Why Qigong & Tai Chi?
We could go on all day about the reasons to learn qigong and tai chi. And that is exactly what we intend to do on this page. We will continue to add to this list, so please check back if you are looking for another reason.
1. It Makes You Feel Good
2. Natural Energy Booster
3. It Makes a Great Gift
4. It Makes a Great New Year's Resolution
5. Learn to Relax
6. Release Stress
7. Like Giving Yourself Acupuncture - Without Needles
8. Better Balance
9. Release Negative Energy
10. Boost Your Performance
11. Greater Flexibility
12. Complementary Exercises
13. Exercise Can Be Fun
14. Better Meditation
15. Any Time, Any Place
16. How You Feel, Not How You Look
17. The 70% Principle
Reason #1: It makes you feel good!
This one is simple. Qigong and tai chi can make you feel good.
Like any regular practice, there may be times when it's a struggle, or when you just don't feel like doing it.
But in our experience, everyone who regularly practices qigong or tai chi will agree - overall, it makes you feel really good.
And in so many ways! Different people will feel different benefits. We will discuss many of them here. If you think of one that we have left out, please let us know.
Reason #2: They Are Natural Energy Boosters
Regular exercises strengthen your muscles.
Qigong exercises are different, they strengthen your chi, i.e. your life energy.
Through qigong exercises you can learn to tangibly feel, control, and raise your life energy levels.
High-quality qigong exercises - like the ones we teach - give you energy all day, not just a temporary pick-me-up.
All-day energy is sustained energy - balanced, calm, and powerful.
Like a tiger's energy.
Reason #3: It Makes a Great Gift!
Do you know someone who is interested in qigong or tai chi, but hasn't made their way into a class yet? A gift certificate to Toward Harmony could be just the thing.
Or perhaps you know someone who regularly takes classes with us. In that case, a gift certificate is a sure-fire gift idea.
Then again, if you'd like to take a course with us, be sure to put out the word to friends and family that you'd be happy to receive a course as a gift.
Qigong and tai chi are gifts that keep on giving. If you are interested in purchasing a gift certificate, please contact us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 413-586-8880.
Reason #4: It makes a Great New Year's Resolution
Qigong and tai chi are designed to increase your chi - your life energy. And the better qigong and tai chi systems, like the ones we teach, will give you a deep well of energy all day, not just a temporary adrenaline boost.
More energy flowing through your system will naturally improve your health and give you the vitality you need to do the things you want to do in life.
Sustained energy can help you successfully follow through on all your resolutions, this year and in years to come.
Reason #5: Learn To Relax
We all know we need to relax. But do you know how to relax? For many of us, it is easier said than done.
In our qigong and tai chi courses we teach specific methods for relaxation. These methods were developed by Taoists in ancient China, who learned by watching babies and tigers - true masters of relaxation.
Practicing these techniques can deeply relax your nervous system, and over time, re-pattern it to function in a more relaxed way, so that you don't build up as much tension as you go through your day.
What’s more, tai chi and qigong teach you active relaxation - how to relax as you do things. This is an important skill. It is the middle ground between working at a fever pitch and collapsing on the couch and tuning out. The art of calm effort. Full engagement without strain.
Reason #6: Release Stress
Where do you hold your stress?
We all know the answer to this question. For some of us, it's in our shoulders or necks. For others, it's in our guts.
But what is it about stress that allows our bodies to hold "it"?
From a life energy perspective, the stresses of our lives - whether physical, emotional, or mental - cause us to contract or tense our bodies. Doing so freezes or blocks our energy and prevents it from flowing properly.
So it's not actually stress that we hold, but our bodies and our life energy. And by holding our energy, we actually reduce the amount of life energy that we have.
Qigong and tai chi are designed to relax contraction and tension in our bodies and to unfreeze and release our blocked energy.
The exercises are designed to do so in every single part of the body. So they can get to the spot where you hold your stress, help you release it, and bring you more energy in the process.
Reasons #7: It's Like Giving Yourself an Acupuncture Treatment - Without Needles
Acupuncture was developed over two thousand years ago in China. And over a thousand years ago, the principles of acupuncture were used to develop Dragon & Tiger qigong.
According to acupuncture theory, good health is a result of good energy flow, meaning energy that moves freely and fully throughout your body, and is balanced among all parts of your body. An acupuncturist brings about this state by inserting needles into energy channels located throughout your body.
You can stimulate, free, and balance your own energy by moving your hands over these same channels when doing Dragon & Tiger. Each of the seven movements is designed to stimulate different channels.
Upon completion of all seven movements, your body's energy is moved toward fullness, freer movement, and balance, and in turn, toward better health.
