Five months after my second five day-stay at Sloane-Kettering, I spotted Master Yang Yang’s
five day Taiji Workshop in a Kripalu Yoga Center brochure. I decided to attend and learn more
about waqi, hoping it could restore my depleted energy.
I had undergone two stomach cancer surgeries that removed 30% of my stomach, and left me very weak day after day.
Little did I know upon entering the taiji class on Day One, that my life would forever change in ways I could not have imagined. The first session was at night, and by that time of day I was exhausted as usual.
90 minutes later the session ended and after walking back to the annex at Kripalu, without thinking, I started running up five flights of stairs to my floor. I stepped into the fifth floor hallway and suddenly a big grin crossed my face.
What the heck just happened? I felt a charge of electricity throughout my entire body, bursting with more energy than I remembered for a long time. Unbeknownst to me, the Waqi Journey had begun. I was becoming hooked!
After five intensive days, I returned home a newly rejuvenated cancer survivor, and also one committed to Waqi as a healing modality. "Waqi" according to Dr. Yang's Waqi website translates as "youthful energy:" feeling and functioning ". . . younger in mind and body at any age and with any health condition." As such, this Chinese phrase encapsulates the outcome of his practices established by evidence based research and by reports of participants in decades of his classes, workshops and camps.
Every Sunday for the next year I faithfully drove into New York City to attend Master Yang’s two hour class. The people there were wonderful, a close knit group that welcomed me with open arms.
Cancer survivors, taiji teacher -- no matter what, they all had become faithful followers of Master Yang's practices, and I slowly began to see why. Little by little, I increased the amount of taiji I did, until I finally developed my own daily practice.
It just made me feel good, so why wouldn’t I do it every day? What I really liked was that I could do 10 minutes a day, or 2 hours a day, as long as I moved my body.
I increased my standing meditation slowly and steadily, and each month I reaped the benefits of improved core strength, better balance, and sky high energy level.
Subsequent cancer tests indicated that the tumors were gone. People I hadn’t seen in a while consistently commented that I looked healthier and I began to feel 10 years younger! On a visit to Florida to see my mom in a nursing home, she asked when I entered her room, whether or not I had gotten taller. I smiled to myself as I realized that my improved posture made me look one inch taller!
The Waqi program allowed me to customize my daily practice based upon reading and listening to my body each day when I woke up.That is one reason reason why I really feel it fits in perfectly to people’s different needs. Unlike a gym routine, where the same exercises are followed every visit, this practice gives you the chance to structure your movements to the parts of the body that need moving that day.
I decided that there should be two exercises that I need to do first every morning, and after that it can vary depending on how I am feeling. I like to start with “Grand Opening” because it brings in so much energy to jump start my day. I might do 15 or 25 or 41 or even 81 repetitions. The key is that my body becomes alive with the reverse breathing and when I am done, I feel pumped up and ready to do more.
Next is “Rising Dragon” and “Double Dragon” which both open up my back and loosens the core. Because of shoulder issues, this also allows those joints to be lubricated and healed with the silk reeling action. And it is very soothing for my neck.
I can stop there, have some tea and begin my day. Or perhaps I will do some standing meditation, or agility exercises like “Warrior Jump” or “Monk’s Kick.”
Because every day is different, there is no grind of repeating the same routine over and over, and this customized approach is something that all cancer survivors are capable of doing -- finding their own comfort zone and creating a personal program to push them along on the road to recovery. This is the freedom, flexibility and beauty of the Waqi program.
About the Author
Bob Vlahakis retired in 2005 from 30 years of teaching middle school English & Social Studies, and later, in 2017 retired from coaching after 42 years. Soon after having stomach cancer surgery at Sloane Kettering, Bob met Master Yang in 2016 at a 5 day Kripalu workshop. Seeing how powerful taiji could be at healing, he began studying earnestly with Master Yang, now having attended 8 straight Kripalu workshops and two camps last summer. He received his EBQ Certification in August of 2018. He now has a special interest in sharing taiji/Meditation with High School and College Student-Athletes, and recently had an article about that work published at insidelacrosse.com, a National publication. The article is called “Sharing WAQI with LIU Post”. In addition, Bob just started teaching his first class for Seniors on March 1, 2019, which he says has been a wonderfully rewarding experience. He has a new class in the works with Veterans at the Stony Brook Long Island Veterans Home.