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Uncovering the secrets of the Taoists on Ibiza

Ibiza is host to many different alternative practices: here we offer a first hand acccount of a qi gong workshop

Ibiza in winter is home to many the holistic retreat and wellness activity of all flavours and lots and lots of yoga. In search of something that was less everyday, I stumbled upon a qi gong workshop taking place here. Daring to be different, I enrolled on the course, hoping to learn the secrets of the ancient Taoists.

Translated simply as ‘energy work', qi gong is a set of coordinated bodily activities, related to posture, movement, breathing, and meditation. It is used to improve overall health, re-connect you to this big spinning thing we call Earth and deepen martial arts training.

The workshop, run by musician Chris Gorman, is divided into three days, a starter evening which is shorter and then two longer sessions on the following two days. The story of how Chris came to the Taoist arts may resonate with many a summer Ibiza-ite. His music career was taking over: ‘the associated hedonism, was shredding my nervous system' he says.

Chris first came to Ibiza to continue his study. It's been an annual pilgrimage ever since. On how Ibiza differs from the UK, where he also practises, he says: ‘Energetically Ibiza seems centred in the heart which is a great contrast to the UK where we are very much up in our heads much of the time.'

Ibiza's natural environment and spirit makes it easier to connect with the body according to Chris: ‘the workshops attract a very warm and friendly mix of people from all over the globe; for me personally it's a very rich experience.'


Dragon meets tiger

Chris showing me some qi gong moves

The actual version of the qi gong we would be practising is called Dragon and tiger medical qi gong and comes from Chris's work with international expert Bruce Frantzis. In this training, a series of seven movements is deconstructed so that you can then piece it all together later.

Chris is often told that he doesn't fit the profile of the typical teacher and I can vouch for that after having sanctimony heaped upon me by various teachers. With this guy you get real and a great deal of fun.

What we did is called a micro practice and fully learned, it can be completed in 20 minutes (much shorter than the original) and has the benefit of being a lot cheaper than medical insurance.

The idea is that the gentle movements trace the Chinese meridian system, shaking up the vital organs like liver, heart and lungs. The movements all have really cool names too; the boys amongst us will definitely like them. ‘Dragon looks to the horizon'; ‘Tiger separates her cubs' and ‘Dragon and tiger pierce heaven and earth' seems more role playing game than exercise.

After getting into into Chinese martial arts around 10 years ago, Chris loved the vigour of them as well as their subtleties which appealed to his creative artist side. Through practising these arts regularly he has, he feels, been ‘able to heal and soften my physical body as well as learn how to to mitigate anxiety and depression'. Continuing on the theme, he says: 'Being kind to yourself is no small feat, in fact you could say it's an art'.


Front loaded training

The whole training is ‘front loaded', as the first two movements contain pretty all the hard elements of the practice and help with the rest of the sequence of movements. The whole idea is that you complete this weekend having nailed (as far as possible) the first two to set you up for the rest.

There's a fair bit of information to take in, but its fun to do. Chris helps you to find out where your energy field is - kind of like when a heat sensing image shows the infrared that come out of our bodies. It wasa weird sensation, to have him exploring with his hands, holding them a several centimetres away until he finds your field. The funny thing is, you feel his hands, even though he isn't actually touching you physically.

We also got to work in pairs a lot, again taking elements of the qi gong work and breaking it down. For example, you'll do a specific shoulder or arm movement with your partner and guide them until you get it. Sometimes, the feeling you get is like you've entered an episode of The Expanse.


A fitting end

At the end we managed to do the whole set of seven movements, and it felt like a real achievement. Everyone seemed so much calmer by this point and it was cool to watch each other almost at the end of our qi gong starter pack journey.

I can now report that several weeks later I'm still practising daily, give or take the odd day off. With any practice like this, it's very personal. One man's yoga is another's tai chi is another's gym. It's a choice of what works.

I will say one thing. Ibiza does have a special kind of magic energy that lends itself to this, so whatever your interest, I'd say start it here. I think you'll be glad you did.

To learn more about Chris Gorman's courses, visit the Phoenix Blu website.


PHOTOGRAPHY | Dina Aragon