Reason #8: Better Balance
One of the great things about tigers is that they always seem so balanced, physically and energetically. If you're not very familiar with tigers, think instead about a house cat.
Physically, they're the picture of balance, whether crouching in wait or running at full blast - which for tigers is up to 35 miles an hour! And energetically, they seem so cool.
Dragon & Tiger Qigong (or tai chi, or any of the other qigong forms we teach) can help you learn how to better your physical and energetic balance.
Physically, the exercises take your body through just about every position that you regularly use in everyday life.
You'll learn subtle techniques for maintaining your balance in these positions. After a while, you will naturally begin to use them within your everyday movements.
Energetically, an experience of balance is built right into the exercises. Whenever you raise your energy, you drop energy to ground yourself. Whenever you send energy out, you bring some back in, and vice versa.
Through study and practice you can learn what these patterns of energetic balance feel like and how to create and maintain them. You can feel more grounded, centered, and even.
Reason #9: Release Negative Energy
Negative energy is contagious and is easily spread to us and by us.
When we take in negative energy, the overall energy in our bodies becomes stagnant, imbalanced, and depleted. And if we "unload" on others through anger or other means, we further unbalance, strain, and deplete our systems.
Dragon & Tiger qigong can be an antidote to the poisons of negative energy. The exercises are designed to stir up and safely release stuck and stagnant energy.
The exercises are especially effective at clearing negative energy from your system before it penetrates deeply inside. For this reason, Dragon & Tiger can be especially beneficial for persons who regularly are exposed to negative energies as a function of their jobs, such as doctors, nurses, psychotherapists, social workers, teachers, and bodyworkers.
A round of Dragon & Tiger at the end of your day can help cleanse your system of negative energy in the same way a bath cleanses your skin of dirt.
Reason #10: Boost Your Performance
Some of us have higher demands on us for performance than others, but every one of us has to perform, has to produce, on a daily basis.
Qigong & tai chi can boost your performance capacities.
After all, what do you need to perform better? Greater energy.
Think about it. What do you do when you perform, whether you are an artist, a teacher, a manager, a parent, a nurse, a construction worker, a political leader, or a programmer? You "put more energy into it." You "raise it up a notch." You "reach inside a little deeper."
Practicing qigong and tai chi not only gives you all-day energy, or sustained energy, but gives you greater reserves of energy that you can use when you need to.
The all-day energy can enable you to perform at a higher level more consistently for longer periods of time.
And the greater reserves of energy can be there at the times when you need to reach inside and give that extra little bit to get things done.
Reason #11: Greater Flexibility
Would you like to have the flexibility of a tiger?
Think of the way a cat moves, whether a house cat or a tiger. The way they can zig or zag in an instant. The way they can leap through the air. How they can twist and turn their bodies to avoid being caught or to land on their feet. How they can stretch into and through seemingly impossible positions.
They're quite inspiring to watch, don't you think?
Well, as you explore qigong and tai chi, you'll mimic the movements of a tiger and learn principles and practices that can bring you greater flexibility, whether you are a seasoned athlete or a less-active senior citizen. You'll learn sophisticated methods for how to:
maintain healthy posture while you stand or move,
reduce strain on your joints and muscles by making your movements "circular,"
reduce stiffness by making your movements "fluid,"
release tension by relaxing your nerves as well as your muscles, and
stretch, loosen, and tone all of your muscles, small and big, as well as your ligaments.
Reason #12: Complementary Exercises
Qigong and tai chi can be practiced as a wonderful complement to other exercises, sports, or other activities that you love to do.
In fact, practice of these arts can enable you to do other activities better, for longer periods, and even later into life.
Unfortunately, many of the activities that we love to do strain or imbalance us in one way or another.
We put our bodies in odd positions. We overuse or overstrengthen one of our legs, arms, hands, or a side of our body more than the other. We put undo strain or tension into a particular muscle or joint. We do too much when we haven't warmed up or trained properly. We exhaust ourselves from overexertion because we love it!
Qigong and tai chi are designed to restore and balance both your body and your life energy. They equally emphasize, stretch out, and relax both sides of your body and each of your arms, legs, hips, hands, and feet. They even relax and exercise your eyes! Plus they give you all-day energy, which allows you to do what you love to do more of the day.
Reason #13: Exercise Can be Fun
In our culture, many of us tend to take our exercises seriously. We work out. We get in shape and with a program. No pain, no gain. Burn off those calories.
At Toward Harmony we take a different approach. Who are the people you know who have the most energy? Babies and young children, without a doubt. And how do they exercise? They play! And when they play, what do they do? They laugh, relax, and have fun, and their energy flows easily and lightly.
Or consider tigers, our favorite animal, or any animal of your choice. It's always the young ones who seem to have and use the most life energy.
