Tai Chi is in a new category of exercise called moving meditation .
"Tai Chi" and "Tai Chi Chuan" are deprecated terms (see wade-giles) for the newer "Taiji" (pronounced "tie gee" where "gee" is pronounced as in "gee whiz") which is supported by the Chinese government (see pinyin). The term 'Tai Chi' is more familiar to most people since it's been in use longer, and is often used as a recognizable marketing term. Sometimes 'Tai Chi Chuan' is used to denote taiji practiced as a martial art (taijiquan) whereas 'Tai Chi' may just refer to Tai Chi done for health reasons. However, Tai Chi may also refer to taiji practiced as a martial art. So there is no hard and fast rule. The important thing to note is that the all terms are used pretty much interchangeably to refer to the same thing (mostly, the practice of taiji for health).
Some form of Tai Chi practice is highly recommended for everyone's exercise program, regardless of age, and it is becoming extremely popular with active adults and seniors. Tai Chi is a moving form of Qigong that can be done as a martial art or for health. Today, most people practice Tai Chi for health maintenance and improvement or for mitigating the effects of chronic conditions such as arthritis and normal aging. Traditional forms of Tai Chi can take years to learn, but the health benefits of Tai Chi are much more easily accessible with simplified or shortened forms.
"Tai chi’s approach of using conscious slow movements is a radical departure from the
typical Western approach to fitness, which often focuses on repetitive movements and
physical exersion, such as in fitness regimens like running, biking or weight lifting.
Further, “success” in the many western sports and athletics is often determined by
speed, distance, strength or when competing who “wins”.
Tai chi has a completely different set of markers and guideposts for success such as
consciousness within body, proper body alignments and developing the smooth flow of
energy. It is about generating peace within your entire being." Bruce Frantzis.
Taiji for Life - News Bureau, University of Illinois (video: 2:01). Kinesiology professor Yang Yang is featured in this short video highlighting his work teaching the art of Taiji to seniors and others and explaining its health benefits. His work is being highlighted in a new permanent display at Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry, which created this video for its exhibit: "YOU! The Experience.”
What is Tai Chi? An introduction to Tai Chi by the Tai Chi for Health Institute.
This Ancient Martial Art Can Fight Disease, Calm The Mind And Slow Aging. Americans have no difficulty adopting ancient practices into their health regimens. Take yoga, the ancient mind-body practice and contemporary fitness craze (and $27 billion industry), which continues its prominence in the mainstream -- even after decades of increasing popularity. Many forms of meditation, likewise, have been touted for stress-relieving, health-promoting benefits by prominent leaders in business, media and the arts. And then there's tai chi.
Harvard Medical School's Harvard Health Publications calls Tai Chi "medication in motion." The health benefits of tai chi explains how Tai Chi when combined with standard treatment is helpful for a range of conditions including arthritis, low bone density, breast cancer, heart disease, heart failure, hypertension, Parkinson's disease, sleep problems, and stroke. Also see Easing Ills through Tai Chi in the Harvard Magazine.
Harvard Medical School Guide to Tai Chi. Conventional medical science on the Chinese art of Tai Chi now shows what Tai Chi masters have known for centuries: regular practice leads to more vigor and flexibility, better balance and mobility, and a sense of well-being. Cutting-edge research from Harvard Medical School also supports the long-standing claims that Tai Chi also has a beneficial impact on the health of the heart, bones, nerves and muscles, immune system, and the mind. This research provides fascinating insight into the underlying physiological mechanisms that explain how Tai Chi actually works. Besides presenting the science behind Tai Chi, this book is a great introduction to Tai Chi.
Harvard Magazine: Easing Ills through Tai Chi. Research has found that doing meditative exercises like Tai Chi can affect the brain’s structure and function. Due to your brain’s plasticity, you may be able to improve your cognitive function and offset age-related decline through exercise, stress reduction, learning new tasks, staying socially active, and learning how to focus better – all integral elements of Tai Chi training. Studies have shown that Tai Chi leads to greater improvements in cognitive function, including attention, concentration, and mental tracking, as well as balance. Recent Tai Chi studies suggest that the benefits of exercise on cognitive function are not solely due to cardiovascular fitness, but also to motor fitness, which includes balance, speed, coordination, agility and power.
Tai Chi for Health: Current State of the Research and Challenges Ahead (YouTube 1:09:50). On, April 11, 2013 researchers from across Harvard Medical School came together to share the cutting edge research that is happening relating to Tai Chi. This special edition of the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine's Research Seminar Series was held in honor of World Tai Chi day.
