Healing qigong retreat on Gt Barrier Island, 2023

Red and white spring blossoms against a bright blue sky.

Are you ready to blossom into good health?

This retreat in 2023 will be a rare, in-depth opportunity to experience the healing power of qigong, which is an ancient, restorative art of deep meditative breathing and flowing movements. Please get in touch to register your interest for 2023.

You’ll learn how to nurture yourself with qigong so you can improve your overall health and wellbeing, release tension, calm your mind and stimulate energy flow (qi) throughout your body.

This retreat is for anyone aged 18+ who is seeking to rebalance and rejuvenate their body, soul and strength.

Where: Aotea / Great Barrier Island, Hauraki Gulf, Auckland

When: TBA in 2023. It will be 3 days/2 nights. Places limited to just 10 participants.

The island is one of only 15 International Dark Sky Sanctuaries in the whole world. As well as the healing qigong, you’ll be awed by the universe in a live, stargazing, dark sky experience, navigate a stellar new path with cosmic journaling and be invigorated by the fresh sea airremote beaches and the remarkable bush and bird life.

Bush-clad hills and blue seas

Beautiful and enchanting Aotea/Great Barrier Island

If you’ve ever wanted to visit this remote sanctuary, now is your chance. Together, with qigong for health instructor, Jocelyn Watkin, you’ll feel the nurturing flow of qigong, be uplifted by the stars above and the natural beauty around you.

Testimonial: “The retreat was awesome, very informative and helpful. The presentation was carefully thought through on how to achieve the peace and calm needed in our daily lives.” (Participant in the Stardome mini-retreat, March 2022)

What’s included in this retreat:

  • Several immersive sessions to learn the movements and about the healing power of qigong and tai chi. After the retreat, you’ll be able to do these meditative and nurturing movements at anytime to improve your health and well-being. (Refer further below to learn more about qigong.)
  • Mindful breathing and meditation to dial down the stress so you can rebalance, restore yourself and look forward to a freer life.
  • Guided, cosmic journaling to focus on what you want from life and to choose the way you want to experience it, no matter what else happens. (Refer further below to learn more about cosmic journaling.)
  • A journal that you can take home and keep using after the retreat.
  • A live, stargazing, dark sky experience with a local guide. For the best viewing, this will take place before the moon rises. You’ll be able to lean back in your comfortable moon chair, have constellations drawn in the sky while you enjoy a cup of hot chocolate or herbal tea and be wowed with fascinating astronomical facts. You’ll be able to look through a powerful telescope to get up-close and personal with special stars and deep sky objects. After the retreat, you’ll be able to stargaze on any night and feel deeply connected, calm and in harmony with the entire universe.

Group of people looking up at the stars

A Dark Sky Sanctuary viewing experience with a local guide

  • Tai chi and qigong in the moonlight with the soothing lunar light upon us.
  • A guided, scenic tour of the island’s remote beaches, bush and bird life, including a short walk up Windy Canyon, with its wind-funnel shaped rock formations and stunning views.

Funnel-shaped rocks formations amongst mountainous bush

Windy Canyon

  • Return premium flights with Barrier Air (Auckland – Claris (the airport on Gt Barrier) – Auckland); approx 35 minutes each way and with amazing views of the island and the Hauraki Gulf. Barrier Air operates from the Air New Zealand domestic terminal at Auckland Airport in Mangere. Face masks will need to be worn on the flights.

View of landing strip from the air

About to land at Claris Airport, Gt Barrier Island

  • Airport transfers on Great Barrier Island.
  • Two nights’ accommodation in modern, fully self-contained studio units and villas at Sunset Waterfront Lodge. Every one of these has its own kitchen as well as bathroom facilities. Private double, twin and single accommodation options are all available.
  • Meeting new and like-minded friends

Please note: For the health of everyone, face masks may need to be worn during all indoor group sessions on the retreat and on our mini bus while on the island.

