Tai Chi is a Chinese art practiced for both its defense training and its health benefits. Though originally conceived as a martial art, today Tai Chi is widely practiced as a graceful form of exercise that involves a series of slow, fluid movements with smooth and even transitions between them. This is why Tai Chi is suitable for everyone, regardless of age or athletic ability. Along with Yoga, Tai Chi is one of the fastest growing fitness and health improving activities in the Western countries.
Tai chi is learned as a series of movements and postures. Movements linked together form recognizable sequence called Tai Chi form. A number of tai chi forms have been created, short forms are usually between 13-40 moves long while long forms are involving as many as 108 moves and transitions. To learn one form sometimes takes years, but there is no need to know many tai chi forms to do good Tai Chi and receive the benefits. One Tai Chi movement practiced precisely is worth thousands done incorrectly.
Tai Chi & Qigong
Qigong (Chi Kung) is very similar to Tai Chi in its slow, deliberate movements and focused on directing the qi (vital energy) in the body. Exercises are composed of only a few movements or body postures, very easy to learn and perform.
Qigong means “energy work”( qi-life energy, gong-work, practice, cultivation)
Qigong combines meditation, movement, healing postures, self-massage and breathing techniques. It is a system of self-healing exercise that improves harmony of mind, body and spirit.
Almost anyone can practice Qigong. It is easy, enjoyable to do and is performed in physically and mentally relaxed way.
Nowadays there are an infinity of Qigong styles, with over 10000 different styles designed for different objectives and types of people
Benefits of Tai Chi & Qigong
Many medical researchers have proven the effectiveness of Tai Chi and Qigong in prevention of illnesses and control of chronic diseases. Tai Chi and Qigong have many benefits, such as:
improving your body posture, balance, coordination, flexibility and mobility, prevent muscular spasms, reduce joint pain, building bone density
improving circulation and normalize blood pressure
building immune system
helping in digestion
improving kidney function
relieving bronchitis and asthma
improving skin elasticity
strengthening organs, build power
helping calm the mind by balancing emotions and eliminating stress
improving concentration, memory, mental clarity, sleep quality
giving you overall awareness and feeling of well-being.
The practical exercises of Tai Chi and Qigong are situated in wider philosophical context of Taoism. Word Tao means “the Way of life”. It is impossible to define Tao or describe Tao with the conceptual mind. Tao is a mysterious, numinous unity underlying and sustaining all things. We could say Tao means God.
This single ultimate principle gave birth to two principles which oppose one another: yin and yang. All of the opposites in the Universe can be represented by one of yin and yang. Yet, in every movement there are yin and yang and they act independently making dynamic duality, but in stillness they fuse into one, single ultimate, Tao.
Under the principles of yin and yang, all changes in the Universe are accomplished through the five material agents: wood, fire, earth, metal and water.
The core of Taoist philosophy and Traditional Chinese Medicine is an idea of returning to “Oneness”, to our true nature, regaining balance and recovering harmony. This balance can be achieved through Meditation, Qigong, well nutrition, herbal medicine, Massage, Acupuncture and consciously aligning with cosmic cycles.
Ancient Chinese believed that everything in the Universe is alive (including air, stone, water) and has vital energy qi (chi). Same concept can be found in other cultures: Ki (Japan), Prana (India), Mana (Polynesia), Tane (Hawaii) Gana (South America) Great Spirit (Native Americans). When we break down all matter to the sub-atomic level we find energy. This vital energy also circulate throughout human body.
According to Chinese Medicine, there are 12 primary meridians or energy pathways that are caring qi (chi) throughout the body (each primary meridian associated with an organ). There are also 8 extraordinary vessels and 365 acupuncture points (each located on a meridian or channel).
Good health is result of free-flow and well balanced system, while sickness is result of qi blockage or unbalanced qi ,that are usually consequence of negative emotions, energy draining, bad diet, effect of toxins and technical irradiation.
Tai Chi and Qigong develop your ability to cultivate, feel, move and store qi (chi) at will. Practitioner learns the mastering of qi (chi): how to conserve chi, balance chi, transform chi and project chi. This is how by practicing Tai Chi and Qigong starts to be possible to correct bio-energetic imbalances and blockages in meridians.
This is why these mind-body exercises have so many healing benefits. For millennia Tai Chi and Qigong have existed as a sophisticated form of movement therapy that have helped hundreds of millions of people to live longer, reduce the effects of aging, maintain their energy levels well and feel good.
The benefits of Tai Chi and Qigong are strongly related with the practice of internal motion (nei gong) which means that mind (by intention- Yi) leads the qi ( vital energy) and provides guidance for flow of qi trough the body.
After years of practice, accumulated qi develops into jin (internal power) and spirit (shen) rises. This means energy work is not only helping us to heal and regenerate, it stimulates spiritual development! Tai Chi and Qigong can be described as meditation in movement since they are combining body motion with “inner motion” that roots us in present moment. Directing the mind and channeling vital energy leads to improvement of body-mind connection and increase of spiritual awareness. Human body becomes ONE with nature, align with its laws and processes, adjusted to its cycles and forces. Taoists, Buddhists and Confucians used to put focus of their practice on this aspect for reaching spiritual enlightenment.
Tai Chi and Qigong were practiced by the Chinese for thousands of years, and there are many different versions of their history.
Qigong existed before religions came into being. Some sources say Qigong is ancient practice originated in China 3000 years ago, some say it has history of 5000 years and it is old as Chinese civilization. Some say that judging from archaeological findings it has a history of 7000 years and beyond. In time of its origins Qigong had a different name. No one really knows how old these exercises really are and who created them.
According to one legend, Tai Chi began in the 13th century with Taoist named Chang Sanfeng who lived in Wudang Mountain, and created first Tai Chi movements inspired by observed movements of animals. He handed down Tai Chi through generations. Taoist monks continued practicing this art in monasteries. Only chosen apprentices could get secret teachings and deep insights. They would had to prove their commitment, virtue and character. Over long time of Tai Chi history there have been developed five main styles of Tai Chi that are still practiced today worldwide: Chen, Yang, Wu, Hao and Sun.