I took my first Tai chi class a few years ago, and was amazed by the sense of well-being I had after each class. I felt an exhilarating combination of deep relaxation combined with an almost buzzing aliveness. And from a purely physical standpoint, the series of slow, deliberate movements dramatically eased my arthritis pain. It was a 6-week class and when it was over I tried to keep it up on my own but found it was difficult without an instructor and group.
So this past spring, when a new class with a different instructor was offered at my local library, I was quick to sign up. This new teacher taught a much more challenging, intricate series of moves, and for the first time I learned that there were 5 different styles of tai chi. He was teaching us long-form Wu style, and it took us the entire 10 weeks of the class to memorize the progression. It was difficult, and I found that I forgot the progression in between classes. It can be a lifelong discipline to properly master the moves and I realized that I was much better suited to the shorter, more free-form style I had learned in my first class. If you decide to learn tai chi, you may have to try a couple different classes before you find one that’s a good fit for you.
However, there was one part of this new class that I loved: the qigong energy exercises the teacher had us do in the beginning of each class. As he explained, qigong (pronounced chee-gung) is the ancient Chinese practice from which tai chi developed. The National Qigong Association describes it as “an ancient Chinese health care system that integrates physical postures, breathing techniques and focused intention.” These exercises gave me that wonderful feeling of exhilaration and relaxation, and when the class was over I wanted to learn more.
There are many, many different types of qigong practices, and unlike tai chi, the exercises are generally easy to learn and practice. There are a ton of videos on YouTube to check out. My favorite instructors so far are Francesco and Daisy Garripoli and their Qigong for Cleansing video. I feel amazing after that routine!
The list of the health benefits of a regular tai chi and/or qigong practice is a long one; this article from Harvard Medical School names quite a few of them! But I think the National Qigong Association says it best: “People do Qigong to maintain health, heal their bodies, calm their minds, and reconnect with their spirit.” Definitely a great tool for raising our vibration!
How about you? Have you ever tried tai chi or qigong?