How does tai chi influence the body and mind? Dr. Anthony Komaroff of Harvard Medical School recently responded to a reader question about tai chi, and reflected on Peter Wayne's book (Harvard Medical School Guide to Tai Chi ) as an introduction and guide to the world of tai chi.
What are the health benefits of tai chi? Dr. Anthony Komaroff, Harvard Medical School, answers the following question: "I’m getting older and need to find a new way to keep fit. I’ve heard that tai chi might be a good option. Can you tell me more about it and its health benefits?".
There have been some excellent publications on the health benefits of Tai Chi in the medical/research press as well, such as in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. Some of the well researched benefits of Tai Chi include increased postural control and balance, flexibility, strength, confidence in mobility and coordination, sensitivity and awareness, quality of sleep, and reduction in stress. Dr. Yang Yang at University of Illinois Kinesiology Department has published a very compelling book on the medical benefits of Tai Chi. Tai Chi has been shown to increase balance control with resulting self-confidence and reduction in falls, especially among the elderly. Studies show it is effective for arthritis and pain, osteoporosis, strength and flexibility. Cardiovascular functioning is also improved. Research has found Tai Chi to be equivalent to moderate aerobic exercise. Tai Chi reduces cholesterol and blood pressure, and increases the capacity of the immune system. The American Journal of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation reported a study showing that Tai Chi is safe for rheumatoid arthritis patients.
Mayo Clinic recommends Tai Chi.
Mayo Clinic Says 2.5 Million Americans Now Use Tai Chi to Improve Health. According to the Mayo Clinic more than 2.5 million Americans are practicing tai chi to reduce stress and anxiety, increase energy, stamina and flexibility, muscle strength and definition and balance. There is also evidence that Tai Chi improves immune response, sleeping patterns, lowers cholesterol levels, relieves joint pain and, in older adults, reduces the risk of falls.
Tai Chi Exercise May Reduce Falls in Adult Stroke Survivors. An American Heart Association report on research presented to the American Stroke Association's International Stroke Conference 2013 stated that Tai Chi was more effective in fall prevention for stroke survivors than a control group using only the U.S. Medicare covered SilverSneakers Program. THIS IS A HUGE FINDING. It is becoming increasingly apparent that Tai Chi and Qigong could save national healthcare systems hundreds of billions, if not trillions in avoided future health expenditures.
A Comprehensive Review of Health Benefits of Qigong and Tai Chi. Amer J. Health Promotion. Jul/Aug 2010.
Current Tai Chi Research. taichieasy.org. Whether you want to improve your balance, increase your flexibility, relieve pain, recover from injuries or diminish the effects of daily stress, the practice of Tai Chi is suitable for both men and women and for people of all ages, even those in their eighties and nineties.
Time magazine has called Tai Chi "The Perfect Exercise". T'ai Chi Magazine (for Tai Chi practiced as a martial art) discusses the myriad health benefits of Tai Chi in its August 2006 issue. Newsweek's September 27, 2004 issue reports on the increasing use of Qigong in hospitals and cancer centers across the country. Lorenzo Cohen, head of integrative medicine at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, predicts that mind-body techniques will soon become as much a part of standard cancer care as chemotherapy or radiation.
For information on current U.S. Department of Health and Human Services clinical trials research, go to ClinicalTrials.gov and search for 'Qigong', 'Tai Chi', 'Acupuncture', etc.
Psychological effects of Tai Chi Chuan. This article reviews the scientific studies which have been carried out at the international level on the psychological benefits that Tai Chi Chuan brings to those who practice it. All of the larger more inclusive [research] summaries confirmed the potential for Taiji to produce significant improvements in emotional wellbeing with regard to depression and other mood disorders, as well as stress, anxiety, and fear of falling. These studies also found that Taiji supported a general sense of well-being and self-efficacy, the feeling that one is capable of facing what lies ahead in life. For a summary of the research, see Tai Chi and Mental Health.
Health Benefits of Tai Chi (MSNBC) "You can learn 108 movements for the cultural aspects, but if you want to improve your mind-body health, perhaps you can just do one movement repetitively 108 times. That's what we call 'science-based' Tai Chi," explains University of California, Irvine's Dr. Shin Lin in this short (video: 2:19) overview of the benefits of Tai Chi.
