I am quite used to people not really knowing what Tai chi and Qigong are. Sometimes they say things like “That’s just waving your hands in the air isn’t it?” or “Is it a bit like Yoga?”. The answer to both questions is “No”.
When we do Tai Chi we use the whole body, from toes to fingertips, hips to neck. And we do wave our hands in the air sometimes 🙂
In Yoga, you hold the pose for a specified length of time, and the ultimate aim is to increase the stretch as well as the time you hold it. In Tai Chi we move according to the breath, so we seldom hold any pose longer than the time it takes to inhale or exhale. The other main difference in Tai Chi is that we follow the “75%” rule, which means that instead of aiming to reach or twist or stretch to the limit you only ask your body to reach the stage at which it feels the movement, but never into the stage where it causes pain.
The Chinese call this “comfortable uncomfortableness” and it is the feeling you get when you release after a large yawn or stretch. It can also be likened to the “pleasant ache” you may feel in your muscles after a long walk. You’re not in pain but you know your muscles have done some good work.
So, why did I pick this topic to write about this week?
Following some comments from one or two people who enquired about my classes, and some ridiculously biased articles I happened to come across whilst researching an article, I felt I wanted to make the point that Yoga and Tai Chi are not mutually exclusive! The deep breathing routines that certain styles of Yoga consist of have similarities with the breathing we practise in Qigong. One discipline does not have the monopoly on oxygen intake!
I understand partisanship when you find something you like; I understand that the more you invest in something the more you want to promote it to others. The problems arise when fanatics start claiming that their way is the only way and everything else is rubbish.
I have practised Yoga from a very early age, using my Mother’s books to get started. I was about 12 when I first began, and soon realised that I am blessed with a naturally flexible spine and limbs. I carried on with Yoga practice for many years, all through two pregnancies and after the kids were born. For whatever reason I stopped doing Yoga routines (lack of time perhaps) but of course I knew the poses by then and would use them to stretch out any muscles that needed it.
Very recently I have dusted off the old Yoga book and begun to incorporate a short Yoga routine into most days and I am finding it very beneficial. Yoga, for me, can reach muscles and ligaments that Qigong sometimes does not. It is that simple.
I have an idea that I may develop a kind of hybrid form of exercise that blends my knowledge of both forms of exercise.
All I would say to anyone thinking of trying Tai Chi and Qigong is that you approach any class with a truly open mind. If you expect a sort of “Standing up Yoga” you will be disappointed. Likewise, if you have studied only one style of Tai Chi, maybe for years, you will be confused if you find yourself with a different instructor who has a totally different approach.
It’s all good!
I’d love to read your comments if you have an interest in both Tai chi and Yoga so feel free to post below.
Have a good week everyone,