The human body needs to move. Fortunately, there are forms of healing movement that satisfy this need. Qigong and tai chi are two movement practices that can give your body, mind, and spirit a boost regardless of your age or physical condition.
In previous articles, we have explored qigong and tai chi separately. Highlighted below is an exploration of their similarities and differences.
Similarities of Qigong and Tai Chi
Qigong has its roots in ancient China. Some think it to be 5,000 years old based on ancient Chinese rock art.1 The practice has been known by many names but is always referred to as the practice of balancing, clearing, and moving the energy within the body for health and vitality.
On the other hand, tai chi (sometimes referred to as Taiji or Taiji Quan) was developed in the 14th century, so in this way, it could be considered part of the Qigong lineage.2 Both practices have a strong focus on breath and calming the mind.
Both practices are also beneficial for your health and fun to do. Often, classes meet outdoors, which can be a tremendous advantage in a society where getting outdoors becomes something people might do less and less with age or because of busy schedules. In China, it is common to see tai chi and Qigong groups of all ages practicing in the fresh air and sunshine. Both practices focus on breathing and can help with range of motion and balance.
Qigong and Tai Chi Differences
These two practices have their differences, however.3 While Qigong has generally always been a practice of health and healing, tai chi has a martial art aspect to it. Its moves have defense and attack purposes if one chooses to use them that way. While participating in tai chi can be a healing experience, healing is not its sole purpose.
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Tai chi movements are different than those in Qigong. In particular, tai chi involves primarily standing practices. Qigong movements include standing, seated, and lying down exercises. Tai chi movements can be more explosive due to the nature of martial arts. Qigong tends to be smooth and as slow as is comfortable. This adaptability makes Qigong very helpful for those with some limitations in movement.
The two practices also work with energy differently. Tai chi affects the body’s energy as a whole, while Qigong has specific movements for different energy paths (known as meridians). In that sense, Qigong movements can be very simple. Tai chi movements are often much longer sequences, sometimes seeming more dance-like.
Because of its martial arts connection, some see tai chi as a more dense practice, with long sequences and power focuses. Qigong is thought more of as a light practice. As one is learning, it is much easier to generate and store qi in Qigong movements.
As one learns Qigong, the student also gains knowledge and awareness of their own energy system. They learn to feel how their body responds to the different movements, and in time, learn to choose the movements they want to practice based on what they sense their body, mind, and spirit might be in need of.
Categories of Qigong
TaiChi has its martial arts applications, but can also be practiced without that intent. Qigong has different focuses too. The basic movement practices are what is commonly taught. However, in the process of learning the movements, there comes an understanding of some of the other aspects of Qigong.
Qigong training begins with breath training. These breathing practices are very powerful for bringing qi into the body and releasing bodily gaseous and energetic wastes, as well as tensions and worries. This aspect of Qigong also makes it accessible for those with mobility challenges as breathing techniques are performed standing, seated, or lying down.
Qigong has a meditative or spiritual aspect. Spiritual means finding your higher, calmer self, not meaning any particular religious references. Meditative Qigong is a wonderful practice for the health of your body, mind, and spirit—even for those with impaired mobility.
Meditative practices in Qigong will be familiar to those who already meditate, with attention on breathing, calming the mind with a singular focus, some mantras, and visual focal points like a mandala or candle. Others use these essential ideas while walking or during their Qigong practice.
Medical Qigong is another application that practitioners pursue. Medical Qigong is often performed by a trained practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). These practitioners often also have training in the body’s energy system, so they can offer additional support in removing imbalances and blockages with acupuncture, acupressure, or herbal remedies.
There you have it: two similar but very different ways to add movement to your life. Everyone is different, so either tai chi or Qigong (or both!) might sound more interesting to you. You can seek training in either practice locally, online, or through video teachings. Try incorporating one or both of these practices into your daily routine and prepare to reap the benefits.
Photo credits: May_Chanikran/shutterstock.com, Ulza/shutterstock.com, Markgraf/shutterstock.com