Dr. Yang Yang founded The Center for Taiji Studies in 1996 and created the Evidence-Based Traditional Taiji (EBT™) Program. The term "Evidence-Based" indicates that the curriculum has been proven effective in Randomized Controlled Trials - the gold standard of scientific design. It is a key term for acceptance as an intervention by the medical community. An abstract summary of research conducted to date using Dr. Yang's EBT program, including Dr. Yang's personal commments on the significance of the findings, is available here.
The brain's GPS: The neural correlates of proprioception
Proprioception is having a sense of where you are, or your body position in space. This ability is critical, especially to older adults who are susceptible to developing a fear of falling as they age due to their diminished mental capacity to navigate in space. Tai Chi is a proprioception exercise. In other words, it is a coordination exercise that directly affects sensorimotor control of balance, neuromuscular function, and postural stability. This article reports on exciting basic neurological research that has revealed some of the mystery of how the brain implements proprioception.
Proprioception and Kinesthetic Sense.
Taiji is a great exercise to improve proprioception and kinesthetic sense. During movement of any kind, we are constantly losing our balance and regaining it quickly. The better our ability to regain balance, the safer and more skillful our movement. Better balance makes athletes less likely to be injured and reduces falls among the elderly. Balance is improved by improving your proprioception and kinesthetic sense.
The vestibular system: a spatial reference for bodily self-consciousness. Proprioception and interoception fans should enjoy this research finding. In Qigong and Tai Chi practice we're always adjusting our posture. One such adjustment is having the head "dangling from a string" to have it centered, upright, etc. to improve structure and energy flow. This research provides a very interesting view of why this adjustment is so important and has such an impact upon our energy, practice, and consciousness.
United States Department of Health and Human Services Administration on Aging Recommends Tai Chi
The Administration on Aging provides grants to States and Territories based on their share of the population aged 60 and over for education and implementation activities that support healthy lifestyles and promote healthy behaviors. Evidence-based health promotion programs reduce the need for more costly medical interventions.
A number of Tai Chi based programs have met varying degrees of criteria for inclusion in the AoA's list of effective evidence-based interventions for improving health and wellbeing or reducing disease, disability and/or injury among older adults; and being ready for translation, implementation and/or broad dissemination by community-based organizations using appropriately credentialed practitioners.
World Tai Chi and Qigong Day
Last Saturday in April (every year)
World T'ai Chi & Qigong Day was started in the late 1990's by Bill Douglas, author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to T'ai Chi & QiGong Illustrated, Fourth Edition, and his wife Angela Wong as a way to introduce people to the profound healing and health maintenance benefits of Tai Chi (a moving form of Qigong) and Qigong. The event has grown into a worldwide phenomena, practiced in over sixty countries. It starts at 10 AM in the earliest time zone the last Saturday every April, and flows as a gentle wave across the entire planet. People feeling the incredible stress management benefits of these ancient tools realize what they offer humanity, and have begun to come together to share that awareness with society at large . . . and at a time when the world needs it the most.
In the late 2000's, World Healing Day was created to expand the scope of World Tai Chi and Qigong Day to include a number of other organizations dedicated to raising human consciousness and to focus on healing intention, throughout the world, for one 24-hour period.
World Tai Chi and Qigong Day Online Media Resources
Open letter to World Tai Chi and Qigong Day Supporters and Participants from the Founders
Dear World Tai Chi & Qigong Day Supporters & Participants,
This global wave of goodwill provides a vision of hope and healing to a world hungry for such visions. Each year to view the photos of people from different cultures, religions, and every corner of the earth . . . breathing together . . . in this global Tai Chi & Qigong movement . . . is profound. When you look thru the photographs and videos you see that "look" on people's faces, a look that conveys a feeling that all of us who've experienced the well-being that Qi, or life energy, expands through our mind and body when we make the space to breathe . . . and to let, calm, and wellness expand thru us. When you see that look in all these diverse faces, from so many different lands, you can't help but deeply realize that we are indeed "one world . . . and, . . . one breath." We are all connected by the field of life energy that physicists are now discovering permeates all existence. By immersing ourselves in the field of life energy again and again, we become more and more grounded in the absolute reality that . . . we are all connected . . . all part of the web of life. And, by cultivating and growing the realization personally and globally, we may help in a subtle quiet way to usher in a more elegant future that nurtures us all in ways we cannot yet even imagine.
