You can try a new type of massage or read a chiropractor’s online reviews, but how do you really know when a healing modality is right for you? Columnist Laura K. Cowan goes in depth with local healers to give you a behind-the-scenes look at what they really do to help people relax and heal.
By Laura K. Cowan
In this issue Laura spoke with Ann Arbor reflexologist and t’ai chi instructor Greg Knollmeyer, who approaches t’ai chi almost like a physical therapist would. Knollmeyer teaches tai chi classes out of the Ypsilanti Senior Center as well as private instruction in Ann Arbor and practices reflexology out of the west side Ann Arbor office he shares with wife, chiropractor Diane Babalas.
Laura K. Cowan: How did you choose these two modalities to practice? Why this particular type of healing practice?
Greg Knollmeyer: Working at a bookstore in high school, I found some very compelling Taoist texts. It was an elegant perspective—sparse and not weighted with anything extraneous or heavy dogma. In it I found a joy in paradox and struggled to wrap my mind around weak overcoming strong or yin overcoming yang. A coworker and I were talking about it, and he told me about t’ai chi and how those paradoxes can be found in its practice. So in high school I learned a very little bit of t’ai chi from two people, but it stuck with me. I loved how t’ai chi fit with the Taoist texts and that brief sense of connectedness I felt when doing t’ai chi.
In college, I found a good teacher 30 minutes away and learned a complete form. But then I spent all my savings in a year abroad studying at Oxford. I couldn’t afford the gas or the class when I returned. But still t’ai chi stuck with me. I practiced very intermittently, but always it was in the back of my mind to find a teacher again. After I changed from a traveling job and moved to Ann Arbor, around 1999, I began to study and practice very consistently. Five years ago, finding my current teacher, Richard Clear, was like discovering t’ai chi for the first time all over again.
In 2003, I was leading a training team at a Fortune 500 company. In my time there, we had reorganized the department, established core curriculum, completed a few large projects, and things were running smoothly. At that point, I found myself less than fully engaged in work. At the end of each day, I found myself rushing from work to take or teach t’ai chi and yoga classes. I realized I wanted my career to involve the intrinsic energies I was cultivating. So, I began to try all kinds of different bodywork. Much of it was helpful to receive but wasn’t compelling for me.
The very last thing I tried was reflexolo-chi. My wife, chiropractor Diane Babalas, suggested that I try reflexolo-chi. I remember saying “I don’t see myself rubbing people’s feet for a living.” But I tried and found the work very helpful in a way that I hadn’t experienced in the others. I studied intensely for a couple of years and then opened my healing practice. My studies continued in depth and grew into other areas including subconscious belief work, fa gong energy healing, biofield tuning, and others.
Laura K. Cowan: What’s your favorite thing about doing reflexology and t’ai chi?
Greg Knollmeyer: When people ask me why I like t’ai chi, I’ll often ask them why they like chocolate. Sometimes simple reasons are best. T’ai chi tastes good. Every day I find t’ai chi allows me to explore my inner space, move energy, and shape energy. I am more awake, relaxed, grounded, and myself through the practice.
The healing work I do really allows me to help people at a deep level. It is very humbling and wonderful to help people through difficult healing and evolution.
Laura K. Cowan: How can someone decide if reflexology or t’ai chi is right for them?
Greg Knollmeyer: The truth is everyone could benefit from t’ai chi. I’ve helped folks with multiple strokes regain balance and mobility. I have helped ex-military folks with black belts become more relaxed and powerful. Many students are happy to develop more calm and energy flow. Having said that, it’s the most beneficial when you like it. The best way to find out is try it.
Laura K. Cowan: What’s the best place for readers to learn more about your style of t’ai chi and reflexology?
Greg Knollmeyer: The best place to learn about our t’ai chi is at an intro class. There is also a short video overview at www.SpiralChiCenter.com. The best way to learn about the healing work is also to experience it, but there is an overview of the work at www.Healing.GregKnollmeyer.com.
Laura K. Cowan: How are you handling coronavirus cleaning and social distancing concerns?
Greg Knollmeyer: For reflexolo-chi I’m doing all the things—masks, wiping every surface and knob down between clients, et cetera. I did close for a couple of months during the larger lockdown, but I’ve been seeing clients for a while now. I do feel it’s really safe, one client at a time, intense cleaning, masks, and so on.
I am not offering my normal free introduction classes any time soon. I’ll be waiting until things calm down a bit. During the larger lockdown, I was teaching solely online for continuing students. The last few months, I’ve held live outdoor classes that are simultaneously on video call. So I’ll have students outdoors with me as well as a few online at the same time. It’s been working wonderfully, and past classes are available via a student portal. You are welcome to join us 6:30 on Mondays behind the senior center. When it gets cold, I’m guessing we’ll go back to solely virtual unless the situation changes.
Read related article: An Interview with Billie Wahlen, practitioner of the Sat Nam Rasayan® Healing Technique
Laura K. Cowan: Are there any restrictions or contraindications for people who might want to hold back or choose a different style of treatment or exercise?
Greg Knollmeyer: For t’ai chi, private lessons are best for people who are not able to take a long walk or who have significant limitations to movement. In private lessons, we can find ways of getting movement and energy activated through the body’s limitations. Group classes require standing and moving for an hour.
For reflexolo-chi, people need to be comfortable lying on their backs on a soft massage table. Also, since reflexolo-chi really activates circulation, working on folks with blood clots is contraindicated.
Laura K. Cowan: Could you tell me a favorite story from one of your client sessions or classes, when you knew what you were doing was really helping someone?
Greg Knollmeyer: I remember working with Jeff who had visual migraines about twice a month. They were serious and debilitating. When he arrived for his first appointment, he told me that one of his migraines was developing. And then he said in a bit of a challenging tone something like, “I didn’t take any drugs because I was coming to see you.” At the end of his session the migraine was gone, and he didn’t get another one as long as I stayed in touch with him over the next three years.
I always enjoy seeing the expressions of wonder on students’ faces as they experience something new in their own bodies. Helping someone experience not only the world but themselves in a different way is wonderful.
To learn more about Greg Knollmeyer’s work, please visit www.healing.gregknollmeyer.com.
Laura K. Cowan is a columnist with Crazy Wisdom as well as a tech and wellness journalist. She is co-founder and executive editor of Ann Arbor tech blog Cronicle Press (www.cronicle.press). Her work has appeared in the Ann Arbor Observer, Automobile Quarterly, CNBC, and green design blog Inhabitat.