Please get in touch if you’d like to kōrero (talk more) about this retreat.

Testimonial: “Jocelyn is very well prepared and organised. What she talked about was well explained and easy to understand. She is personable and caring.” (Participant in the Stardome mini-retreat, March 2022) 

What’s not included:

  • Meals: All of the accommodation units are fully self-contained with kitchens to prepare and cook your own meals. You can BYO or buy provisions from the general store next door to our accommodation, which also has fresh coffee and yummy breakfast, lunch and dinners for those who prefer to eat out.
  • A meal package can be purchased before our retreat for those who’d like meals to be included. Pricing TBA.
  • Alcohol and drinks. You can BYO or buy from the café/general store next door to our accommodation.
  • Souvenirs and gifts
  • Transport to and from Auckland Airport
  • Parking at Auckland Airport
  • Personal, medical or trip cancellation insurance
  • Medical services
  • Items for personal use
  • Laundry
  • Face masks, please bring several.
  • Hand sanitiser for personal use outside of the group sessions.

How good would it feel to finally be on the right path to the life and health you want? Very liberating! Unleash your power to live well at this restorative retreat on the island sanctuary of Aotea/Great Barrier.

Who is the instructor?

Jocelyn Watkin has helped people of all ages and abilities to reduce stress and improve their overall health, fitness, balance and well-being with qigong and tai chi since 2003.

She is the founder and director of Kia Ora Tai Chi with extensive experience in teaching qigong and tai chi face-to-face or online for regular weekly classes, workshops and retreats, at schools, a medical centre and a retirement village.

She is registered as a group exercise (with own choreography) contractor with the New Zealand Register of Exercise Professionals (REPs), which is the recognised quality mark throughout Aotearoa/New Zealand.  She is approved as a strength and balance group exercise provider with the Accident Compensation Commission and has numerous tai chi and qigong instructor qualifications. She also has a New Zealand Diploma of Teaching.

Testimonial: “I really enjoyed your style, Jocelyn. Friendly, caring, informative and non-judgemental. You made me feel relaxed and welcome. Thank you.” (Participant in the Stardome mini-retreat, March 2022)

More about Aotea / Great Barrier Island

View of the island from the air

This idyllic island stands at the entrance to the Hauraki Gulf and is just a short 35-minute flight from Auckland Airport.

It protects the inner waters of the gulf from storms in the Pacific Ocean. Hence, Captain Cook gave the island its European name, Great Barrier. It is the perfect place to create your own protective inner barrier against the storms of life.

Māori named the island Aotea, meaning white cloud (ao = cloud, tea = white), as it appears in the distance like a white cloud on the horizon.

The isle has stunning natural beauty. Due to being relatively remote and with a small population, it has remained unspoiled and a haven for native birds and plants.

The entire island was awarded International Dark Sky Sanctuary status in 2017, one of only 15 in the world. It truly is heaven under the stars.

Who is this retreat for? 

It is for anyone aged 18+ who is seeking ways to improve their own health, self-healing and well-being with qigong and tai chi and/or wants to de-stress and have a better life/work balance.

Many of us have revised what we now want from life but are not sure where to start or how to make this happen. If you feel a little lost, flat or frustrated with not knowing what steps to take, this retreat will help you to find peace and purpose

Ideal for beginners as well as advanced tai chi and qigong students.

Testimonial: Jocelyn makes tai chi such an enjoyable experience! She makes everyone feel welcome, no matter what age or level of experience. I love Jocelyn’s humour and her patience too. Tai chi has helped me focus on my breathing and posture. I feel invigorated after each session.” (Cynthia, February 2020)

Our accommodation: Sunset Waterfront Lodge at Tryphena

You’ll be able to relax in your own comfy and private villa or unit, which is fully self-contained with kitchen and bathroom facilities. Loll on your deck or patio listening to bird song and the sound of the sea. Bed linen and towels are all provided.