Again, thank you for making this extraordinary event and health movement possible thru your organizing and participation each year. Sincerely, Bill Douglas & Angela Wong Douglas, Co-Founders of World Tai Chi & Qigong Day.
In this day and age, with the emerging medical research that has emerged regarding Tai Chi / Qigong's ability to boost immune system, lower high blood pressure, treat ADD and ADHD, etc. etc. etc. . . . TAI CHI / QIGONG SHOULD BE PART OF EVERY SCHOOL'S EDUCATION PROGRAMS. Every child should be graduating high school a Tai Chi, Qigong, Yoga, and Transcendental Meditation master. Why not?
How much crime, health cost, spousal and child abuse would simply vanish if our societies were filled with mind/body science masters. With a one hour per day Physical Education class for students, teaching them these powerful mind/body tools . . . they could be masters by graduation. This is achievable !! Every corporation should teach Tai Chi & Qigong through their Wellness Programs. Every hospital should have many Tai Chi & Qigong programs.
We hold a vision, not of just growing our classes because of ego, or money . . . but a vision of lifting our entire planet's health and consciousness thru sharing these profound mind/body tools evolved over mellenia of Eastern, and now global research. World Tai Chi & Qigong Day . . . is more than a celebration . . . it is a catalyst to a new way of functioning for our communities and the whole of humanity.
To this end, the Blueprint partnership organizations held the National Expert Meeting on Qigong and Tai Chi at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign on November 14-16, 2005. The National Blueprint Office at the University of Illinois, in conjunction with the National Council on Aging (NCOA), received funding from the Archstone Foundation to explore the opportunities, issues, and challenges of integrating Qigong and Tai Chi into the Aging Network. National and international experts came from three areas: physical activity and the Aging Network; Qigong/Tai Chi research; and Qigong/Tai Chi practice. The goal was to investigate the challenges of translating existing research models into effective community-based programs for the health benefits of older adults, and to make recommendations in the form of a consensus report.
The meeting was a milestone in the long-term vision to make Qigong and Tai Chi as popular among older Americans as Yoga has become in community fitness centers and exercise programs today. A key outcome of the meeting is the finding that in order to make the health benefits of Tai Chi more readily accessible to the population, shortened and simplified versions of it need to be created.
National Expert Meeting on Qi Gong and Tai Chi Summary (3:55)
Easy to learn and practice versions of Tai Chi are being created to meet the recommendations of the National Expert Meeting. These forms of Tai Chi can be done sitting, standing, or walking, and movements may be done individually or in combinations. For an example approach to simplified Tai Chi visit the Tai Chi Easy™ website or view the following videos taken during a Tai Chi Easy™ training. They are a short (1:52) introduction to Tai Chi Easy™ and a longer (9:58) video.
When I began teaching students the simplified movements similar to those used in our clinical protocols...I saw quicker results and students kept coming to class. Among students who studied for only a few months and did not learn the formal Tai Chi choreography, I observed improved balance, strength, and greater sense of well-being. Dr. Peter Wayne. The Harvard Medical School Guide to Tai Chi.
The Different Forms of Tai Chi
There are two main types of Tai Chi (also spelled "T'ai Chi" or "Taiji" and also referred to as "Tai Chi Chuan" or "Taijiquan"): Lineage-based (traditional) and Simplified. The two types are not mutually exclusive because lineage-based Tai Chi masters are now creating shorter forms to make Tai Chi accessible to more people. The first type is traditional, or lineage Tai Chi, such as Chen style, Yang style, and Wu style. Traditional Tai Chi is learned from masters and is handed down as an oral tradition from generation to generation. Qigong also has some lineage forms, such as Wild Goose. Generally, a Tai Chi form done for martial arts and not health has the "Chuan" on the end of it. Otherwise, it's often just called Tai Chi (or the newer taiji -- see an overview of Chinese character translation ), although the terms are often interchangeable. Note that Tai Chi magazine is called "T'ai Chi" magazine. Then in much smaller print below that, it's "The International Magazine of T'ai Chi Ch'uan". "Tai Chi" is the "marketing" term that you see in the popular press.There is also the second main type, the newer non-lineage Tai Chi forms such as Tai Chi Easy™, Beijing 24 Form, Tai Chi Chih, and Tai Chi for Arthritis. These shorter forms are based on the traditional forms, but are easier to learn, especially for older adults.
