QIGONG, TAIJI (Tai Chi) and RELATED PRACTICES
SELF-HEALING, IMPROVED HEALTH AND WELL-BEING, GREATER FITNESS, MORE ENERGY, REJUVENATION AND LONGEVITY
Qigong and taiji have enjoyed enduring popularity in China as superb methods of restoring or improving health and promoting long life, while increasing fitness, flexibility and conditioning, naturally reducing stress and pain, and creating emotional balance. Many people also practice them as part of their path to spiritual awareness and enlightenment.
When you study with me, you will get thorough, detailed instruction to build a strong foundation, a clear sequence of progressively deeper training as you grow and develop, individual attention, guided practice time, and all questions you might have answered fully. This is true whether you study in live or online classes or in one-on-one private lessons. Private lessons additionally provide you with the greatest scheduling flexibility and the opportunity to learn at the pace that suits you best. Until lockdown restrictions are removed, all trainings are online only, except that local private lessons are an in-person option.
Here’s some background on qigong and taiji, and a brief introduction to some of the practices I teach. This will help you choose a course of study that’s right for you. Of course, please feel free to contact me with any questions you may have!
Qigong was created at least 3,000 years ago, with some sources indicating it may be 5,000 or more years old. As with all other branches of Chinese medicine, these ancient roots do not mean they’ve remained static throughout the centuries. Rather, they are living systems that have continued to grow and evolve over time, becoming increasingly more powerful and effective, perfected by successive generations of masters. There are no comparable Western health-building systems that can claim such an extensive, comprehensive history of development and refinement.
The simplest translation of qigong is “energy work” or “energy cultivation”. A fuller definition is “effort over time put into the cultivation of life force energy, for the purpose of being able to sense it, increase it, and direct its use.” Its five broad categories include Daoist, Buddhist, Confucian, Medical, and Martial, but each has literally hundreds of variations, developed for particular purposes. The styles I teach are primarily Daoist, which focus on preserving health and promoting longevity, and at deeper levels increase spiritual awareness and harmony with all aspects of the natural world; and medical styles, used both to heal specific illnesses as well as to improve overall health in a general way
Every qigong can provide a baseline of similar benefits, improving health, reducing stress, increasing energy, and promoting a balanced emotional calm. However, while often complimentary with other qigong styles, each qigong has a unique specific focus and set of strengths, taking you very deep into those areas and accomplishing things differently from or better than other qigongs having a different focus. Take a look below at the practices I teach to get a better idea of the range of possibilities qigong offers.
For complete beginners, the best qigongs to start with are Dragon & Tiger Qigong (Long Hu Qigong), and Opening the Energy Gates of Your Body (Qi Men Qigong). Chinese Self Care Exercises (Zi Yu Gong) is another excellent starting point, being very simple to learn, requiring little time, and offering a wide range of flexibility for individualizing your personal practice. Daoist Longevity Breathing is also a great choice, since breath is fundamental to life and is a component of all qigongs. All other practices can be learned by beginners, although their neigong ("inner cultivation") aspects will be easier to learn once a foundation has been established through previous training.
DRAGON AND TIGER MEDICAL QIGONG is a relatively easy practice to learn, consisting of just seven movements. With over 1,500 years of development and refinement, it’s also a very deep and comprehensive qigong set. In China, it has been used to treat cancer and other serious diseases, but even at a basic level it’s designed to boost immunity and prevent the onset of disease, increase general energy levels and the functional energy of all internal organs, improve circulation and flexibility, promote emotional calm and mental clarity, and extend a healthy longevity.
Its focus is on contacting and moving qi through the qi body (etheric field), which then strongly moves qi through pathways within the body. The ability to absorb and emit qi through the hands is introduced, and is further developed as one advances in the practice. Harmonizing movement, breath, and awareness, it deepens the integration of body, mind, and spirit. Similar to taiji, Dragon and Tiger is simpler to do and easier to remember. It’s suitable for complete beginners as well as for those with previous qigong experience.
OPENING THE ENERGY GATES OF YOUR BODY is a Water Element qigong that teaches you how to guide your mind to safely, consciously control the downward flow of qi throughout your body, increasing internal awareness and allowing you to dissolve blocked qi. This gives you the ability to release tension from the nervous system, relieve stress-related illnesses, heal many chronic joint problems, maximize movement capacity and energy levels, and deepen meditation.
Other neigong (internal cultivation) components include basic body alignments and major movement principles of taiji, integration of yin and yang energies, energizing each of the Three Burners, and controlling the release of tension or stuck qi in each individual vertebra. These are accomplished through the Standing Practice (Zhan Zhuang), Cloud Hands (Yun Shou), The Three Arm Swings, and the Daoist Spine Stretch, all contained within Energy Gates training. Suitable for beginners and for those with qigong experience, this is the best set to introduce you to neigong practices.
TAIJI RULER, or TAIJI CIRCLING HANDS, is a versatile single-movement qigong practice. At a basic level, it releases tension from the musculoskeletal, nervous and energetic systems, relieving aches and pains throughout the body, especially targeting the back, neck and shoulders. Many deeper neigong components are layered into the basic practice, including the opening and closing of all joint spaces and body cavities/energy centers, bending and bowing the spine, tissue lengthening, and much more.
The associated energetics, primarily the Microcosmic Orbit circulation, improve health and longevity, promote emotional balance and calm, and enhance physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing. An excellent stand-alone qigong, Circling Hands also provides an outstanding foundation for The Marriage of Heaven and Earth Qigong.
