T’ai Chi Chuan (Tai Chi, Taiji chuan) and Qigong are ancient meditative martial arts practiced for over a thousand years. Both are known to help balance and align the mind, body and spirit and support various aspects of the body’s innate ability to heal.
When we integrate our breath with intentions and slow movement we loosen our joints and tissues throughout the body, promoting relaxation and releasing tension while gently toning and strengthening the body, mind and spirit.
A little daily or weekly practice can enhance energy and mental clarity, sooth stress, reduce anxiety and depression, stimulate the immune system, improve posture, balance and coordination, strengthen neurological functions, bone density and more.
Come explore this life changing meditative practice with me and learn various exercises to support every wonderful and challenging aspect of your life.
What is the difference between Tai Chi & Qigong?
Tai chi is often described as a more complex form of qigong. Both practices yield similar overall health benefits but there is a subtle difference between them.
There are many layers and depths to tai chi (i.e. yin/yang, song, jing, chen) and your understanding of them comes more and more with time and practice. The philosophy of tai chi involves incorporating the concepts of the Tao into everyday life, finding your inner balance and harmony within yourself and the relationship to everything and everyone around you.
When you practice Tai Chi, you are combining various movements into a sequence or form and each movement flows fluidly from one movement to the next, using breath, the shifting of your weight and waist turning to either gather or deliver chi with each movement. Every movement in tai chi has a yin (gathering of chi) and a yang (delivery of chi) element to it. When we practice this, we get to move and build our internal and external chi. We get to feel and express our chi. We get to break up the stagnant energy patterns we hold onto and feel free as we release the blockages and encourage our chi to flow strongly. When we practice this, we experience many mental, emotional and physical healing benefits. (see extensive list below)
Qigong, is a little different in the sense that we tend to repeat the same movement and it incorporates other tools such as meridian and acupressure massage, acu-tapping and more. Some qigong practices do include forms or multiple movements; however, you usually spend time repeating each individual movement before moving onto the next. There are many kinds of qigong. I teach very basic qigong movements for stress relief, building and cleansing energy and strengthening organs. We spend time tapping on various meridian points or over the entire body to break up and stimulate our chi/energy and I absolutely love meridian massage or tracing. I teach a few basic meridian tracing exercises to all beginner students and as they progress, they learn how to trace their individual meridians to maintain healthy flow of energy and prevent energy from becoming stuck which manifests as discomfort, tension, pain, strong emotions, organ weakness or overactivity and more.
Some of the endless health benefits of increasing & strengthening our chi through Tai chi and/or Qigong practice:
*Stimulate the lymphatic and immune systems
*Massage, stimulate and improve organ functions
*Strengthen bones, joints, muscles, tendons and ligaments
*Increase synovial fluids in the joints and bone marrow production
*Improve balance, coordination, flexibility and range of motion (this is especially important for fall prevention in the elderly population)
*Encourage the production of our feel-good hormones such as serotonin and oxytocin, bringing wonderfully uplifting yet tranquil feelings
*Increase mental alertness, focus and clarity
*Reduce cortisol and other stress hormones to prevent and ease stress and anxiety
*Regulate natural sleep patterns and restore energy levels
*Gently support pain, tension, arthritis and recovery from injuries/surgery
*Release pain and trauma (emotional or physical) from a place of love and compassion
*Increase oxygen delivery throughout the cells of the body
*Receive other mind-body-spirit benefits of meditation and deep breathing
Movement meditation can have varying benefits for different people; however, we can rely on this practice to balance our energy and do what we need in that moment to be in balance. If we need an energetic and mental boost while maintaining the sense of being grounded and interconnected, we can get those benefits from Tai chi. If we need to relax and ground ourselves from everyday stress, anxiety, pain and trauma, then we can find balance and comfort in our practice.
As we delve deeper into our body, mind, heart and spirit, we get the incredible opportunity for self-discovery and self-exploration, delving into our inner layers, peeling one at a time, reveling more of our ‘true’ or innate self. Tai chi and/or qigong as a regular practice is a wonderful and inspiring self-journey of a life time and it is never too late to start.
