Nevada County man’s mission of health and wellness hits the internet
Anyone even remotely linked to health and wellness in western Nevada County knows Homer Nottingham.
A Tai Chi and Qi Gong master who has been teaching students for more than 20 years, Nottingham still teaches packed classes six days a week — and he’s turning 81 on Sunday.
“At my age I need to work out a lot, otherwise I’d fall apart,” he said, with a laugh. “The older you get, the more you need to work out. Each year I add another class. It’s a good thing to work out every day — especially for brain fitness.”
Nottingham’s already-popular classes began to dramatically expand several years back when he started teaching morning classes during the warmer months in Nevada City’s Pioneer Park.
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“That first year, each week the class in the park just kept getting bigger,” said Nottingham. “I’d start seeing 50, then 60, then 70 people coming from all directions out onto the grass. It was amazing. But it also told me I must be doing something right and important. It made me feel good to see the community coming together.”
Because of Nevada County’s reputation for special events, arts, and culture, visitors from all over the world began showing up for a morning of Tai Chi, said Nottingham, some as far as Poland and Iran.
Many out-of-towners were so impressed by the classes they encouraged Nottingham to make and sell DVDs so they could practice routines and exercises in their own living rooms.
But today, thanks to friend and Nevada County filmmaker John Munro of Wrap Around Films, Nottingham has launched an online store, https://homer.selz.com, where a variety of his classes and lessons are available for $20 per class. Examples include, “Easy Ageless Tai Chi,” “Dragon and Medical Qi Gong,” “Harvard Medical Tai Chi Brain Exercises” and “Seated Qi Gong” for less able seniors.
“We launched about two weeks ago, and at the moment there are 11 full lessons for sale,” said Munro. “We try to film a new one every week. Once you buy a class, you can download or stream it as many times as you want. There are eight free classes for those who want to ‘test drive’ classes, but they have a three month limit. The movements are easy for anyone to follow, even if you have never been to one of Homer’s classes.”
Nottingham has been practicing Qigong and Tai Chi since the mid 1980’s. Born in Arizona but professionally based in Los Angeles, he first discovered the Qi cultivation principles and exercises on a trip to Hong Kong while working as division vice president of American Express.
“The classes felt so good, but I couldn’t find anyone to teach me back in L.A.,” he said. “In China, most people practice it every morning. I eventually sought out teachers — I trained at Esalen in Big Sur and the Omega Institute in New York. Then I became a teacher myself.”
Nottingham retired from American Express in 2000 and moved to Nevada County, where he has been teaching fitness classes ever since.
“Homer gives members — both beginners and experienced — powerful ways to take charge of their health and well-being, showing you how to boost your immune system and cultivate your body’s capacity to heal,” said Munro. “He teaches two to three hundred people weekly at Harmony Fitness Studio and the South Yuba Club in Grass Valley. In the summer, when he teaches in Pioneer Park every Saturday, usually 50 to 75 people attend. His largest class so far was around 250 one Saturday with many attending from out of town.”
Nottingham has trained many of the local instructors of Qi Gong and Tai Chi at his own Vital Energy Arts Center on Main Street in Nevada City. Some of them are now teaching in Hawaii, Poland, New Mexico, Oregon and other places around the globe.
“Homer’s main goal is happiness,” said Munro. “His motto for life is, ‘Let your happiness change the world but don’t let the world change your happiness.’”
Knowing the online classes are not going to make him rich, Nottingham said it’s more about extending his reach.
“The more people who participate, the healthier we become — that’s the goal,” he said. “This is a fabulous opportunity for people to get the information they need, especially seniors. John has helped me set things up so that we can reach people anywhere in the world. I’m very excited.”
But Munro said that capturing Nottingham’s lessons on film is also a gift to the future.
“Homer is a Tai Chi and Qi Gong master who has trained here and in China — this is a valuable way to pass along his lessons and keep them alive,” he said. “Sure, we’re partners in this little venture, but now, more than anything, we’re friends. Being friends with Homer has probably been the best part of all.”
To contact Staff Writer Cory Fisher, email Cory@theunion.com.
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Many Nevada County residents hunkering down at home hoping to avoid the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic are still forced to face the potential spread of the virus each time they go out to conduct essential business. However, county health officials are hoping to quell some citizens’ concerns by working with grocers to implement best practices for social distancing measures while shopping.