The lodge is aptly named. You can take a short stroll across the lawn to watch the sun set and breathe in the fresh sea air.

Double, twin share and single accommodation options are all available.

Our qigong, tai chi and journaling sessions will be held in a specially-designed and private marquee on site, which is surrounded by natural bush. If you peep through the ancient pōhutukawa trees you’ll be rewarded with glimpses of the sea.

The next door Mulberry Grove General Store and Café has all you need for groceries, fresh fruit and vegetables, wine, souvenirs and other essentials like fresh coffee daily, along with meals to dine in or takeaway. 

What is qigong and tai chi?

For thousands of years the Chinese have had a secret. A secret that has allowed them to treat illness in its earliest stages, a secret that enables athletes to perform amazing, seemingly superhuman feats of strength and agility; a secret that promises a long and healthy life to those who understand and regularly practice it. That secret is a deep, meditative breathing exercise called qigong (pronounced ‘chee – gong’).

In Chinese, the word “qigong” is made up of two characters: ‘Qi’ = air, breath and life energy; and ‘gong’ = working hard to develop a high skill level. Therefore, qigong means: ‘the skill of getting more breath, energy and life’.

Qigong is designed to calm your mind, rejuvenate your energy, boost your health and strengthen your bodyOne of the ways it does this is to increase your oxygen flow right down to your smallest fingers and toes. It will warm you and will help you to feel good all over.

Is qigong the same as tai chi? No, tai chi is a subset of the much older practice of qigong. Often described as “moving meditation”, tai chi is a Chinese martial art and exercise programme that combines mental focus with deliberate, mindful steps and postures. It is very gentle on your joints. It is sometimes referred to as “taiji” or “tai chi chuan”.

How magical would it be to have the key for greater health and wellness? Absolutely, you too can enter this enchanted place. At this retreat, you’ll learn the ancient art of qigong so you can unlock the knowledge on self-healing, nurturing and how to improve your own health, and well-being

What is cosmic journaling?

Writing or drawing in a journal (also known as journaling) can help you to process and understand what is happening in your life and what you want for your future. You don’t need to write in sentences if you don’t want to. You can also draw, mind map or doodle, if you wish.

Cosmic journaling will help you to develop a plan of what you want for your future self. You will reduce frustration and anxiety, free yourself from uncertainty and indecision and take back the control of your thoughts and your life.

It can help you to overcome the overwhelm and create a plan for lasting change and freedom.

Jocelyn learned about the power of journaling when recovering from post traumatic stress nearly 25 years ago. It enabled her to break the power stress had on her and also freed her thoughts to plan for a better and different life.

Testimonial: “Jocelyn was very relatable because quite often what was being taught had been used by her in real life.” (Participant in the Stardome mini-retreat, March 2022)

What is your COVID-19 policy?

We will abide by the NZ Government’s health advice and regulations as they apply in November and also those required by the operators of facilities and services for the retreat on Aotea/Great Barrier Island. Jocelyn has been fully vaccinated for Covid-19, including with a 2nd booster. All participants at this mini-retreat may need to wear a mask for all indoor group sessions and also when on shared transport, including flights. Hand sanitiser will be provided for group sessions.

Places are limited to just 10 participants

“Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet.
Try to make sense of what you see and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious.
And however difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do an
succeed at.
It matters that you don’t just give up.” 
– Professor Stephen Hawking

Restore yourself with journaling and candlelight tai chi

Candlelight tai chi and qigong is back by popular demand in May 2022. It comes with optional extra sessions of restorative journaling.

Wouldn’t it feel great to have a dimmer switch for stress? Imagine the relief to be able to dial down your stress levels just as you would with a harsh light? Absolutely! With healing, candlelit tai chi and qigong, you’ll learn how to slow down, let go of anxiety and sink into deep relaxation with gentle movements. It will be just like having your very own dimmer switch.

What is restorative journaling?