Visit www.humboldttaichi.com to learn more about the Tai chi and Energy Healing & Qigong classes Candice offers in her community. Or become a client and learn quick exercises to specifically address your healing journey.
My Healing Journey with Tai Chi & Qigong
I have had a beautiful journey with Tai Chi as my practice has supported me while healing from various injuries and restoring my body from chronic illness. It has been a key practice for managing stress, deepening my intuition, and allowing me to connect to my healing journey and flow through life with joy and purpose.
My first tai chi classes were in college where I learned the Yang style and I fell in love with the practice, instantly. I was looking to incorporate meditation as a daily practice but found it very challenging to sit and calm the mind. My mind was overactive and would not calm down to achieve any benefits of sitting meditation. I found the frustration counter-productive.
Knowing a little about myself, I acknowledged my mind seems to calm down more when I practiced mindfulness, focusing on slow gentle movements and stretches. My easily distract mind found guided meditation to be a tool that eventually deepened my practice to achieve the benefits of sitting meditation.
Over the years I explored tai chi, qigong, and yoga. I found tai chi and qigong, in particular, to be exactly what I needed to calm my mind and feel relaxed. I was able to think about my breath and integrate it with my movement. As my arm came across to block, I would imagine myself a beautiful bird spreading her wings looking over the cliff or ocean. I was able to use my mind-body connection and visualizing nature to achieve a state of meditation and peace.
After college, I began studying the Traditional Wu Form and Sun Style (Tai Chi for Back Pain and Arthritis) with Margy Emerson. I immersed myself in Tai Chi, taking as many classes as my schedule would allow, usually 2-6 classes a week. I would go to the forest on my lunch breaks and practice on one of my favorite redwood stumps to give me a pick me up in the middle of the day and it quickly became a regular practice.
I found Tai chi and qigong to help my stress management and support my self-care. Over time it gently strengthened my body. I had undiagnosed Lyme disease in my 20’s and hip dysplasia. Despite my youthful age, the Lyme was weakening my bones, joints, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. I was slowly deteriorating and got to the point where I could not bend over without excruciating pain and my hip grinding and locking. I even started to show signs of arthritis and dealt with serious tension throughout my neck and upper back. I remember my first appointment with a chiropractor and he thought I had been in a serious accident even though I had not been in one.
I especially found my Tai Chi and Qigong practice to significantly support my post-partum healing and restoring my body after developing hashimotos, an autoimmune condition where the immune system attacks the thyroid; however, it involves a bigger array of health imbalances. I was experiencing imbalances in my digestion & elimination, hormones, menstrual cycles, mental clarity and functionality, memory retention, and more. I lacked energy and vitality and felt like I was walking through mud. Not in the luxurious mud bath way either. I would get sick frequently and had a hard time kicking a cold and my coughs would linger no matter what treatments I used. I was weak, depleted, and sick trying to nourish a baby and raise a toddler.
During the times when I was managing both those auto-immune conditions, my whole body felt inflamed and my brain felt like mush. Tai chi helped me manage the symptoms of pain by keeping me as loose and moving as I could, considering. It helped reduce my inflammatory response and gave me tools to cope with my overall discomfort. It would give me brief clarity of mind and gently picked up my energy levels. If I practiced daily or at least 4 times weekly, I was able to keep my symptoms under control.
As my body found healing through the support of this gently strengthening exercise, my mind and spirit also found healing. The more I practice, the more I get to know my inner and true self as I bring my breath and awareness in my body and dan tians (energy centers), aligning my body and mind with my heart and spirit.
I am exploring how I can apply what I learn from my practice to every aspect of my daily life such as stress management, enjoying the present moment, enhancing my listening skills and connections with others, being connected to and aware of my environment, having appropriate boundaries and learning how to be assertive without being abrasive, etc.
Tai chi practice can help balance your personality, demeanor and behavior. I personally tend to be more “yang” in nature so I use my practice to help release the excess yang in my life and restore my “yin” so I may continue my journey of being in harmony with my true SELF in relationship to my environment.
We all have different journeys in life. I hope you explore your journey with Tai chi, Qigong, or other mindfulness practices.