Tai chi is an ancient Chinese martial art which is practised by many people around the world today for its health benefits. The term tai chi or taiji relates to the cosmological concept of yin and yang, united to form the ‘supreme ultimate’.
Qi gong is a system of coordinated movement, breathing and meditation which comes from the same origins as tai chi, but is primarily a wellness practice.
The word qi, of which chi is a variant, relates to life force or energy flow. Gong relates to work, service and the mastery of skills.
Organisations including the National Parkinson Foundation in the US and Diabetes Australia have supported the practice of tai chi on medical grounds. It’s been found to be particularly useful in decreasing the risk of falls in older people.
How does it work?
As forms of exercise, tai chi and qi gong are slow and low impact. They don’t raise the heart rate or burn many calories. Instead, the focus is on circulation, balance and flexibility. Many people use these exercises as a form of meditation.
There are more or less strenuous postures and combinations of postures, designed to achieve different effects and help different areas of the body. All muscle groups are targeted, but not in an intense way.
Elderly people and pregnant women can safely practice tai chi and qi gong.
Go with the flow
The idea with these practices is to flow a series of postures together seamlessly, which is why it can look like a slow, graceful dance to an onlooker. In China huge groups of people do the exercises together, but it’s also possible to practise in a small class or alone.
YouTube tutorials are another popular way to learn the postures and advance without a teacher.
As well as enhanced strength and endurance, regular practitioners claim great results for stress-relief, weight loss, increased self-confidence, reduced fear of falling and improved sleep.
There are a great many varieties and schools of tai chi and qi gong, so it’s worth doing some investigation to discover what form suits you best. You can learn more here.