Wouldn’t it be amazing to have a magic wand to re-write how you feel about your past and draw out a future you envision? Definitely, we’d all like a wand like that.

With restorative journaling to relieve and reduce stress, your pen becomes your magic wand to:

  • reflect on your past, whether years ago or just yesterday and to consider how you respond to stress (this session will be held online on Thursday 12 May at 7.30pm)
  • contemplate your future and how to reduce stress in the time ahead (this session will be held online on Thursday 19 May at 7.30pm).

At both sessions you can draw or do mind mapping if you prefer that over writing. Any of these or a combination of them can help you to process and understand what is happening in your life. This makes it easier to make the right changes for less stress in the future.

We’ve all been through difficult and challenging times over the last two years. Journaling can help you to let go of all that stress and frustration and consider the future life you now want.

Combined with meditative breathing (qigong) to calm and settle your mind, journaling becomes even more restorative. By releasing tension in both your body and your mind you can focus more easily, which helps you to think more clearly on what you want for the future.

I offer three different guided sessions online on consecutive Thursday nights in May 2022, for this complete restorative and healing experience. All sessions involve gentle and effective movement, tailored breathing exercises, relaxation and mindfulness practices. In addition, the two journaling sessions offer you the chance to ‘wave your magic wand’ with restorative journaling.

Choose one, two or all three sessions, which you attend live and online from your own home. Replays will be available.

Thursday 5 May 2022, evening, 7.30 – 8.30pm: Candlelight tai chi and qigong (This session has now finished. A replay is available at $10. Please contact me to request this)

Let your senses soften in the candlelight so you can slow down and relax your mind and muscles. You’ll feel your stress melt away with the gentle and restorative movements of tai chi and qigong. Your breath will become slower and deeper during this guided session of relaxation and meditation. Wear your pyjamas if you wish. Once we finish, you’ll be tranquil and ready for bed and a rejuvenating night of sleep

Thursday 12 May 2022, evening, 7.30 – 8.30pm: Restorative journaling, part 1 (Please RSVP by 6pm on Wed 11 May)

Release tension and relax from the ‘busy-ness’ of your life with meditative and mindful breathing (qigong), which will help open your heart and mind. I’ll then guide you on a reflective, journaling odyssey that will enhance your understanding of what is happening in your life. You will observe and note your thoughts and reactions by writing, drawing, doodling and/or mind mapping– whatever feels the most comfortable to you. There is no critique or judgement at any time and you will not be required to share what you have noted.

Thursday 19 May 2022, evening, 7.30 – 8.30pm, Restorative journaling, part 2 (Please RSVP by 6pm on Wed 18 May)

Soothe your mind and body with meditative, mindful breathing (qigong) to create an open-hearted space of discovery. You’ll then continue Part 2 of your guided, journaling odyssey with me. You’ll be exploring your thoughts, feelings and sensations of what you want for your future self.

As with Part 1, you will observe and note your thoughts and reactions by writing, drawing, doodling and/or mind mapping – whatever feels the most comfortable to you. There is no critique or judgement at any time and you will not be required to share what you have noted.

Cost per session

  • Attend one session: $20 per person
  • Attend two sessions: $17.50 per person, per session (i.e. $35 per person for both sessions)
  • Request a recorded replay of any session: $10 per person, per session ($30 per person if you request replays for all three sessions)

Online (video) replays for each session will be available at no extra charge to those who attend that session, which you can re-watch as often as you want, whenever you want.

How to RSVP

Please contact me no later than 6pm on the Wednesday before each session to arrange payment (online banking or PayPal) and to receive the Zoom link(s) to attend your selected sessions. You can get in touch using the contact form on my website, email me on kiaorataichi@gmail.com or phone/text me on 027 493 9851

More about me (Jocelyn Watkin)
I am qualified tai chi and qigong instructor. During lockdowns at various times in the last two years, I perfected techniques for teaching online. Participants comment that my lessons have helped them to cope with life and lockdowns as they feel relaxed and calm afterwards, which relieves stress and helps them to sleep.

