from the neck and spreading sideways over the torso.

The wandering vagus nerve

It is our main nerve affecting the ‘rest and digest’ system, which counterbalances stress and our ‘flight, fight or freeze’ system. As such, it has an essential role in keeping us in balance and healthy by:

  • Sending signals between the brain and the gut
  • Aiding digestion
  • Regulating the immune system and reducing inflammation
  • Controlling the heart rate and blood pressure
  • Helping to modulate sleep and wakefulness
  • Assisting with speech and swallowing

When the vagus nerve doesn’t work properly (referred to by medics as having a low vagal tone) this is can lead to or aggravate many disorders, such as

  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Type two diabetes
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Other autoimmune disorders
  • Chronic inflammation
  • High blood pressure
  • Sleep disorders
  • Mood and anxiety symptoms
  • PTSD

So, the question arises – can we improve vagal tone (vagus nerve health)? The answer is “Yes”!  As well as following advice from your doctor, general therapies and lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise, we can also stimulate our vagus nerve to improve its tone.

You know what I’m going to say next, don’t you?? Yep, tai chi and qigong can help because they involve stretching, breathing exercises and meditation – all of which stimulate better vagal toneYoga has the same effect.

Massaging certain parts of your body can help and, believe it or not, humming can also assist as it vibrates in your mouth, jaw, throat and chest all of which support good vagal tone.

However, if you think you may have a problem with your vagus nerve, it is crucial to first see your doctor. They can diagnose the cause and recommend the best course of treatment.

Find out more:

Mindful tai chi, qigong and journaling for Matariki 2023

The word Matariki against a starry sky showing the star cluster known as Matariki

 

 

 

 

 

In addition to Matariki this year, July is also Mindfulness Month.

Together, they make a good combination:

  • Matariki is a time of remembrance, joy and peace.
  • Mindfulness Month is about finding peace in the present, while raising funds to help the Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand (the foundation) advocate for a brighter future for everyone in Aotoeroa/NZ

During July 2023, I will teach three mindful and restorative sessions and donate my time as a fund-raiser for the foundation. Instead of paying me for a session, I hope you will consider donating to the foundation instead.

The sessions all have connections to the three key principles of Matariki as follows:

  • Remembrance: Online, Tuesday evening 11 July 2023, 6.30 – 7.15pm, by Zoom: Mindful, restorative journaling. Remembering our ancestors/tūpuna and lessons from the past can help us to reduce stress today and into the future.
  • Celebrating the present: Outdoors, Friday 14 July 2023, 11am – 11.45am, Tai Chi in the Park for the official Matariki holiday. This will be held at Kauri Point Reserve in Wattle Downs, Manurewa, which is at the end of a street called “Moor Park”. Refer to map: https://goo.gl/maps/MZHeqttC5rBeL6mu9 This session will be weather-dependent. If the ground is too wet or the weather doesn’t co-operate, please look for the cancellation notice on the Kia Ora Tai Chi facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/kiaorataichi/
  • Looking to the future/learning new skills: Online, Thursday evening, 20 July 2023, 6.30 – 7.15pm, by Zoom. Create a calm and centred universe within you with “Out of this World Qigong”. This date also happens to be the 54th anniversary of the moon landing (20 July 1969).

If you’d like to take part in these sessions or if you’d like to enable a friend or family member to attend, please make a donation to the foundation on my fund-raising page for Mindfulness Month: https://mindfulnessmonth.co.nz/jocelyn-watkin

My sessions usually sell for $10 – $15 per person, per session. However, any amount will be very welcome. Even just $1 will make a difference, as every bit counts.

Once you’ve made your donation, please let me know by texting me on 027 493 9851 or email me or use the contact form on the Kia Ora Tai Chi website. I will then email you the Zoom links for the two online sessions.

Of course, you can still donate even if you choose not to participate in any of the sessions.

Why am I doing this? Several years ago, I was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress (PTSD). I was fortunate to have full support and arohanui (lots of love) from my husband, family and friends, professional care from my doctor, and was able to fully recover.

Restorative journaling was a key part of my recovery. The mindful process of journaling enabled me to break the hold stress had on me and free my thoughts to plan for a better and different life.

Later, tai chi and qigong helped to complete healing process as I learned how to use both of these skills to reduce stress on a daily basis, rather than let it build up.

Here is the link to my fundraising page: https://mindfulnessmonth.co.nz/jocelyn-watkin

Whatever you decide to contribute, thank you so much for your commitment to the foundation and to all New Zealanders in need of support with their mental health. You can find out more about where the money goes in this link: https://mindfulnessmonth.co.nz/whereyourmoneygoes

There are some great resources available for free on the Mindfulness Month website. You can explore them here: https://mindfulnessmonth.co.nz/resources

If you need help and support, you can call any of the phone numbers listed here for free: https://mentalhealth.org.nz/helplines