Upcoming Classes and Workshops at Better Body Works — 2011


Practicing Yang Family Style Dao form, West Lake, Hangzhou, PRC 2009.


Coming soon to Better Body Works in Westerly, RI on Monday evenings from 6 pm to 7:15 pm, Daoyin and Taijiquan. Learn practices that will stretch, tone and purify your mind, body and spirit while also enjoying the healing benefits of the ancient Chinese martial art of Taijiquan [Tai Chi].

Movements are gentle yet profound, allowing students of all types and physical conditions to practice safely and enjoy.

Classes will begin with Chinese yoga – Daoyin – to open qi [energy] meridians and prepare the spine and body for Taiji practice. Thereafter we will move into the first section of the Classical Yang Family style 108 form and conclude with 15 minutes of harmonizing Daoyin for breath, mind and spirit. Students should leave class feeling lighter, stronger and centered – freer to live, enjoy and engage in their lives to the fullest.

Daoyin and Taiji can help:

Heal the aches and pains of modern living and aging, including shoulder and neck pain from computer work, back pains of all kinds, repetitive stress and balance issues whether physical, mental or emotional.
Rediscover a natural center which fosters peace and confidence regardless of life’s circumstances.
Restore harmony in breathing, eating and weight control. Digestion, elimination and weight issues may resolve quickly with regular practice.
Strengthen, tone and firm the body inside and out.
De-stress and relax, releasing toxins – physical, mental and emotional — encouraging natural immunity for optimum health.
Provide clarity and focus to meet the challenges of life.
Nourish the entire system with healing qi [energy] that juices the body, retarding aging and the complications of aging.
Unravel mental and emotional patterns that cause suffering.

Classes are taught by Jessica Sommar, M.Sc., recently returned from two years in China, a student of Classical Yang Family Style Taijiquan – including three fist forms and three weapons forms –Traditional Chinese Medicine, Western and Eastern herbology, Daoyin [qi gong] and alchemical practices of Daoism learned over a decade from disciples of Master Wang Liping, lineage holder of Quanzhen Longmen Pai; Martial artist, acupuncturist and herbalist Rene Navarro [http://www.renenavarro.org/] (a student of Master Gin Soon Chu, second disciple of Grandmaster Yang Sau-Cheung [www.gstaichi.org]) and various other teachers from the Healing Tao and Western Energy Medicine. Healing and counseling sessions will also be available with Jessica at BBW by appointment.

Upcoming workshops:

Daoist Dietetics – bringing Eastern dietary practices to Western students to improve health and restore sanity to weight control issues.
Daoist Internal Practices for Women – to preserve and strengthen internal qi for healing, beautifying and longevity.
Daoyin – a one day workshop on rare breath, movement, dietary and meditative practices of Daoist Masters seldom taught outside of temples today.
Eastern Energetics and the Western Body – an introduction to Traditional Chinese Medicine principals and practices and how they can help Western bodies. We will explore how to unify Western and Eastern traditions to bring body, mind and spirit into harmony with the natural cycle of the seasons.


Weight Gain Prevention – An Hour of Exercise Every Day?

