For nearly three decades Napa Valley native Linda Burquez has been helping improve her clients’ strength, health and wellbeing. Through a collection of ancient and modern techniques, she is able to craft personalized programs meant to revitalize and heal. Among her specialties is the Chinese practice of qigong.
“Qigong uses slow, graceful movements to promote a healthy flow of energy in the body,” Burquez said. “This helps the nervous system to relax, the body to heal, the mind to think more clearly and the spirit to laugh more frequently.”
When she was growing up in St. Helena, her father, Herb (who passed recently), was a beloved coach at the local high school. Her mother, Geri, was a practitioner of yoga and meditation, so maintaining a healthy mind and body had been just part of her upbringing.
“My father taught me the importance of maintaining a strong body and how to move like an athlete,” she said, “and my mother taught me the importance of remaining nimble and how to focus. The combination was great, and only later in life did I realize how their emphasis helped shape my path.”
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Change of plans
After graduating from high school, Burquez headed north to attend college in Washington state. Her idea was to become an environmental scientist, but when she learned that her career path might involve politics if she intended to fight for broad societal changes, she reconsidered. She thought there might be a more personal way to improve peoples’ lives and lead to peace in the world.
“Many of my professors where disillusioned,” she said. “Yes, they were brilliant and were teaching, researching and making positive impacts on helping improve the environment, but with the state of the world, it was clear to me that if I took their path it would mean getting political and that I’d be going to war every day, and that was just not me.”
To gather her thoughts and decide her next steps, she took a leave of absence from college and headed to Mexico. The regenerative power of nature was something she’d always taken for granted at home in the Napa Valley but having lived the busy student life and working part time as a cocktail waitress, she felt a deep desire to reconnect with nature.
“Growing up in the valley I think I’d just come to imagine that most places were going to be closely in tune to the natural world,” Burquez said. “I really needed to reconnect with nature, and I also felt I needed to continue exploring the world, too.”
She and her boyfriend packed up their backpacks and headed to Mexico, where they planned to live frugally, travel the countryside and camp where they might. Speaking little Spanish at the time, the two adventurers drifted from village to village, often sleeping in a tent as they traveled into the southern part of the country.
“The Maya lands had the biggest impact on me,” she said. “I felt as if my ancestors were guiding me on the journey to discovering my purpose in the healing arts.”
Burquez found camping in the jungles of Chiapas and on the beaches of Oaxaca exhilarating. She found being in sync with the rhythms and cycles of the natural world revitalizing, bringing her a sense of balance she’d never experienced before.
One morning, waking early to take in the sunrise, she left the tent and strolled down a vast, nearly empty stretch of beach. There she met another wanderer from California — an “energy healer.”
“We met out in the middle of nowhere and I don’t even remember her name, but her initial instruction helped me decide my path,” she said. “She taught me some of the basics of energy healing, and that just felt right. It brought me back to myself and seemed like a practice that I might dedicate my life to exploring and sharing.”
Becoming an expert
When she arrived back in the states, she began studying at New Mexico’s school of Natural Therapeutics and followed that with time in Austin, Texas, where she learned to teach Nia dancing and Pilates. From there she moved to Boulder, Colorado, to study homeopathy. By then it was clear to her that a mixed approach — qigong, Pilates and Nia — was a powerful combination that provided a range of options for her ever-growing client base.
In 2001, Burquez moved to Nevada City and opened a 2,000-square-foot training center. Called the Core Movement Center, it fast became a thriving community hub for qigong training, Pilates and mind-body practices. By the time she’d sold the business in 2012 it had grown to house numerous additional instructors, all of whom served hundreds of clients. But even with a quickly expanding business, she somehow found time to gain yet another skill — a doctor of medical qigong physician’s license granted from China via the International Medical Qigong College (IMQC), based in Tennessee.
During her training she often worked remotely with long-time qigong practitioner, instructor and founder of IMQC, Bernard Shannon. Eventually she completed 2,000 hours of qigong training and assisted at the college, ultimately teaching the first year’s curriculum. Emerging from the program, she felt that disharmony and disconnection with one’s body and nature can often be the source of ailments and alienation.
“The prevention of disease and promotion of wellbeing are often our greatest challenges,” she said. “Keeping an active body is important, but so is maintaining space in our lives for meditation, peaceful movements, connection and balance.”
Going high tech
Today, Burquez teaches in-person classes throughout Northern California. However, because of the pandemic she now often uses technology to reach many of her students. Using Zoom and YouTube, she now instructs students around the globe, developing customized daily practices and workout regimens based on individual needs.
I have known her since we grew up together in the Napa Valley. In school we were friends, but we had lost touch as our paths took us on different journeys. Eventually, however, we reconnected in Calistoga while teaching — she a range of fitness classes and me mostly leading meditation sessions.
Meditation is known to be a beneficial practice; however, sometimes it’s hard to find the time and space to sit down and follow your breath during the day. But qigong is different. Since working with Burquez myself, I’ve come to think of it as an active, gentle form of meditative movement that I now incorporate into my daily workout routine.
She was game to share her gifts with our readers, so we met on location at the Sonoma Coast to take some photos and film a short video.
When we arrived, the day was overcast and gray. I had pictured clear skies and a setting sun for the photo shoot, and yet the fog and mist seemed entirely appropriate.
“I love the ocean — its power and serenity,” she said as she readied to begin the instruction.
“We’re live,” I said as I switched on the camera.
She burst out laughing.
“Yes, we are,” she said.
Then she quieted, and her posture shifted into the relaxed standing qigong position called the “Wuji posture.” This looks relatively simple, but it does take practice. The feet face forward, knees are slightly bent, the spine is aligned and the arms are at one’s side. Once in position, she took a slow, deep breath.
“OK, to begin let’s breathe into our lower abdomen,” she said to the camera. “We will begin our practice today by ‘pulling down the heavens,’ and as we practice, imagine waves washing away tension or stress.”
As she spoke I mimicked her movements. Within only a few short minutes I felt a warm, pleasant energy flow through my limbs. Not the jerky, bubbling energy of caffeine but instead a warm tingle that reminded me that, even with a world that sometimes seems a cacophony of sights and sounds pressing in on us, moments of peace and tranquility are accessible. It is only possible, however, if we take the time to slow down, breathe deeply and practice.
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