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By West Norwood Therapies Team, Feb 20 2020 12:11PM

Tai chi and qigong teacher Hannah Horsfall shares an interesting blog looking at the differences between tai chi and qigong. Hannah's next block of 6 beginner classes combining tai chi and qigong starts on Monday 24th February and there are 2 spaces left.

The term Tai Chi has become more familiar than Qigong in the west, with both being seen to comprise of slow flowing movements however though there are many overlaps and connections there are also differences. They are both sequences of movements combined with breath work and the sequences are called ‘forms’.

The Chi/ Qi both sounding like chee or jii mean different things. In Qigong the Qi is “energy” from “life energy work (or skill)” and in Tai Chi Chuan the Chi means “ultimate” from Grand ultimate fist.


Qi is the animating power that permeates the universe and all living things. It is the basis for Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) -- Qi flows throughout the body’s energy pathways, or meridians, to help maintain essential health by gently unblocking, where there may be blockages and facilitating free flowing and balanced qi to energise the organs systems and cells.

There are three main paths of Qigong, which of course can run parallel or overlap. These are:

• Use for healing in TCM or health and well-being through balancing the flow and reducing stagnation of energy in the body.

• The cultivation of qi for increasing power for use martially

• Qigong Meditation for integration of mind and body, emotional and spiritual fulfilment, qi cultivation and healing.

Qigong has many forms that can be performed whilst lying down, sitting or standing through breath work, slow gentle movements and an internal focus.

In Qigong forms the movements tend to be short in sequence and repeated several or more times before moving on to the next.

The Qigong breath work and forms in the classes are not merely a warm up for the Tai Chi but support health/healing and the development of deep relaxation of the mind and body in working with the life energy which can then be carried forward through to enrich the experience of the tai chi forms.

Tai Chi

Tai chi also has many forms in various styles (theme for another blog!) all stem from a martial art thought to be developed by the founder of Chen Style tai chi, Chen Wangting (1580–1660) from which all the other styles developed.

Tai chi consists of continuous, usually slow, circular, relaxed and smooth flowing movements that has numerous health benefits for people of all ages and health conditions.

All of the movements in tai chi without exception relate to, potentially, a martial application and the forms tend to be made of several to many movements that follow on from each other, rather than repetition of short sequence of movements as in Qigong.

Practising Tai Chi one works with the fundamental principles in the forms involving grounding (rooting), alignment, integration, coordination, connection, precision and unity which in time and practise will in itself bring about a healthy flow of qi.

In Chen style tai chi, along with the longer forms which can take some time to learn, but are indeed very rewarding, there are also shorter ‘exercises’ called “Silk Reeling” and help to stimulate and circulate Qi through the body whilst developing a felt understanding of the fundamental principles of movement in Tai Chi.

Chen Style is also one of the only styles to include fast movements woven into the forms and where any number of movements can be practised at high speed, though in our classes the main, but not all, focus is on taking time to develop the form and awareness through slow movement.

Although here at WNT the focus is on the health benefits of Chen style tai chi and, though not teaching martial tai chi, we refer to some of the martial applications at times to give a deeper understanding of the origin and 'intention' of the movement so as to be able to exercise the movement with greater focus and deliberation.

The classes at West Norwood Therapy work with both Tai Chi and Qigong.

We work primarily with the shorter Tai Chi forms with a focus on the deepening of the quality rather than the quantity of movements from the outset of one’s journey with Tai Chi and Qigong.

If you want to read more about the specific forms practised at West Norwood Therapies and their benefits please see

By West Norwood Therapies Team, Feb 13 2020 11:31AM

Feldenkrais teacher Jenny shares the first in her exploration of the Feldenkrais method using three case studies to illustrate how the method works and what you might experience in a session.

To explain a bit more about what the Feldenkrais Method is, I’m going to talk about 3 clients that I currently see, Steve, Hannah and Sara. (not their real names)


I’m not doing it, he is discovering himself

Steve is 46 and works in the city. He’s married with a child. He came to see me because of what he called general stiffness, with niggling pains now and then in his back, neck and left knee. He’s fairly fit, running regularly and goes to the gym. These kinds of concerns are common with people I see. Only the details and size of the problem vary. First of all: my job isn’t to wave a therapist’s magic wand and make Steve feel better!

My job is to help him see what he’s doing - that he doesn’t know that he’s doing that is causing him to feel stiff and in pain. It goes without saying he’s stressed and anxious a lot of the time.

So I observe how is he holding himself, how he sits and walks. How does he respond when I gently do certain movements? Are his joints having a conversation with each other, or are there habitual unnecessary muscular tensions stopping the flow of this conversation ?

This might sound a bit strange, but let’s look at it this way; there are several hundred joints in the body, and they’re all connected both anatomically and bio mechanically. In Steve’s case, the pain in his neck is related to how he holds his shoulders, how he has discomfort turning and looking to one side and over one shoulder, how he uses his eyes, what’s happening below in the rest of his spine, rib cage, pelvis and 2 feet!

Yes! our skeleton is like a dynamically connected pearl necklace or a wonderful machine, each part having a knock on effect with every other part.

So I bring attention to different parts in Steve, getting him to sense how the parts do or don’t connect, where he is preventing movement, where he’s restricted and how we might lessen the load. This is done through gentle touch and often with talking also. This sounds like a lot of work, but it is in fact very relaxing! And it’s like waking something up in him.