I learned about the power of journaling when struggling with post traumatic stress some years ago. Fortunately, I was able to get professional help at that time, which included restorative journaling. With that and health-boosting tai chi, I was able to make a full and long-lasting recovery.

Testimonial: “Jocelyn is very relatable because quite often what was being taught had been used by her in real life.”(Participant at a tai chi, qigong and journaling mini-retreat, March 2022)

I am a qualified journalist and also a board-certified and premier instructor for the international Tai Chi for Health Institute. I founded Kia Ora Tai Chi so I could teach others about the healing health benefits of tai chi and qigong.

Click here to find out more about me, my experience and qualifications.

Unable to attend on Thursday evenings? Prefer to learn in-person rather than online? Then, Matariki Magic: New Year, New You is for you.

Matariki Magic: New Year, New You On the afternoon and evening of Friday 17 June 2022, 1.45 – 8.15pm

Join me at Auckland’s awesome Stardome for a fully immersive tai chi, qigong and restorative journaling mini-retreat. If you’re ready to open your heart to the universe and embrace the life you really want then this out-of-this-world mini retreat will be a magical experience.

At this mini-retreat on Friday 17 June 2022 (during Matariki), you’ll learn how to navigate yourself into a new orbit where you have more time to do the things you love with the people you love? Start the countdown to this experience here: https://www.kiaorataichi.nz/matatiki-magic/

Watch this short video to discover more about the Matariki Magic mini-retreat on Friday 17 June.

Yin Yang symbol with heart shape

Love your health, love your heart, love life, love tai chi



How to bust stress in just a few minutes per day

“This tai chi breathing is like a drug”, one of my students said.

“In what way?” I asked.

“It is fast acting, enjoyable and like taking both an ‘upper’ and ‘downer’ together.”

I didn’t want to delve into his drug taking history at that point. Instead, I asked him to describe the effect tai chi breathing had on him.

“When I’m tired or down, it lifts me. When I’m over-hyped and stressed, it calms me. When I do it, I feel very satisfied.”

Tai chi and tai chi breathing is satisfying. It’s considered a ‘wonder drug’ to manage stress, as it can give you the gift of balance and harmony.

So, how does it work? Firstly, we need to get our heads around what stress is and what it does to us.

Stress can be a good thing

It is a biological necessity. Back in the ‘dawn of time’ survival stress was our saviour – flooding our bodies with hormones and energy so we could fight or take flight. This was great stuff for a chance encounter with a sabre-tooth tiger or when hunting mammoths.

However, most of us can now get our protein on demand at the supermarket. Our need for survival stress has declined but, unlike the mammoths, it has not become extinct. It’s there whenever we need it, which is a good thing as danger still lurks in the 21st Century. We could still have a chance encounter with a Reliant Sabre or other speeding car as we cross a busy street. If so, our ‘flight’ reactions to leap out of the way will be life saving.

When stress goes bad

‘Bad stress’ grips you into a strangle hold when you work too hard and for over-extended periods of time – whether at work, home or school. Examples are: constant long hours on the job, noise, crowding, worry, having to rush, meet impossible deadlines and respond to constant demands, all with not enough time for rest, sleep and relaxation.

This kind of stress fools your body to think it is under attack, so it tries to be helpful by changing to a state of readiness. This is not harmless like switching your mobile phone to ‘flight mode’. Instead, your setting for flight (and fight) causes your body to release a rush of hormones and chemicals, such as adrenaline and cortisol, and divert blood to where it is needed, like your muscles.This is what is called the sympathetic nervous system in action, which makes you breathe faster with a pounding heart. Your body needs this for ‘flight’ or ‘fight’ and a healthy person easily copes with it in occasional bursts.