The term "form" can be a little confusing: It can refer to both individual movements (e.g. hand movements, a foot movement, a combined hand and foot movement, or several combined hand/foot movements) as well as a complete set of movements (e.g. Chen style 48 Form). People get excited by the popular media and want to "do Tai Chi". It looks cool and old people do it, so it must be good for you. They have no idea of what they are getting into when they sign up for their first Tai Chi class and don't know the difference between lineage and non-lineage forms. This distinction usually doesn't matter until the person has been practicing a while and wants to understand the practice at a deeper level.
Regardless of whether a form is lineage or non-lineage, it is derived from a number of individual movements and conforms to the fundamentals of Tai Chi, such as ground connection and knee alignment. Furthermore, the strength, flexibility, confidence, stress reduction, etc. benefits (proven via medical research - see the Qigong and Energy Medicine Database™ for specific research abstracts) are the same. The main difference is the amount of time it takes to learn the form and how the form is taught. It can take years to learn a traditional form as opposed to one session, a few weeks, or just a few months to learn enough Tai Chi to be beneficial from a health standpoint. This is especially noteworthy for seniors.
The benefits of Tai Chi are more readily available with the easier forms because people can learn them faster and are less willing to give up in the face of a long-term commitment to learning a full form. So for many people, doing a simpler form is the right answer for their health. For others, starting with the easier forms and moving to the lineage forms when comfortable is the best solution. Still others will immediately fall in love with doing the longer lineage forms. Note too, that some "easier" forms such as the new Beijing 24 Form are getting to be as long as some of the shorter traditional forms. Regardless of which type of Tai Chi you practice and enjoy, the health benefits are enormous and well documented.
Silk Reeling exercises are a set of repetitive movements practiced mainly from a standing position. The movements have a spiraling character, with their corkscrew motion centered in the lower abdomen or lower dantian. Silk Reeling practice seeks to integrate physical strengthening, body awareness and coordination, the grounding of energy, abdominal breathing, and relaxation. The Silk Reeling exercises serve as a vehicle for meditative mindfulness and for the development of internal energy and power. Spiral movements are a fundamental component and outcome of the practice of all forms (Chen, Sun, Yang, Simplified, ...) of Tai Chi.
International Tai Chi Chuan Symposium: Interview with Dr. Roger Jahnke (Audio: 1hr5min) on his impressions of the 1st International Tai Chi Chuan Symposium on Health, Education, and Cultural Exchange held outside of China. Grandmasters of the five traditional Tai Chi Chuan styles — Chen (Chen Zhenglei), Yang (Yang Zhenduo), Wu/Hao (Wu Wenhan), Wu (Ma Hailong), Sun (Sun Yongtian), — taught daily workshops on their styles. Topics covered during the symposium included biomechanics, kinesthetics, meditation, physical and mental health benefits, therapeutic value, the nature of chi and more.
Presenters were from institutions around the world, including Harvard Medical School, Center for Cognitive Therapy, University of Missouri, National Institutes of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, University of Illinois, University of California, Beijing Sports University (China) and the Mayo Clinic. Having studied and practiced Qigong and Tai Chi for over thirty years, Dr. Jahnke has a unique perspective on the field. He talks about the traditions and development of Tai Chi and Qigong through the millennia; integral Qigong, which modifies Tai Chi for practical applications based on principles; how to live well for as long as possible; the current state of Qigong /Tai Chi science and research; and the impact of the adoption of new, short Tai Chi forms upon traditional Tai Chi practice.
Dr. Jahnke felt this is "one of the most profound experiences I have ever had in my professional life, given the fact that my profession is Qigong." He is a co-founder of the National Qigong Association, a licensed Oriental Medical doctor, author of several texts on Qigong and self-healing practices, Director of the Institute of Integral Qigong and Tai Chi, and an international lecturer. For more information on seminars and training offered by Dr. Jahnke, visit his websites, iiqtc.org, feeltheqi.com, and taichieasy.org. His trainings will be of special interest to those who would like to change careers to be a part of the health care revolution, such as yoga teachers who want to be certified in Qigong and Tai Chi.
The International Yang Family Tai Chi Chuan Association published a Free online Tai Chi Journal - Tai Chi Chuan Masters and Methods PDF 17.02MB).
This is the first time that the Association has published a digital edition. One of the Association's main contributions to Tai Chi is the sponsorship of the International Tai Chi Chuan Symposiums, attended by the world's foremost authorities on the five traditional Chinese family schools of Tai Chi. The Journal provides information on the Association, a preview of the 2nd International Symposium, as well as articles by the experts on the art and practice of Tai Chi.
