Following the Super Qi Summit this past weekend at the renowned Omega Institute in upstate New York, I could not find the words to describe my experience. In fact, when I sat down to write this post, I had just one: WOW. And that’s pretty much all I had all week. In fact, I was so WOW-ed that I did nothing but beg my friends to do QiGong with me, talk about QiGong, and read more about QiGong. In fact, the only reason I finally sat down to write was I ran out of people to talk about and do QiGong with. But then I remembered that I could spread the message by writing about it for you, dear readers. In fact, Roger Jahnke, creator of Tai Chi Easy and keynote at the event, opened with this inspiring message: ‘The most profound medicine is produced in your own body, for free, and QiGong turns the medicine on. Tell your friends.’ So here we are.
And what exactly is QiGong? Qi refers to our energy, life-force, prana, original essence…whatever you want to call it. And Gong simply refers to a practice, work or cultivation. This energy cultivation happens through a series of movements that have been tried and tested for thousands of years, incorporating slow mindful movement, breath-work, and visualization to tone energy pathways, integrating all levels of body, mind, and spirit. Which means there’s nothing this practice isn’t good for. Health and well-being? Check. Spiritual awakening? Check. More energy? Less stress? Scientifically proven disease prevention and management of many of our modern ailments, including emotional distress? Check. Check. Check.
QiGong is one of the 5 branches of Chinese Medicine, among Acupuncture, Herbs, Massage, and Nutrition. A major upside is this is an easy-to-do practice of self-care. And how does Tai Chi factor in? Well, Tai Chi is a form of QiGong, much like ballet is a form of dance. In all, there have been approximately 3500 documented styles of QiGong, and at this summit, 9 keynote speakers presented their versions. In order of appearance there was: Minke De Vos, Michael Gelb, Ken Cohen, Roger Jahnke, Robert Peng, Lorie Eve Dechar, Mingtong Gu, Michael Winn, and Steven Michael Pague. While there are so many facets to each one’s work, I’ll simply go over the basics of what each presented, since each has either one or many books on the topic or a series of workshops upcoming, some at Omega later this season.
But before I try to cram in a list that will in no way do these practitioners justice, I’ll just say how pleasantly surprised I was to meet such a vast and varied audience - from those who’d only heard about the wonders of QiGong to practicing healers and martial arts enthusiasts of all ages, from all walks of life. There was even a woman who’d just closed her eyes and picked a workshop at random so she could enjoy the blissful surroundings of the Omega Institute. And man, was she impressed. After Mingtong’s interactive spiral sound-healing Saturday night, which was open to everyone at Omega, she just looked at me wide-eyed and said, ‘Whoa! I don’t even know what that was, but it was powerful.’
So you see how difficult it is to express using words the feeling that you get from being around the ‘Big Qi’ cultivated by those who have practiced for decades, but I’ll do my best to run it down, starting with those you can catch later this season at The Omega Institute:
Roger Jahnke: Director of the Institute of Integral QiGong and Tai Chi (IIQTC), will lead several workshops at Omega later this month. Author of The Healer Within and The Healing Promise of Qi, Dr Jahnke tours nationally and internationally teaching accessible medical QiGong, which empowers us to heal ourselves. YES! Not to mention, he celebrated his 70th birthday at the workshop and the man looks not a day over 55. So there’s another reason to try it.
Robert Peng: A QiGong healer - that is, one who often administers healing energy to a patient - who began his study with Chifu Xiao Yao, a monk of legendary healing powers, at the age of 9. While it would be impossible for him to share a lifetime of knowledge in just a few hours, many of the practicing healers who came to see him were just getting warmed up for his upcoming Empowerment and Healing Techniques workshops happening later this summer. He’s a big draw.
Mingtong Gu: Renowned for his Wisdom Healing QiGong and Chi Center in Santa Fe, New Mexico, he studied at Harvard, then under Dr. Pang who ran a medicine-less QiGong hospital in China where he learned to heal over 200 diseases, including many that Western medicine has no cure for, including his own persistent Asthma. With Mingtong, we learned about the Inner Smile - giving gratitude to our organs - and were led through a series of movements, chants, and visualizations under his wise and joyful watch. He'll be at Spirit Rock in July and back at Omega in September.
Steven Michael Pague: A longtime faculty member of The Omega Institute, whose roots trace back to Omega's beginning, Steven teaches at Omega between his tours of Costa Rica, The Virgin Islands and The Izlind Institute in Rhinebeck. We had the privilege to see his smiling eyes each morning as he taught campus-wide QiGong classes each morning, which included his adorable teaching of QiGong's ‘Animal Frolics’. He'll be back at Omega leading a workshop in Waterfall QiGong in August.
Minke De Vos: An absolute goddess and Medical QiGong Master Therapist who has co-taught with Taoist Master Mantak Chia. With us, she worked on balancing male and female energies in a profoundly healing and incredibly feminine, intuitive, practice. In Chinese Medicine, it is said that the root of disease is an imbalance of Yin (feminine) and Yang (masculine) energies. She authored the book Tao Tantric Arts for Women , a Taoist guide for women to awaken their genuine feminine nature at each stage in life.
Lorie Eve Dechar: A QiGong healer, acupuncturist, psychologist, alchemist, and author of Five Spirits: Alchemical Acupuncture for Psychological and Spiritual Healing. She lovingly took us through a series of heart opening practices.
Ken Cohen: Educator, QiGong Master, practitioner Scholar of ancient traditions and indigenous medicine and healing practices. He's the renowned author of critically acclaimed books, including The Way of QiGong, which has been described the most comprehensive recently issued book on QiGong.
Michael Winn: Supreme badass who once devised a plan to lock himself inside one of the great pyramids so he could learn the secrets of the universe and share them with us this past weekend (more on that later) and co-wrote many of Mantak Chia’s books on QiGong and Taoist principles. He also runs one of the largest Qi Arts program in the West, Healing Tao USA University near Asheville, NC.
Michael Gelb: A keynote speaker and leader in creativity and innovation, author of 14 books, and QiGong enthusiast who hosted the event and grounded our enlightening experience by demonstrating correct alignment for a series of popular poses. His next workshop at Omega is in September on The Art of Connection.
Phew…And on that note, I’ll finish off this post in a very QiGong way by saying that while this all sounds complex, it is at the same time wholly simple.
Click to learn more about the Omega Institute's upcoming workshops, including Kundalini Yoga for Women, Teens, Girls & Boys, Ecstatic Chant (with Ram Dass via livestream!), Marianne Williamson on A Course in Miracles and the Mindfulness & Education Conference.
Photo: Courtesy of Omega Institute for Holistic Studies, Rhinebeck, NY. eOmega.org
Post written for SFYogaMag.com