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

Beginners tai chi and qigong class starts in June 2023

A new tai chi and qigong (pronounced chee-gong) evening class for beginners will start on Monday 12 June 2023 (6.30 – 7.15pm).

Classes will be held every Monday evening (except for public holidays and over the Christmas/New Year period).

The venue is the St Elizabeth’s Church hall, which is located at 182 Finlayson Avenue, Clendon, Manurewa, Auckland 2103. There is free parking on site. Please refer to this map:   https://goo.gl/maps/eLgqq5bHz4ATjBok9

Jocelyn Watkin and the Kia Ora Tai Chi team welcome adults of any age and ability as new beginners (starting in June 2023).

What to wear: Please wear loose comfortable clothing and bring a something warm like a hoodie, jumper, cardigan, etc. Please also wear flat-soled shoes (such as sneakers, trainers or tennis shoes). Please also bring a bottle of drinking water.

Facemasks may be required: Depending on levels of Covid or the ‘flu in the wider community, it may be necessary at certain times to wear a facemask on arrival and when talking with others. If it is safe to do so, you can remove your facemask during classes if you wish, as long as we can all physically distance ourselves. (Please refer further below for other Covid safety requirements.)

What to expect: All of the classes begin with a sequence of easy, flowing, warm-up exercises which are low impact and gentle on your joints. These exercises are designed to improve your balance, overall health and core strength.

Then, Jocelyn and her team of instructors will guide you through health-boosting qigong (pronounced chee-gong) movements and/or a tai chi form – a series of linked postures and steps, which are also designed to strengthen your leg and core muscles and improve balance. The steps are performed in a slow, focussed manner and accompanied by deep breathing (known as qigong, which means ‘breath work’ and ‘energy work’). You can find out more about qigong and tai chi here: https://www.kiaorataichi.nz/tai-chi/

If possible, please attend classes every week. If you miss a class, please commit to practicing at home to keep up with others in your group and to receive the full health benefits of tai chi and qigong. Regular practice can help improve strength, health and balance, reduce stress and lower blood pressure.  Read more about the health benefits.


  • Your first class is free.
  • After the free class: Prices range from $10 to $15 per class (depending on how many classes are purchased in advance).

If you’d like more information or to RSVP, please text or phone Jocelyn on 027 493 9851 or please use the Contact Form.

Covid, colds and influenza protection requirements when attending classes:

  • Please stay at home if you have Covid or whenever you have a cold or flu-like symptoms or if someone in your household has Covid or the ‘flu. You are not charged for missed classes under these circumstances.
  • About face masks: Some of the current students are immuno-compromised. As such, everyone in our tai chi group has decided to help and support their fellow students who are less fortunate with their health. Whenever there are high levels of Covid-19 and ‘flu in the wider community, ALL have AGREED to wear high quality facemasks on arrival and when chatting to others before the class starts/after the class finishes. This is regardless of any lesser requirements recommended by the NZ Government. If you do not think it is necessary to wear a facemask or you don’t want to wear one, your best option is to join a different tai chi group.
  • If you wish, you can remove your mask during the class, as long as it is safe to do so and we can all physically distance ourselves.
  • Anyone who wants to keep wearing a mask throughout the class is welcome to do so and their views/wishes are respected by others.
  • The hall will be well-ventilated as the doors open in ALL weathers, so please wear layered clothing to keep warm.
  • All instructors are vaccinated, including with all boosters.

If you’d like to have a kōrero (chat) or to RSVP, please text or phone Jocelyn on 027 493 9851 or please use the Contact Form.

The above map shows the location of the evening classes in St Elizabeth’s Church hall. The entrance to the hall and the parking is at 182 Finlayson Avenue, Clendon, Manurewa, Auckland 2103.

Please text or phone Jocelyn on 027 493 9851 for more information about any of her classes, courses, workshops or retreats. Alternatively, please use the Contact Form to get in touch.

Tai chi and qigong are easy, fun and really great exercises, which are good for your body and helpful at reducing stress. If you are unable to stand for very long, Jocelyn and several of her assistant instructors can teach seated tai chi and qigong, which you can do alongside the rest of the class.


All tai chi classes are approved with the BIG TICK  for the Community Group Strength and Balance Programme so you can “Live Stronger for Longer”.

What is tai chi and qigong? Often described as “moving meditation”, tai chi is an ancient Chinese martial art and exercise programme that combines mental focus with deliberate and relaxed movements that are gentle on your joints. It is sometimes referred to as “taiji” or “tai chi chuan”.

Tai chi is a subset of the much older practice of qigong, which is a deep breathing and meditative exercise. In Chinese, the word 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’.