Several recent studies show that an hour of exercise a day can help women maintain their body weight. Today’s article in About.com points out some flaws in the studies (see below link.) However, the minor flaws don’t outweigh the basic discoveries that the studies support and that ancient Daoists – and many Chinese today — have faith in.
Ancient picture of Daoyin recovered from Mawangdui Tomb, former kingdom of Changsha, China.
Daoyin, ancient longevity and healing practices, include regular, gentle stretching movements that most anyone of any age can undertake fearlessly. These healing exercises have been practiced for thousands of years in China and can be seen in parks throughout the Middle Kingdom most every morning today — whether the practitioner is Daoist or otherwise.
Daoist believe these ‘healing exercises’ should be done daily, sometimes twice a day, as preventative medicine – before illness or discomfort arises.*
But some of my students have complained that they cannot possibly add even one more hour to their already hectic daily schedules. Since I believe Daoyin and other longevity practices are integral to good health, I counsel them to break that hour down into 15 minutes, four times a day, to help them achieve their goal of feeling great, maintaining their weight. and helping to prevent illness.
Fan Li, ancient Chinese Business man, overlooks Zhejiang Economic & Trade Polytechnic.
For example, last year when I was teaching full time at a University in Hangzhou, I sometimes found that 15 minutes of practice in the morning, 15 minutes at lunch, and a half an hour before or after dinner helped.
Although many Daoyin practices — if followed scrupulously — could take up the major portion of anyone’s day, cobbling together 15 minutes of practice here and there is better than no practice at all. [Of course, a good diet is also crucial for optimum health and weight management. For weight loss, more than an hour may be necessary.]
Xing Shen Zhuang Fa 
One rare form of Daoyin exercise — xing shen zhuang — is focused on liberating the spine. These gentle yet powerful movements will open, align and awaken the entire body from the spine outward, leaving practitioners feeling lighter, more centered, confident and awake. I learned the form from two disciples of Master Wang Liping, current lineage holder of Quanzhen Longmen Pai. The form is taught outside monasteries by only a handful of people today.
Broken down into 15 minute segments, four times a day, this rare form of Daoyin can help anyone feel more balanced, happy and alive without stress, strain or hardship.

Weight Gain Prevention – An Hour of Exercise Every Day?

* See Livia Kohn, 2008, Chinese Healing Exercises: The Tradition of Daoyin, University of Hawai’i press, pg. 58.

Hangzhou Wushu Morning

Fan Dancer
Attended a Wushu club house gathering in Hangzhou. My first time to visit a wushu club in China. Dozens of wooden tables and chairs set up and a dias for the speakers–teachers/sifus/laoshis of wushu and taiji. All smiles and fun, mostly middle-aged and retired folks, probably about 100 in attendance. Happy members came around the tables and poured big piles of sunflower seeds, peanuts in the shell and bags of jiuzi [mandarin oranges] on each table. Women [I later found out, senior women teachers] came by with paper cups, long jin tea and hot water. Pretty towels were handed out to the members when they came in the door.
My friend and I were the only weigouren, foreigners/westerners, there. My friend is a member of the club and has been training with a taiji teacher from there for a few years. We all munched the delicious seeds and oranges and the hot tea helped warm our cold hands. It was a raw, wet day in Hangzhou, but as is normal in the PRC, no heaters are used to warm off the chill. Nevertheless, the mood was festive and chatty and fun.
The teachers on the dias spoke about the importance of daily practice and lots of respect was paid to the elders of the club. It is not often they are all in one place at the same time, I was told. There was one younger women on the dias with the other teachers. She teaches a wushu sword form, my friend said. They are grooming her as one of the next generation of teachers and so she was afforded an honored seat on the stage with the laoshi.
Teachers for the Wu Lin Wushu club
The opening demonstration was a daoyin gong form created by one of the leading teachers of the group. Everyday they practice this daoyin gong before doing their wushu/taiji near Wu Lin Square. It is a lovely form to look at. Daoyin forms are meant to be gentle; opening and stretching the meridians and preparing the body and mind for whatever practice one is about to undertake.
Daoyin Gong
A fan dance was next and a pas de deux with the fan dancer and a retired gentlemen doing some shaolin-style [?] form followed. The singing of the Wu Shu anthem accompanied the pair.
Fan Dance & Shaolin
There were several other performances, singers, a native flute player piping a lovely folk tune, a group of women using hand gestures along with a song about Hangzhou and, of course, my friend and I were asked to sing. He chose Auld Lang Syne. With his low voice, I couldn’t be heard. Probably a good thing.
Playing a gourd/flute
I was treated like family and asked to come back. They wouldn’t allow us to help clean or put away the chairs though. Membership for one year is 10Yuan or about 1.50USD.
My friend’s says his taiji teacher teaches Classical Yang Family style taiji, not the wushu competition form that was created some years ago by the PRC. Next week, I have been invited to see the teacher and his forms.

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