Some En-Chanting Woman
Linda Boyd has a mission. She wants to help change the energy of people living in the Lowcountry. She wants to introduce them to Qigong-an ancient Chinese health care system that integrates physical postures, breathing techniques and focused intention.
"Qi (pronounced chee) is usually translated to mean the life force or vital energy that flows through all things in the universe. Gong means accomplishment or skill that is cultivated through steady practice. Together Qigong means cultivating energy. It is a system practiced for health maintenance, healing and increased vitality.
For anyone who might resist a practice that centers on energy and has a weird name starting with a "Q" (without the obligatory "u") as just too "New Age woo woo," consider the increasing trend within the traditional medical establishment to recognize the cost expediency and health benefits to their patients who integrate these practices into their healthcare. The gentle, rhythmic movements of Qigong have measurable impacts on reducing stress and hypertension, on improving balance (reducing the risk of falls) and enhancing the cardiovascular, respiratory, circulatory, lymphatic and digestive functions. It can be utilized by people with limited mobility, flexibility and strength. No skill or prior experience is required.
On Hilton Head, participation in the Qigong Group is free and open to everyone. They meet on Mondays and Thursdays at 9 a.m. in Jarvis Park and Saturdays at 11 a.m. at the Veterans Memorial in the Shelter Cove Community Park. If you see a group of people waving their arms in slow, balletic movements, you've found them.
Sitting outside on her deck, Linda tells me, "I have three passions. Kirtan. Yoga. Qigong. I started in Linda Archinaco's Qigong class here on the island seven years ago. I was diagnosed with osteopenia"-a condition where bone density is lower than normal and considered a precursor to osteoporosis-"and I had pain in my hip. It was difficult to continue my yoga practice, but the Qigong movements were gentle and painless. Now I have no pain and no signs of osteoporosis."
Linda, who says she doesn't do anything marginally, devoted herself to Qigong. She went to China and Tibet to deepen her understanding and practice. She studied Qigong at the Omega Institute. She became a facilitator and now teaches three classes a week, as well as continuing with the original Qigong group.
So what made this retired social worker (she had a private practice for 32 years), long-time wife, mother of two and grandmother of four focus on her unconventional passions? After she got her masters degree at Ohio State, she married and got pregnant. She delivered her first born and then, completely unexpectedly, a fraternal twin pushed to enter the world and greet the startled doctor and parents. Linda felt overwhelmed. She experienced a deep, post-partum depression. She knew she needed help, but didn't want medication. At that time, yoga was relatively new in the U.S. Without expectation, she walked into a yoga class and found sustaining strength and support. Almost 40 years later she teaches yoga, too.
She believes both yoga and Qigong practices, through movement, focused attention and breath work, enable people to reduce stress and become more attuned to their bodies. The terms "to get centered" and to "be in the present moment" have become trivialized by over-use, but the foundational goal of detaching from circular thoughts and worries that typically involve things that have already happened in the past or might possibly happen in the future is valid. These practices are ancient because human beings have always had difficulty freeing their minds to participate fully, with their physical senses and heart, in life as it is unfolding now.
Linda calls herself a "wounded healer" in recognition that it was her own early life pain and later personal struggles that led her to search for alternative healing options. Making these options available to people in her community has become her calling. She thinks Qigong is more readily accessible to a greater part of the population. "You just show up and follow the leader. As my favorite Qigong teacher told me, 'it's a practice, not a perfect.'"
Kirtan, however, gives Linda her deepest personal joy. Kirtan originated in India as a form of devotional music that involves chanting hymns or mantras to the accompaniment of instruments. She recently returned from The Blue Spirit Retreat in Costa Rica, where she participated for six or more hours of devotional chanting per day. With a non-practicing husband at home, her chanting is somewhat curtailed, but she maintains a daily practice.
For Linda, breath, singing, joy, health, energy and movement are all integrated. She acknowledges that yoga may be too strenuous, and Kirtan too "out there" for some, but Qigong is as gentle and easy as the spring breeze. She invites you all to give it a try.
Resident: Linda and her husband have lived in Hilton Head Plantation for 13 years.
Qigong mission work: Along with Linda Archinaco and eight other facilitators, Linda conducts practices at PEP, the Cypress, & Tide Pointe.
Graceful Maturing: Linda had a "croning ceremony" to celebrate entering the wisdom stage of her life cycle. She wrote and recited vows with 16 friends in attendance at the ceremony at Dolphin Head.
National Qigong Association: www.nqa.org/resources
The Blue Spirit Retreat: www.bluespsiritcostarica.com