The Four Gates Physical and Energetic Culture studio in Minneapolis, Minnesota, has achieved success as a sacred space that combines structured physical movement with the free flow of energy. Owned and operated by Christian Doten and his wife Colleen LaSota, Four Gates has been offering classes in yoga, qigong and strength training as well as acupuncture treatments and qoya classes since 2010.
If you ask Christian how he got to this place, he would tell you that one’s journey usually brings you full spiral back to where you began. And, for him it began when he saw the movie Bruce Lee’s Enter the Dragon as a seven-year-old in South Minneapolis.
“That movie changed my life,” says Christian. “My dad would often take me and the neighborhood kids to see movies at the local theater. In an early scene in the movie Lee’s character meets with a student and points up at the moon saying, ‘See that moon?’ The student looks at Lee’s finger and promptly gets hit on the head by Lee who says, ‘Don’t look at the finger or you will miss all of that heavenly glory!’”
Christian admits that he didn’t realize the positive impact that movie would have on him until he became an adult and looked at his life retrospectively. “Bruce Lee was inspiring to me. He had high energy and he was a hero, a champion. That lesson with the student has always stuck with me. It was probably my first Taoist lesson.”
Christian’s journey toward qigong has taken many twists and turns. He tried Taekwondo in his youth. He really felt his own power and how to use his energy against someone as a high school wrestler. His foray into yoga began after seeing a friend do a headstand and various yoga moves. Both he and his wife had begun learning and practicing Hatha Yoga when Christian was introduced to Craig Vallani. As a master of Raja Yoga, Villanti focused on the purpose behind the movement which resonated with Christian. He was impressed enough to head to Los Angeles to study under Vallani.
“My training in L.A. was physically challenging but I welcomed it,” says Christian. “I learned that teaching yoga requires tactical, visual and auditory skills. Using a verbal ‘script’ helps guide students in breathing, posing and meditation is perhaps the most important.”
From L.A., Christian traveled for a brief stay in Argentina where Colleen had work. There he taught yoga, but financial considerations took them both to New York. That’s where Christian’s real journey took off.
“I had connections in New York thanks to my L.A. training,” he says. “I began teaching yoga in Brooklyn and Manhattan and an abundance of opportunities came my way. It felt good to be part of a network and a community while we were there.”
He also began studying at the Swedish Institute of Health Sciences in Manhattan to become a massage therapist. Fortunately, he received a scholarship to attend classes through a state program that finances education for individuals who are blind or visually impaired. Though you wouldn’t know it from meeting with Christian, he has macular degeneration and has a loss of sight in the center of the field of his vision.
At the Swedish Institute of Health Sciences he learned qigong or the exercise of Qi--the life force energy present in every aspect of life--from many different masters. Hand-in-hand with qigong he learned Tao’s philosophy of the Five Elements (Water, Wood, Fire, Earth and Metal) which provide a framework for living in Harmony with nature on a daily basis.
Qigong also began to show Christian what was really important in his life. Though he and Colleen loved what New York had to offer, they wanted to raise their young son in a better environment. “One day we were walking in Prospect Park and realized everything our son was picking up was garbage,” says Christian. “That’s when we decided to return to Minneapolis.”
Christian has been able to integrate qigong into his yoga and strengthening classes at the Four Gates. He teaches balance and that by slowing things down we are actually able to focus on how to use this energy.
Christian Doten is an ACE certified personal trainer, Kettlebell Concepts certified trainer, advanced personal training certificate and associates degree in massage therapy and postural/structural assessment from the Swedish Institute of Health Sciences, certified yoga instructor, and professional skateboarding enthusiast.
“In my classes today I begin by having students feel their own energy, or electromagnetic field, and am reminded of Bruce Lee’s movie,” he says. “The Western approach is linear while an Eastern approach is circular, or seeing the whole picture rather than just a part of it. Feeling our own energy connects us to the larger world.”
“Softness always wins according to Taoist philosophy,” says Christian. “Take water for instance. It can be solid, a gas or a liquid. It can bubble up from the earth or fall from the sky. It can be cold or hot. It can be a trickle or a raging sea. Water will assume it’s receptacle, so if your receptacle--your body--is rigid and tense, you will be dry. But if you find a way to move and focus, you can expand your life.”