And again, they play! And as they play, they learn important life skills, gain dexterity and strength, and grow.
At Toward Harmony we encourage you to play, to smile, to relax and have fun, and to let your energy flow easily and lightly, whether you are learning or practicing.
Reason #14: Better Meditation
Qigong and tai chi can help your meditation practice, whether you are a beginner or very experienced.
For hundreds of years prior to the Chinese Revolution in 1949, Dragon & Tiger qigong was practiced in the Shaolin Temple there.
This was the birthplace of Chinese Chan Buddhism, which when taken to Japan became known as Zen Buddhism.
One of the reasons Shaolin monks practiced Dragon & Tiger was to support their sitting meditation practice. They used the exercises to help keep their bodies healthy and in tone and their life energy full and flowing smoothly so that they could meditate longer and more deeply.
They understood that if their physical bodies were unhealthy or weak or if their life energy was depleted, stagnant or blocked, then their ability to meditate would be diminished. Rather than being able to focus on and explore the nature of their minds and spirit, they would spend their meditation time being distracted by mundane physical and life energy issues, such as a pain in their back or being too tired to maintain their focus.
You may or may not be as serious a meditator as a Shaolin monk. If you are, then you likely will find that qigong or tai chi practice brings you similar benefits.
If not, you may find slightly different benefits. If you are a beginner, having more energy and being more relaxed can help you more easily turn inward, develop focus, and be contemplative. If you are an occasional meditator, then having more energy and less tension can allow you to sit and maintain alertness and an unbroken focus longer and more comfortably.
Reason #15: Any time, Any Place
To do some exercises, you need:
a special room
a place to shower
a place to get dressed
a certain time of day
To do qigong and tai chi, you need none of the above.
You can do these exercises anytime you feel like it, and anywhere.
You can wear whatever clothes you like. We've had students come to class in their dress suits and others in gym clothes.
You can do it so that you won't draw a sweat or need to change clothes.
You can do it when you're on the road and away from your usual routines.
You can do it any time of day. You just need to alter the way that you do it depending on the time of day. In the morning, you might do it more actively and emphasize the upward aspects of the movements to "get you up." In the evening right before bed, you might do it a little more gently and slowly and emphasize the downward aspects of the movements to "chill you out."
You can do it indoors or outdoors (although we don't recommend doing it in pouring rain or strong winds). Often outdoors is the best place!
All you really need is a little space. To do the qigong sets that we teach, you only need enough space to stand up and wave your arms around in any direction. To do the tai chi short form that we teach, you need slightly more room, but not much. It can be done in the space between two beds in a hotel room.
Reason #16: How You Feel, Not How You Look
When people first see the exercises of Dragon & Tiger qigong, they react with descriptions that range from "graceful" and "flowing" to "weird" and "goofy".
This is to be expected. Because these are chi gung energy exercises - and not the muscularly oriented exercises we are used to seeing - they look different than what we normally think of as exercise.
In general, energy exercises are not about looks. After all, looks can be deceiving. For you to perform an exercise position or movement that looks beautiful on the outside may demand that you seriously strain your body or energy on the inside.
Energy exercises are about how you feel. So when you do them you think differently than when you normally exercise. For the time of practice you shift your attention from what you look like to how and what you are feeling. You seek comfort, flow, relaxation, power, and vitality in your inside world rather than to present a beautiful image to the outside world.
Reason #17: The 70% Principle
The way we study and practice qigong and tai chi may change your life - for the better, we hope!
It's not "no pain, no gain." It's not "give it all you've got." It's not "make it burn."
It's the 70 Percent Principle.
This principle states that you should study and practice at seventy percent of your maximum capacity at any time, whether measured physically, mentally, or emotionally. Yes, you should actively engage your mind and body in activities, but no, not to the point of stress, strain, or tension.
This is the opposite approach from the "no pain, no gain" school of training.
The theory here is that if you avoid tension and stress as you learn and practice, then both your body and mind will relax and open. In contrast, if you constantly take yourself to the point of strain, some part of your body or mind most likely will close down. For example, with 110 percent effort you may get your leg muscles to stretch, but you may grow more mentally tense to do it.
One of our teacher's teachers said it simply: You become what you practice.
Take a moment to think about that: You become what you practice.
When you relax and let go to grow, you become more relaxed. Your entire system can open. What was seventy percent for you can become sixty-five percent. Your new seventy percent can be at a higher level of performance, yet still be without strain. And so on, and so on over time.
Note that the 70 Percent Principle is not the Zero Percent Principle. You engage your body, but you don't stress it. If you have a hurt or injured body, we'll encourage you to work a little less and follow the 40 or 50 Percent Principle.
Many of our students have told us that the 70 percent Principle is the most valuable thing we have taught them.