So each week Steve comes to my practice and sits for 5 or 10 minutes and then lies down on a table for 40 minutes or so, and we explore all of these possibilities within him. I’m not doing it, he is discovering himself.

Gradually his stiffness is going, his gym workouts are improving, he has more time for his son, he feels less anxious with his work load, he feels taller walking down the corridor. These are things he has reported to me over the last 10 weeks.

And this is the beauty of the Feldenkrais method. Steve’s nervous system which is built for learning - is learning through gentle exploration, and through developing his attention to his own internal sensations, in the same way that a new born baby learns to roll, crawl, stand up, walk and run, all without a teacher!

I’m not imposing anything on him in the lessons. I’m helping him find an inner quality, which becomes a resource for the rest of who he is, and his life. And, helps his neck pain!

By West Norwood Therapies Team, Oct 28 2019 11:43AM

Osteopath and yoga teacher Yinka, aka #theosteopathyogi shares her experience of the journey in bringing yoga to West Norwood Therapies - how far we have come!

I have been an Osteopath for 27 years and have taught yoga for 20 years, gaining my Diploma with the British Wheel of Yoga in 2000. The regulated BWYQ Certificate and Diploma qualifications require level 4 attainment and are therefore equivalent to an HNC/ first year of a foundation Degree and is a 500 hours qualification. This is the highest level of yoga teacher training currently available in the UK.

I began teaching yoga to primary school teachers in Brixton, and this slowly evolved to include anyone who wanted to come along to my class. In January 2015 I was forced to give up the teaching space that I had used, given the cost of renting suitable space I thought that I would have a lengthy break from teaching, but I was wrong. In October 2014 West Norwood Therapies (WNT) was founded and I began offering osteopathic care in Room 1. Room 1 is quite large, and Jennie and I thought perhaps if we moved furniture and screened off part of the room, we could use the space for a class. On the 1st of February we ran a trial class, it went well, and I decided to go for it. With the support of the fantastic Women of the WNT team Yoga with Yinka at WNT was born. The first classes started on Wednesday 25th of February 2015. I was determined to make it work, arriving early to shift furniture, and hoovering afterwards (in those days we had carpet). The classes went from strength to strength and as word got around; in November 2017 I was able to start a class on Friday morning and at the beginning of this year I began a Thursday morning class as well.

My teaching style is relaxed, informative and tailored to suit those who prefer a smaller group setting. I build gradually to the fuller expression of the postures, modifying as necessary or required. There is a community supportive feel to the classes and many of the original Wednesday morning yogis still attend. Because of my teaching style, and the room space I run the classes on a 6-week block booking that runs parallel to the school term so that those caring for school age children can attend without missing out. The feedback I have had over the years has given me the confidence to take Yoga with Yinka into the NHS and at the beginning of May this year I began teaching yoga at a GP surgery. There are referral criteria and GP’s refer those they feel could benefit to the classes. Since 2015 the WNT team quickly realised that movement-based classes work well and we now have Emma who teaches Vinyasa flow, antenatal and restorative yoga, Hannah who teaches Qi Gong and Tai Chi and more recently Jenny who teaches Feldenkrais. We are soon to be joined by Laura reflexologist and yoga teacher.

Coming soon will be Yoga with Yinka workshops for low back pain and in the meantime, wherever you do your yoga, enjoy your practice.

Yinka aka #theosteopathyogi

By West Norwood Therapies Team, May 28 2019 09:44AM

Yoga teacher Emma Klein sharese her top tips for keeping yourmat in tip top condition

Having a beautiful mat is great but taking care of it is extremely important to ensure it lasts.

Here are some simple tips to help your mat last:

1. Keep it Clean

Spraying your mat down after each use and giving it a good wash once a week or after approximately 10 uses is extremely important. Keeping your mat clean will prolong its life and keep it smelling great when you use it. Most mats can be put into the washing machine on a cool cycle and then left to dry for a few days. Below is a simple, easy and natural antibacterial spray you can use after class.

Antibacterial Spray

Having an easy way to regularly spray down your mat isn't difficult. Here is a recipe that I use all the time.

Spray Bottle

1 Part Water to 2 Parts Witch Hazel eg 120ml Water, 60ml Witch Hazel

5 Drops Tea Tree Oil

5 Drops Essential Oil

You can use any scent that takes your fancy. I usually use Lavender or Ylang Ylang but you can use anything that you don't mind smelling when you sweat on your mat. Be sure to avoid citrus based scents though as they will erode your mat.

Put all the above into the bottle and happy spraying :)

2. Keep it Dry

Ensuring that your mat is properly dry before packing it away is vital. Rolling up and storing a damp mat will allow germs to breed and your mat will start to smell. Your mat will also deteriorate faster than if you store it away completely dry.

This is sometimes harder if you sweat a lot on your mat. If you can, unroll your mat and leave it to air dry over night after your practice before packing it away

3. Roll it Don't Fold it

By folding your mat, you create weak lines and these areas are more prone to wear and tear. By rolling your mat it evenly distributes the wear ensuring it lasts longer

4. Flip it

Rotate your mat with every practice. This allows for an even distribution of use front and back and side to side so that the mat doesn't wear in one specific area e.g. where you always put your hands.

The more love you give your mat the longer it will last.

Welcome to our blog where we share tips, advice and thoughts from our fantastic team of experienced practitioners

Historic blogs can be found on practitioner profile pages - they are a great way to get to know us!

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