Friday, December 24, 2010

What Are Tai Chi (Taiji) and Qigong?

Many people hear about tai chi in the news or may know a little bit about it. Less commonly, people may hear about qigong. However, people are often confused about how these terms are related to each other.

Qigong (pronounced chee gung)) is two words from the Chinese language. The word qi is often translated as “internal energy”, but this doesn’t really seem to be a very good translation. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, it primarily refers to connecting different parts of our body. It also refers to communication where our mind, or intention, moves our bodies. Gong can be translated as exercises or work done on a regular basis. So qi gong can be used to mean “exercises that enhance our vital energy and connectedness”.

There are thousands of qigong exercises for everything from curing illnesses to preventive medicine. Any qigong exercises can be put together in any order to accomplish the health goal. A simple qigong exercise set can be learned in a single class, although a detailed understanding of qigong can take years of study.

Tai chi has roots in the Chinese martial arts. In the West today, it is almost always used for its health and wellness benefits. Tai chi consists of a sequence of graceful, flowing movements always done in the same order. Tai chi incorporates many elements of qigong as part of the long-term practice. Tai chi can take weeks to months to learn a short set and can take a lifetime to master.

There are several parts to tai chi (taiji)/qigong. The first part is the external aspects consisting of the physical movements of a form or an exercise. This is just the tip of the iceberg. After the physical movements are learned, you can start working on turning your movements into slow, graceful, continuous movements, where you move against a gentle force. While learning, it is important to focus on shifting your weight and maintaining an upright posture. Eventually, you develop the ability to loosen your joints, use mindfulness in your movements, and direct your qi throughout your body. The essential concepts are developed as the form is learned and refined as your practice continues.

Tai chi and qigong have been studied by western doctors and scientists and shown to be effective in promoting health and wellness.


© 2011 Eric Borreson