THE MARRIAGE OF HEAVEN AND EARTH is a 3,000 year old two-movement Wood Element qigong that nourishes the liver, tendons and ligaments, and is used to help heal back, neck, shoulder, and neuromuscular problems. Its many internal processes (neigong) include the stretching of muscles, tendons, and ligaments, the bending and bowing of the spine, the opening and closing of joints and body cavities without engaging muscles, and increasing the ability to absorb and emit qi through the hands.
By working with both the Microcosmic and Macrocosmic Orbits, it helps coordinate the terrestrial and celestial ascending and descending qi flows and harmonizes the Yin and Yang energies within the body. Other special characteristics include pulling stuck qi out from the brain to promote clear thinking and mental focus, and infusing healthy qi into each organ while releasing any qi that may be bound there, for improved organ functioning. This core longevity practice dramatically increases qi throughout the entire body.
GODS PLAYING IN THE CLOUDS is a six-movement Earth Element qigong, one of the oldest, most powerful and advanced among Daoist rejuvenation practices. All of the regulations of body, breath, and mind, and all the neigong and related energetics of the previous qigongs are contained within this set, unified—an Earth Element characteristic—and greatly amplified.
Working more fully with the energies of the spine, three dantians, side and central channels, upward, downward, and center-to-periphery qi flows, and the qi body, the practice strengthens you on every level, physical, energetic, emotional, mental, and spiritual, and ultimately serves as a bridge to Daoist meditation.
CHINESE SELF CARE EXERCISES (Zi Yu Gong) have been used for thousands of years to promote overall health, increase functionality, improve energy levels, relieve aches and pains, treat many common ailments, and as adjuncts to and warm-ups for taiji and various qigongs.
Drawn from acupressure, medical qigong, taiji, Daoist yoga, paidagong, and more, these exercises are easy to do, are highly effective, and are suitable for everyone. Each exercise can be performed in as little as 30 seconds to one or two minutes, and can be combined into exercise prescriptions to specifically address many common health challenges. This is not a set “workout” routine, but a flexible system that can be tailored to each individual.
See the Chinese Self Care video here:
DAOIST LONGEVITY BREATHING is fundamental to life, to all qigongs, and to deeper spiritual and meditative practices. Based on the Daoist longevity classics, the initial focus is on the secular aspects of breathing, improving health and extending longevity. Daoist breathing increases breathing capacity and relaxes the nervous system to decrease stress. Using the breath to gently pressurize, massage, and cleanse the internal organs, physical stamina is improved, mental focus and clarity are enhanced, and overall health and vitality are increased.
This is a reclamation of the way we all breathed when we were born, so once learned, you can breathe this way naturally and continuously, 24 hours a day. It’s particularly helpful for those with cardiopulmony conditions, asthma, emphysema, and high levels of stress.
Wu Style Taiji, Short and Long Forms
Taiji (tai chi) is better known than qigong in the Western world. Created over 800 years ago, it’s a martial art type of qigong, more detailed and complex than most qigongs, with many family styles and variations. Today most people practice it for its many health benefits, or as a type of moving meditation.
The Wu Style is considered by many to be the best form to promote overall health. In his book, The Tao of Tai Chi Chuan, Jou Tsung Hwa states: “...the student seeking the highest achievement, whether in martial arts or healing, should turn to the Wu form...”
As a Chinese physician I concentrate on practices that offer the greatest health and longevity benefits. Wu Style taiji is an exceptionally good fit for those purposes. Since Wu taiji is a small frame style whose movements stimulate qi flow through the energy pathways contained within the physical body, it’s the best form to promote overall health, and is especially good for healing back problems. As with most qigongs, it relaxes and regulates the central nervous system, discharging both physical and emotional stress. It improves balance, clarifies the mind, and has proven longevity benefits.
It’s suitable for everyone, regardless of age, gender, and current level of health and physical ability. Its gentle movements are performed consciously, with a soft and flowing quality, making it an ideal practice for healthy people who want greater self-awareness, internal connection and integration, for people with any type of health challenge, and for older people with aging concerns. Whether focusing on its martial, health, longevity or meditative aspects, it provides something of great value to all.
The martial aspects of Wu taiji are introduced to interested students to promote a better understanding of the form once the basics have been learned. This is very helpful for embodying the deeper neigong aspects of alignments, openings and closings, bending and stretching, tissue wrapping, the four primary energies of peng, ji, lu, and an, and so much more. Because these aspects build internal power, they also amplify all the health benefits you can expect from taiji.
The Wu Style Short Form is a 16 movement sequence, which takes just a few minutes to perform. It is designed to help the practitioner achieve calmness, flexibility, balance, coordination, strength and stamina. This does not contain any of the more challenging martial aspects of the Long Form, such as deep squats, one-legged stances, and kicks, making it the perfect entry point for a taiji practice. Everything learned in the Short Form is included in the Long Form if you decide to learn that later.
See a demonstration of the Wu Style Short Form here:
The Wu Style Long Form has an extensive choreography, and retains all the martial content intrinsic to taiji. While taking longer to perform—30 or more minutes is common—and physically more demanding than the Short Form, it is flexible enough to be modified to accommodate almost any physical challenge or restriction. All of the neigong components are contained within the Long Form, making it a uniquely rich, deep, and rewarding practice.