March 2008: Growing up in a yurt on the outskirts of Ulaan Baatar, Mongolia, Suman Barkhas began training in yoga at age 13, when a visiting monk offered instruction. “He taught us about life, spirituality and healing,” Suman relates. “I was inspired to take that path.” After travels in China, where he learned tai chi and qigong, Suman trained to be a yogi monk at an ashram in Varanasi, India, beside the holy River Ganga. Afterward, he was posted to many locations, from Southeast Asia to Northern Europe. “I traveled throughout Scandinavia,” he says, “wherever people had an interest in spirituality.” Suman arrived in the U.S. in 2001, discovered Eugene the following year, and decided to settle here. He teaches tai chi, qigong, meditation and yoga therapy at community centers in Eugene and Springfield, and at his home studio.
2018 update: In six years with the Oregon Health Authority, Suman trained community education instructors to teach tai chi classes for older people. Tai chi employs slow, deliberate movements that improve balance and protect against falls. “I’ve trained more than 1,000 instructors,” he says, “600 in Oregon.” All of his community education classes are now offered in one location, St. Thomas Episcopal Church on Coburg Road. He also serves patients and staff at Sacred Heart Hospital’s Riverbend and downtown locations. Earlier this year, Suman was awarded the tai chi master title by the American Tai Chi and Qigong Association. He is inviting the public to a Tai Chi Master Celebration and Open House at the St. Thomas Church 10:30 am Saturday, Nov. 3. The program includes group tai chi and qigong demonstrations and the story of a “Tai Chi Journey” by his longtime student, 99-year-old Ethel Ellen.