Mechanism of Pain Relief through Tai Chi and Qigong. The purpose of this paper is to outline the academic and medical evidence for Tai Chi and Qigong impact on pain, and describe the hypothesized mechanism that enables Tai chi and Qigong to work so well at relieving pain - often better than opioid pain medication, and with fewer side effects. This paper also describes a paradigm for research which will increase the likelihood that researchers doing projects in this field can synergize their efforts and start building a foundational body of knowledge rather than continue to do independent and disconnected studies on the phenomenon that enables Tai Chi and Qigong to work.
Tai Chi relieves symptoms of Osteoarthritis, Rheumatoid Arthritis and Fibromyalgia
Tai Chi relieves arthritis pain, improves reach, balance, well-being. Researchers at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill School of Medicine have found that patients with osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia felt better and moved more easily after taking twice-weekly classes in Tai Chi. Practicing Tai Chi "reduced pain, stiffness and fatigue, and improved their balance."
Evidence for determining the exercise prescription in patients with osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis (OA) is a chronic joint disease that affects more than one-third of older adults (age > 65 years), most often involving the hip and knee. Osteoarthritis causes pain and limits mobility, thereby reducing patient quality of life. Conservative, nonsurgical, nonpharmacologic treatment strategies include weight reduction, orthotics, physical therapy modalities, acupuncture, massage, and exercise. The breadth of the current literature on OA can make determining the appropriate exercise prescription challenging. Aerobic exercise, strengthening exercise, Tai chi, and aquatic exercise can all alleviate pain and improve function in patients with OA.
Tai Chi Chuan Exercise for Patients with Cardiovascular Disease.
Exercise training is the cornerstone of rehabilitation for patients with cardiovascular disease (CVD). Although high-intensity exercise has significant cardiovascular benefits, light-to-moderate intensity aerobic exercise also offers health benefits. With lower-intensity workouts, patients may be able to exercise for longer periods of time and increase the acceptance of exercise, particularly in unfit and elderly patients. Tai Chi Chuan (Tai Chi) is a traditional Chinese mind-body exercise. The exercise intensity of Tai Chi is light to moderate, depending on its training style, posture, and duration. Previous research has shown that Tai Chi enhances aerobic capacity, muscular strength, balance, and psychological well-being. Additionally, Tai Chi training has significant benefits for common cardiovascular risk factors, such as hypertension, diabetes mellitus, dyslipidemia, poor exercise capacity, endothelial dysfunction, and depression. Tai Chi is safe and effective in patients with acute myocardial infarction (AMI), coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG) surgery, congestive heart failure (HF), and stroke. In conclusion, Tai Chi has significant benefits to patients with cardiovascular disease, and it may be prescribed as an alternative exercise program for selected patients with CVD.
Qigong literally means "gonging" or cultivating your vital energy ("qi") over time. As a practice it consists of a combination of movement, self-massage, meditation, and breathing (MORE: What is Qigong, Getting Started with Qigong, Scientific Basis of Qigong). Tai Chi is the most well-known and popular moving form of Qigong. It is essentially meditation in motion, as are all moving forms of Qigong. Qigong practice per se, principally wuji sitting and standing meditation, provides the energetic foundation of Tai Chi.
Tai Chi, Qigong and Yoga. All of these practices work with the breath, intention, and focus. Tai Chi, most forms of Qigong, and some types of Yoga add movement, which creates additional health benefits.
Three levels of Qigong training for Tai Chi
Practicing the form or the shape of the movements.
Practicing the details, this includes specific breathing patterns, concentration and alignment of various energy points.
Practicing the Qi (Chi) flow.
The main differences between Tai Chi and Qigong involve how the form is practiced, how the energy is manipulated, the body posture, and whether the practice is done alone.
Traditional Tai Chi consists of learning and then practicing a specific form. Each form is a set of postures and movements that can take up to forty minutes or more to do once, and a form can take a year or more to learn and then years, or a lifetime, to perfect. By contrast, the majority of Qigong forms (some types of Qigong like Wild Goose also have forms, just like Tai Chi) can be learned quickly because they involve repeating a single movement or small number of movements. Taking individual movements or postures from a Tai Chi form and practicing them by themselves is basically turning each of them into a Qigong form (often referred to as "Tai Chi Qigong").
