Qigong was developed by Toaist and Buddhist monks in ancient China. It is a gentle form of exercise devised to harmonise the flow of energy in the body and is based on the same theory of qi as shiatsu. Having perfected the art of meditation, the monks realised that their physical health was not what it should be as a result of spending so much of each day in stillness. As a result, they used their knowledge of qi to come up with different movements to optimise their vitality and to harmonise body and mind. Qigong is effectively a form of moving meditation with each exercise repeated several times before moving on to the next: the more the repetitions, the greater the meditative effect. Each of the many exercises works on a specific part of the body, so it can be a whole body work out. I love that each exercise has a name such as cloud hands, bird’s flight, swimming dragon, and the coming and going of the waves. Click here to see an example of a few qigong exercises and how graceful the movements are.
Tai chi is a martial art that was built on the practise of qigong, the theory being that the slow repetitive movements create muscle memory and stamina so that warriors could react rapidly and fight effectively in battle. Every movement in tai chi is either defensive or attacking. I learnt ‘parting the wild horse’s mane’ in class this morning and I wouldn’t have realised that it was an attack until our teacher Karen Pounds demonstrated that standing behind an assailant our left hand would be holding theirs down as our right hand rose to block their upper body and our right knee bent into the back of theirs to knock them off balance. It all looked so gentle until then. As well as being a martial art, tai chi is widely practised for its health benefits. It is especially good for improving balance and reducing the risk of falls in older people without putting too much strain on the body. As Karen reminded us, if you are doing tai chi for health, practise it as if for martial arts in order to keep the movements sharp and if you are doing it as a martial art, think health in order to soften the movements and relax the body.
Practising qigong and tai chi is an integral part of practising shiatsu in order to be able to harmonise energy in oneself and the recipient. If you would like to experience shiatsu or find out more about it, do get in touch.