Read more about the health benefits of tai chi and qigong.

Please text or phone Jocelyn to have a kōrero: 027 493 9851. Alternatively, please use the Contact Form to get in touch.

Workshops: Reduce stress and rebalance with 5-Element Qigong, April 2023

Wouldn’t it be amazing if there was a way to rebalance yourself when you felt ‘out of kilter’. Absolutely and I’ll show you the pathway! Through the ancient, restorative art of 5-Element Qigong you can learn how to harmonise and rejuvenate your body, mind and soul.

Workshop 1, Part 1: Saturday 15 April 2023, 10am – 1pm in Manurewa

Workshop 2, Part 2: Saturday 29 April 2023, 10am – 1pm, in Manurewa

According ancient Chinese philosophy, everything in the cosmos and the world (including humans) is composed of five elements – Earth, Metal, Water, Wood and Fire. When these five are in balance, all is well. When they are not, you feel ‘out of sorts’, tired and often stressed.

As a qualified qigong instructor, I offer two very special and in-depth workshops to learn 5-Element Qigong, which synchronises your movements and breathing with the five essential elements of the universe.

In the 1st workshop (Part 1) on Saturday 15 April 2023, you’ll learn:

  • Gentle, restorative Yin movements in 5-Element Qigong for the spleen (earth), lung (metal), kidney (water), liver (wood), and heart (fire).
  • How to rebalance yourself when you feel ‘out of kilter’ with the curative power of 5-Element Qigong.
  • About the fascinating five elements: Earth, Metal, Water, Wood and Fire, how they are inter-connected, including to the seasons, emotions, colours, and the sensory and body organs.
  • The ancient history of how these elements combine Yin with Yang to improve strength and balance.
  • How to self-care and nurture yourself with healing qigong to release tension and stiffness.

To RSVP, or if you have questions, please text Jocelyn on 027 493 9851 or used the contact form on the website: https://www.kiaorataichi.nz/contact-us/

In the 2nd workshop (Part 2) on Saturday 29 April 2023, you’ll learn:

  • Gentle, yet powerful Yang movements in 5-Element Qigong for the stomach (earth), large intestine (metal), bladder (water), gallbladder (wood), small intestine (fire).
  • How to combine Yin with the Yang movements in 5-Element Qigong to help fully rebalance your overall health and wellbeing, reduce stress, and let go of tension. 
  • More about the fascinating five elements: Earth, Metal, Water, Wood and Fire
  • Restorative journaling to calm and settle your mind so you can create your own tranquil and centred inner-universe to avoid the build-up of unnecessary stress and tension.
  • A free journal will be provided.

Cost: $75 per person, per workshop.  $120 per person for both workshops.  (Payable by online banking). The account number will be provided once you RSVP. Please refer to the cancellation policy below.

To RSVP, or if you have questions, please text Jocelyn on 027 493 9851 or used the contact form on the website: https://www.kiaorataichi.nz/contact-us/


  • Workshop 1: Saturday 15 April 2023, 10am to 1pm (please arrive no later than 9.55am)
  • Workshop 2: Saturday 29 April 2023, 10am to 1pm (please arrive no later than 9.55am)
  • Attend just one or attend both.

Where: Reremoana School hall, 15 Scotsmoor Drive, Wattle Downs, Manurewa, Auckland 2103 Refer to map: https://goo.gl/maps/QXmMTrs5hdcbwscb7

Parking: Plenty of free parking on the half-circle shaped driveway in front of the school.

Ideal for beginners.

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

What to wear:  Comfortable, loose clothing that is easy to move in, and flat-soled shoes. Please also bring a jersey or hoodie to keep warm when we are sitting still for some of the time.

Please bring: Note pad and paper, water bottle and a snack.  A free journal will be provided for Workshop 2.

Places are limited to just 12 people.

 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 contractor (with own choreography) 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.

Jocelyn also teaches restorative and mindful journaling to help people manage and relieve stress. When combined with calming, meditative breathing (qigong and reiki) and the mind/body connection of tai chi, journaling becomes even more restorative. The tai chi and qigong releases tension in both mind and body enabling people to focus more easily and more clearly on the changes they can make to reduce and better manage stress in their lives.

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)

What is qigong?

For thousands of years the Chinese have had a secret. A secret that helps to increase longevity, a secret that assists the body to heal from injury, illness and trauma.

That secret is qigong, a deep meditative breathing exercise that connects the mind to the body.

One of the main reasons people want to learn qigong is that it helps with overall well-being and healing.

 Qigong is about releasing stress, not suppressing it. Through special qigong breathing you can learn how to let go of stress.

