Yoga teacher and Chinese medicine practitioner, Kileen Swenson, sat down with Jenna Lynne Roberts to talk about these ancient healing medicines.
How did you become a Chinese medicine practitioner?
My interest in Chinese medicine came from teaching yoga and seeing how yoga affected people so profoundly, including myself. Being an introvert, teaching didn’t feel like I was fully harnessing my healing potential. In Portland, there’s so many great schools for natural healing, and I found out about a Chinese medicine school called OCOM (Oregon College of Oriental Medicine).
At first I was thinking of Ayurveda, naturally, but there are no Ayurveda schools here, and Chinese medicine felt like the right thing. I think that Ayurveda and Chinese medicine both have roots in similar traditions, being that they’re both thousands of years old and have similar premises.
When I started learning about and doing Chinese medicine, I just loved how profound and how simple it is. That is actually reflected a lot in yoga and Chinese medicine, this simple way of perceiving the world that is very profound and detailed at the same time. It’s a beautiful medicine; it’s poetic. I’ve seen it help so many people, and that includes qi gong, Chinese medicine, herbs, acupuncture, all of it.
Do you specialize at all in Chinese medicine?
In Chinese medicine, I am working on the specialty of working with pregnant women in pre-natal, post-natal care, and in general women’s health. Now, I treat a lot of pain with Chinese medicine, because I am in a yoga studio, so I practice pretty generally now.
How did you become a yoga teacher?
I was going through kind of a healing crisis. I could not find help anywhere to relieve what was going on in my body. Then I stumbled upon a Kundalini yoga class in college. It completely relieved my symptoms and transformed the way I saw the world, and helped me understand how I could be sensitive in the world and still function at the same time. It really healed me. I felt grounded in my body and could actually feel my reactions to things, when before I just felt overwhelmed by life. Yoga, for me, was like medicine. Seeing how powerful it could be for myself and others, I started teaching in 2006.
How did you find Yoga Union?
In 2006, I was rock climbing at The Circuit Rock Gym here, and Annie saw me and came over and it was just this magnetic thing. She offered for me to teach her core class, and then I took her first training, and I became their first manager. I am just really excited to be a part of this as it moves into a new building.
When will you be practicing Chinese medicine at the new center?
We move there in June of 2014.
How has your teaching grown since learning Chinese medicine?
Chinese medicine has made me more aware of the subtle energy. Experiencing Chinese medicine helps me learn how to feel the energy body, and studying Chinese medicine has helped me to see the world differently, just how interrelated everything really is. Chinese medicine focuses on the natural cycles of life and I think that directly relates to our practice and how we are feeling on a day-to-day basis. You can see that reflected in everything really if you just are aware of it. So, I think Chinese medicine helped heighten my awareness and unfold things that were mysterious before.
Sometimes I like to add some Chinese medicine or qi gong into my yoga classes with acupressure or just helping people to feel their qi. Let’s stop, take a moment to feel our energy. See how we can learn how to manage our energy and bring it in.
Do you have any thoughts on Western culture taking in these ancient Asian practices of yoga and Chinese medicine?
I think it’s great. It’s amazing that we’re still practicing some form of Chinese medicine and yoga. I mean these are from 5,000 years ago! It’s a tool to help us connect in the world. Without practices like Chinese medicine and yoga, it’s really hard to get in touch with what’s really going on because of the stress of our Western society. We need something that we can take rest in and know it’s okay to relax and feel our bodies. Chinese medicine and yoga and Ayurveda do that, and are taken from reflections of the natural world. It’s great that we’ve adapted them to our modern world.
Learn more at: www.kileenswenson.com