When stress happens constantly, such as every day and for most of the day, you might not be panting for breath. But, a tsunami of hormones and chemicals are still rampaging through your body, some are raising your sugar and blood pressure levels, so to be ready for flight (or fight). Your other functions, such as digestion and brain activity, suffer as they get less blood to work. If you can’t balance this over-reacting sympathetic nervous system then, even if you have good health, the ‘trolls’ start taking over: indigestion, diabetes, stomach ulcers, high blood pressure, migraine, anxiety, exhaustion …etc

Enter the cavalry, the parasympathetic nervous system and it tries to right the imbalance. This is sometimes called the ‘rest and digest system’ or ‘the relaxation response”. It has a calming effect by slowing the heart rate and the breathing. It also increases digestion and relaxes the internal muscles to help stop those anxious ‘butterflies’ in your stomach and that gut-churning feeling in your abdomen.


But due to the over-stimulated sympathetic nervous system, more help is usually needed.

And then a hero comes along… no, not Mariah Carey … but tai chi.

Tai chi is an ancient, Chinese martial art and exercise that involves a series of movements performed in a mindful, focussed manner and accompanied by deep breathing. Some see it as a meditation, some as a good exercise you do in the park, others as an easy way to relax.

The slow, continuous, gentle movements of tai chi, the deep abdominal breathing and the tranquil mind further activate and support the parasympathetic nervous system. This is why tai chi lifts you up when you’re down or tired and calms you when you’re hyper. It helps your body to return to a balanced state, which is sometimes called the Yin and Yang effect

Tai chi is not an ‘upper’ or a ‘downer’ and nor is it like taking both together, even if some people interpret it as that. It is suitable for all ages and gentle on your joints.

Dr Paul Lam of the Tai Chi for Health Institute says, “Tai chi is based on nature. Its gentle flowing movements contain an inner power which strengthens the body and mind. Those who practice tai chi become like a tree or river, calm on the outside, but full of internal strength, more capable of withstanding whatever life may throw their way“.

Just 4-6 minutes of tai chi or tai chi breathing per day can make a big difference to your health and fitness. You can do this anywhere, anytime. A regular, daily set-time is good to build your strength (both body and mind) and to help quell the ‘trolls’. More is better, of course. Make a start by doing tai chi or tai chi breathing every day, even if you have limited time or ability.

Want to try tai chi breathing right now? Try this short tai chi breathing exercise to reduce stress with Jocelyn Watkin. You can do this while seated or standing at home, in the workplace or elsewhere.

As well as your daily sessions, you can also do extra tai chi or tai chi breathing whenever you need it. You don’t need to rush to the gym or park and nor do you need to find a quiet, dark space. You can do tai chi right where you happen to be. You don’t need special clothes, fancy shoes or expensive equipment and you can do it indoors or outside. It is ‘like a drug’ but there are ‘no nasty chemicals’ or bad side effects.

Tai chi makes you feel like a hero lives within you

Dr Lam says, “Hour for hour, practising a Tai Chi for Health programme is probably the most effective exercise to improve health and wellbeing. You can start and continue to progress to higher levels no matter what your age or physical condition”.

Tai chi and tai chi breathing will give you a quiet, inner strength that helps you to take back control of your life. It will make you feel that a hero definitely lives within you.

By Jocelyn Watkin, 2017 ©. Jocelyn has trained in martial arts for over 20 years and has focussed solely on tai chi since 2003. She is a board-certified, premier instructor for the Tai Chi for Health Institute. You can find out more about her here.


Want to know more about how tai chi can help you to bust stress, get fit and feel better about life, the universe and everything? Say kia ora (hello) to my monthly e-newsletter, which has more tai chi well-being and fitness revelations, plus ideas and inspiration to boost that hero within you.

Contact me to request my e-newsletter or scroll up and look to the upper right of this page to directly sign up for it. I promise not to spam you or sell your email address, even if I’m offered $1,000,000.

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