1. What is qigong?
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 in order to gain skill. So qi gong can be used to mean “exercises that enhance our vital energy and connectedness”. An alternative definition of qi is "breath". Therefore, qigong can also be translated as "deep breathing exercises". Read more here.
2. What is tai chi?
Tai chi (best pronounced as tie jee but also pronounced as tie chee) has roots in the Chinese martial arts. In the West today, it is most often 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. Read more here and here.
Several studies have shown that there are measurable health benefits from learning tai chi. These benefits usually show up after about 12 weeks of regular practice. The basic principles can be discussed and demonstrated in a short time. However, tai chi has enormous depth. It can take a lifetime to master the principles of tai chi. Read more here and here.
There are several main styles of tai chi. The most common styles of tai chi are Chen (the oldest and most martial), Yang (the best known around the world), Wu, Wu/Hao, and Sun (the newest -- very appropriate for Tai Chi for Health programs). Read more here.
5. What are the health benefits of tai chi?
There are many benefits to learning tai chi. There are too many to list here, but I decided on a brief list. Practicing tai chi strengthens your immune system through activation of the lymphatic system and by invoking the relaxation response. Read more here. Tai chi has been shown to reduce the pain of knee osteoarthritis. Read more here. It helps balance out our metabolism. Read more here. Tai chi improves physical abilities, balance, and strength. Read more here and here.
6. What is lineage and authenticity?
Lineage is the line of instruction going back to the beginning. For example, my teacher had a teacher, who had a teacher, etc. Authenticity is the recognition that the tai chi being taught and practiced is generally recognized as correct. Lineage and authenticity are important to martial arts practitioners. Sometimes it is so important as to lead to derogatory behavior and petty insults that are beneath the level of a teenager. I enjoy poking a stick in the eye of such people. Read more here.
7. How do tai chi and qigong work to improve our health?
It's not entirely clear. I believe that it is partly because it gets us up and moving. Any exercise is better than no exercise. I also believe that is it mostly because we develop a mind-body connection and learn how to slow down our busy minds. Read more here and here.
© 2013 Eric Borreson