Because of Tai Chi's (and especially Tai Chi Chuan's) martial arts influence, Tai Chi movements involve either expressing force (i.e. internal power/energy) or directing force. These types of manipulation of the body's energy are in addition to all of the energy balancing and strengthening practices that Tai Chi has in common with Qigong. Tai Chi also has some additional postural rules which enforce the body's structural integrity and alignment. For example, effort is taken during Tai Chi practice to ensure that the knees stay aligned with the feet and they do not extend beyond the toes. In general, these recommendations need to be kept in mind while doing Qigong because injury can result otherwise, but strict adherence to them during Qigong practice is not required. In other words, Qigong forms can be more free-flowing than Tai Chi from a postural and body alignment standpoint. Also, Tai Chi pays attention to the relationship between firmness and flexibility.
Another difference between Tai Chi, especially when practiced as a martial art, and Qigong is in partner practices such as push-hands. This training involves two people working together, physically touching and feeling each other's energy. During a Medical Qigong therapy session is usually where touching may occur with Qigong practice. Most Qigong practice that involves touching is through self-massage, and reflexology is an example.
Tai Chi is more cognitively demanding than most Qigong because Tai Chi is an exercise in tracking complexity: movement is complex. With Tai Chi you have to remember and practice a long form. This puts additional requirements on the brain that helps with anti-aging through enabling neural plasticity, enhanced sensory processing, and avoiding cognitive dysfunction.
With most forms of Qigong, the moves are done over and over. With Tai Chi you may do a move a few times and then move on, although you may repeat short sequences of moves several times in a form. Doing each individual movement in a Tai Chi form many times (i.e. taking an individual Tai Chi movement from a longer form and performing just that movement by itself many times) is referred to as "Tai Chi Qigong". In other words, Tai Chi gestures (also called individual "forms" or postures or moves or movements within a longer Tai Chi form) done in a Qigong way is often called Tai Chi Qigong.
Tai Chi is a practice with origins in the martial arts and internal energy practices, while Qigong is a health practice with origins in Chinese culture, philosophy, and internal energy practices. "Internal energy practices" is a general term given to those practices, which originated in pre-historic shamanism, that balance a person's energy. This includes making sure that one has enough energy (or "qi") as well as having no energy blockages (i.e. no energy "stagnation"). Qigong is a more recent term given to these internal energetic practices which have been called Yangsheng, Dao Yin, Nei Gong, and other names through the millennia.
Tai Chi is not as easy to learn or practice as Qigong. Thus, Qigong's health benefits are more readily accessible.
Unless you already know Tai Chi well, it is very challenging to learn a Tai Chi form from a video or DVD. And even if you know Tai Chi well, some of the subtleties of a particular form may elude you because they are not clearly shown on the video. By contrast, you can learn Qigong well enough from a video to achieve profound benefits.
Tai Chi has many details, especially when combining movements that are not always present or required in Qigong.
Tai Chi has broader exposure and is more well known than Qigong.
Tai Chi does not involve self-massage.
Tai Chi requires that you practice a particular form a particular way. Most Qigong is more free-flowing. However, some people enjoy practicing Tai Chi in a more free- flowing way. This involves taking Tai Chi moves and doing them while moving about in a spontaneous, free-flowing manner. Free flowing Qigong and Tai Chi where there is no form is called spontaneous Qigong. Put to music, spontaneous Qigong becomes essentially Qigong Dancing. The Qigong moves done while Qigong Dancing can be no-form or form moves, or a combination; it's up to the practitioner.
The popular soft, internal martial art called Taijiquan (Tai Chi Chuan) is a relatively new style and has been developed over the last 600 years. A verbal translation of ‘Taijiquan’ would be ‘the interaction of Yin/Yang (Taiji) in creating the fist or boxing (Quan)’. There are many physical, emotional and energetic benefits to gain from practising Taijiquan forms, as well as self-defence applications. Taijiquan can be described as one of the martial forms of Qigong. But a good way to differentiate between the two is to contrast the ways in which they are practised. Practising Taijiquan is similar to shadow boxing with an imaginary opponent – blocking, striking, using the opponent’s energy with yours to find balance (Taiji or Tai Chi) – whereas Medical and Spiritual Qigong there is no opponent the movements are practised purely to cultivate one’s own Qi, allowing it to connect with the Qi or energy of the universe.