What is restorative journaling?

Writing or drawing in a journal (also known as journaling) can help you to process and understand what is happening in your life, to accept what you can and can’t control, and to focus 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.

Journaling can 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)

Cancellation policy

The workshop(s) must be paid for in full to reserve your place.

All payments are non-refundable but, if you can’t attend, you can nominate a friend, colleague or family member to take your place.

In the unlikely event that Kia Ora Tai Chi cancels the workshop, you will be refunded in full.

COVID-19 policy

Please do not attend this workshop if you are sick or have cold or ‘flu-like symptoms. In this instance and if you can’t find someone else to take your place, you will be provided with a credit towards another Kia Ora Tai Chi workshop, retreat or class.

All participants will need to respect the need for social distancing at all times during the workshop. The venue is big and there’ll be plenty of room for everyone to spread out. There will not be any paired exercises or touching by others.

The venue will be well-ventilated and hand sanitiser will be provided.

We will abide by the NZ Government’s health advice and regulations as they apply at the time of the workshop.

Jocelyn (the instructor) has been fully vaccinated for Covid-19.

To RSVP, or if you have questions, please text Jocelyn on 027 493 9851 or used the contact form on the website: https://www.kiaorataichi.nz/contact-us/

Free SpinPoi in Cornwall Park, Saturday 11 March, 2023

This is an exciting and FREE opportunity on Saturday 11 March, 2023, with Kia Ora Tai Chi & SpinPoi, Cornwall Park and the Re-Creators team:

  • 10 – 11.30am: Create your very own poi. This is truly a zero-waste class!
  • 12 noon – 12.30pm: Learn how to swing and spin your poi and enjoy the feeling of body connectivity and flow with SpinPoi 
  • You are welcome to attend both of the above sessions or just one if you wish.

Saturday 11th March
10 am-11.30 am: Create your own poi with the Re-Creators team

  • Suited for ages 8+, parent participation is encouraged.
  • All materials and equipment will be provided. Things might get a little messy, so wear old clothes!
  • Registration is not required – poi making workshop is available while material stocks last.

Location: Cornwall Park, outdoors, next to Acacia Cottage (opposite the Huia Lodge Discovery Hub and the Cornwall Park Bistro (the original tea rooms)). Vehicle access from Green Lane West park gates. Acacia Cottage is at Location 8 on this map. 

Parking: There is limited parking near Acacia Cottage. More parking is available at Location 6 or near the cafe at Location 4 on this map. If possible, please plan to arrive in Cornwall Park well before the start time of the workshop. Parking spaces can fill quickly as many visit the park to enjoy its beauty in the sunshine.

At the workshop: You’ll be using reclaimed t-shirts and wool stuffing off-cuts to make your poi. T-shirts are upcycled and reused in every step of the process in this workshop, from making the poi’s braid and pompom, to wrapping the poi ball. Every scrap of waste made during the poi-making process is incorporated back into the poi. This is truly a zero-waste class!

This drop-in workshop will be held outdoors next to Acacia Cottage in Cornwall Park.

I’ll be there to help the Re-Creators team and to assist and encourage you. When you finish making your poi, I’ll show you some swinging and spinning moves so you can twirl your poi with ease.

At 12 noon to 12.30pm, Saturday 11th March
Free SpinPoi group session with a qualified SpinPoi instructor. That’s me (Jocelyn of Kia Ora Tai Chi)

  • Learn how to swing and spin your poi.
  • Enjoy the feeling of flow and body connectivity found in SpinPoi.
  • Bring your own poi. (A limited number will be available for those who don’t have their own.)
  • All ages and skill levels are welcome, although it is more suited for ages 5+. Parent participation is encouraged for all children.
  • Bring your water bottle, and a sun hat/sunblock and wear comfy clothing and footwear.

Location: Cornwall Park, on the grass in the Native Arboretum (below Acacia Cottage). Vehicle access from Green Lane West park gates. The Native Arboretum is at Location 7 on this map.

Parking: There is limited parking near Acacia Cottage. The nearest parking to the Native Arboretum is at Location 6 or near the cafe at Location 4 on this map. If possible, please plan to arrive in Cornwall Park well before the start time for SpinPoi. Parking spaces can fill quickly as many visit the park to enjoy its beauty in the sunshine.

All welcome for this free, family-friendly and super fun group class to learn SpinPoi! This is an exercise inspired by Māori tradition, which was adapted in the 21st Century to become a scientifically-proven way to help your brain and body feel amazing!

This SpinPoi session is open and free to anyone to have a go.

You don’t need to have attended the earlier poi making workshop to join in with the group SpinPoi session.

Find out more: