A few years ago, Nick Loffree completed his yoga teacher training, and found his body to be in more pain than when he started. “I was doing these intense yoga postures, and sitting for hours a day in meditation. But I wasn’t listening to my body.”
He had overstretched ligaments and muscles, and soon his physical therapist was telling him to stop yoga entirely in order to heal. Disillusioned, he received an unexpected gift from a random co-worker: A YouTube link to seven minute qigong video.
“I don’t know why he sent it to me, he must have just thought I’d like it, but in that seven minutes I felt more relaxed than I’d ever felt from yoga, it was so gentle on the body, didn’t have to sit still for hours, didn’t have to put so much strain on the ligaments.”
“In qigong, the way to relax isn’t necessarily to stretch. In yoga, you go, and you stretch for an hour, and hopefully that offers a release of tension. Qigong is very different - it’s never static. It’s continual slow movements, linking with your breathing pattern.”
Nick was hooked, and soon found himself in Santa Cruz to study with the man in the video. Today, he teaches qigong full time at the Holden School of Qigong and to private clients.
“Yoga used to be my workout and my spiritual practice - now they’re very separate. I like that. It opens you up to so much more.”
3 Ways to De-Stress this Holiday Season
1. Incorporate Some Unplugged Time Into Your Day
“Everyone needs some sort of practice where they unplug, for some people yoga is the perfect unplug, some people want to sit in meditation. But it’s essential that everyone take 10 minutes a day for no distractions, no phones,” suggests Nick.
In order to go into a state of relaxation, pick a place you’re comfortable. It could be sitting on the couch, laying on the floor with your legs up the wall, or taking a gentle walk. Wherever you are, slow and lengthen your breath. Take note of the sensations in your body.
“Maybe you’re still thinking of things - that’s ok. You don’t have to sit perfectly straight on a pillow, you can just be chilling in a chair,” Nick adds.
2. Lower the Bar
“Every time I go back to see family for the holidays, I have this fantasy that I’m going to be so healthy, so calm and zen, and they will be so inspired by me and they’re going to start doing qigong and eating well,” Nicks says with a laugh. “Unsurprisingly, it never seems to happen.”
Instead, lower your expectations. Find where you have agreement, or understanding, and celebrate that! Focus on the good energy that’s already there, and bring out the spirit of compromise. From that point of agreement, work can be done.
3. Be Like Water
“In Chinese philosophy, in the martial arts and the medicine, we’re constantly trying to emulate water. Water flows around obstacles. If you hit water, it absorbs your force. Water does not try to resist,” Nick explains.
In Chinese martial arts, you’re trained to be sensitive to your opponent’s intentions, absorbing what they give you and redirecting it. During the holidays, it’s easy to become stressed and burdened with the shopping, and the social engagements, and all the family time. Instead of allowing yourself to succumb to these stressors - absorb their energy. Listen to what it’s telling you. Acknowledge it, and flow around. You’ll still get to the other side.
To read more about Nick, or to find out where and when he’s teaching, visit www.petrichorqigong.com
Caroline Joan Peixoto is a writer born in New Jersey. Since then, she’s lived in Portugal, Rwanda, California, and Colorado, where she currently lives with her photographer boyfriend and wild African dingo. She’s continually inspired by travel and history, and energized by simple living. Connect with her @carolinejoan.