Breathing is incorporated into Qigong and Tai Chi in different ways. Beginning Qigong students are taught breathing, usually abdominal (belly extends on inhale and contracts on exhale), which we all did automatically when we were babies. In Qigong, you do slow, rhythmic breathing, often coordinated with movement, right from the first class. On the other hand, Tai Chi teachers do not teach breathing or tell students how to breathe. Rather, they tell students to "breathe naturally." What this really means is to breathe in one of two main ways: 1) abdominal breathing (sometimes called "Taoist breathing") and/or 2) reverse-abdominal breathing (where air is inhaled to the chest first instead of the abdomen). You discover "how to breathe" (i.e. you end up coordinating one of the two main types of breathing with your Tai Chi movements) while you do the forms as the years go by. Also, different Tai Chi masters might emphasize one type of breathing or a combination.
Reverse breathing is the method of breathing for Taijiquan practice, but paradoxically the instruction in both meditation and form practice is to forget about the breathing. The focus in wuji meditation is to enter quiet. Some schools do use breathing as a tool to enter quiet, but thinking about breathing is not entering true quiescence. In Taij form movement, the focus is on xin yi (mind/intention), and it is definitely wrong to think about qi or breathing.... The resolution of this paradox is that the breathing pattern must become so natural that you need not consider it. It is okay to practice the reverse breathing when beginning a meditation or the form, or when performing single movement qigong exercises. Actually, you can practice anytime -- driving in your car, sitting at your desk at work -- whenever you think about it. Over time, the reverse breathing pattern will internalize and become so natural that you can forget about it and move on. Yang Yang. Taijiquan: The Art of Nurturing, The Science of Power
Complete Idiots Guide to Tai Chi
This video supplement link is available to purchasers of the acclaimed The Complete Idiot's Guide to T'ai Chi & QiGong Illustrated, Fourth Edition.
This is one of the nearly 150 web-video support videos that are designed to augment the 300 illustrated instructions in Bill Douglas and Angela Wong Douglas's world acclaimed tai chi and qigong instructional book. Without the CIG to T'ai Chi and Qigong (fourth edition) these video clips usage cannot be fully realized, but with your CIG to T'ai Chi and Qigong book these clips will profoundly expand on the book's world acclaimed text and illustrated instructions.
Plateaus In Learning Taiji. When people begin learning something new, they often learn quickly. Their minds become engaged in the learning. However, when learning taiji, learning quickly is not necessarily better than learning slowly and deeply. Taiji has many subtle details that take time to learn. It takes time for it to get into your body and your mind. With each lesson, it is important to practice regularly until that lesson becomes part of you.
Tai Chi for Back Pain. In this short video on back pain, Bruce Frantzis explains how he used Tai Chi to help his own back recover. He offers several ideas on how Tai Chi can be used with anyone that has back pain.
Common Mistakes When Practicing Tai Chi
Tai Chi for Martial Arts. Tai Chi Master Bruce Frantzis discusses what it takes to learn Tai Chi as a martial art. Includes a short video.
Bruce Frantzis: "In The Insider’s Guide to Tai Chi I hope to provide you a practical understanding of what tai chi is, what makes it work so well, and how to choose a style, teacher and practice regimen. I created this report and have given it away because I believe that it contains essential information that will be useful on your tai chi journey, whether you end up studying with me or another teacher."
Sinking the Qi. Sinking the qi is a common term in taiji, but many people find it very confusing. Sinking the qi simply refers to using your breath to help relax and calm the mind and body. A big part of sinking is developing song, or relax and loosen; and jing or mental quietness, in your practice.
Tai Chi Program at Kansas University Hospital Shows Dramatic Results
Tai Chi more effective than yoga? After years of being exalted as an exotic form of martial arts, Tai Chi is now seen by the medical world as an answer to most physical grievances. Week after week, researchers are bringing to light the many healing benefits of this form, which includes it being beneficial to people suffering from osteoarthritis, diabetes, and musculoskeletial pain triggered from working on computers. It is also being looked upon as an alternative option to yoga.
How nurses and their patients can benefit from Tai Chi. A mind-body health revolution is occurring in America, and Kansas health institutions are at the forefront of it. “ABC World News” reported that 40 percent of Americans have now turned to alternative and complementary medicine, primarily meditation. Tai Chi and Qigong are at the vanguard of this mind-body health revolution. This article which appeared in Kansas City Nursing News was written by Bill Douglas, founder of World Tai Chi and Qigong Day.