M is for Moving Meditation
A guest post by Hazel Anne Burns “Moving Meditation -Tai Chi and Qi Gong”
This post is intended for those of you that might be interested in starting out on a new journey. One that is a little different from the popular yoga that many know so well, but unlike yoga, it's almost completely performed standing. I am not a teacher but a student of about five years, so this is just a taste of what I have enjoyed and what it could be like for you.
Tai Chi and Qi Gong are both a sequence of low impact moderate intensity aerobic exercises with a focus on breathing. They are suitable for all ages and genders and very safe for most people to practice. There are many health benefits documented, some of which are: improved energy, agility, stamina and flexibility. There is documented a decrease in anxiety, stress and depression. Scientific evidence shows that both practices improve bone density, fibromyalga, arthritis, high blood pressure and much more.
Tai Chi is a concept that is thousands of years old in which two complementary principles oppose: yin from the earth and yang from the heavens meeting in the human (the union of the sky and earth). Tai Chi is an ancient practice from China. If you are considering this, a good teacher would be required, as these forms move the body in quite a different way. This means, lots of initial training is needed, as each level builds up slowly. After a short while, there is a noticeable increase in good posture, muscles are toned and with a better body, there comes a much happier and more enthusiastic mind. Even better if you have a friend to learn alongside.
The Chinese give their family name to the different Tai Chi styles. So Yang style comes from the Yang family and Chen style comes from the Chen family and so on. Yang style has 8, 16 and 24 forms. The result of practising is the graceful moving meditation seen in the links below with Masters Lisa Kay and Faye Yip.
I have found the practice both exhilarating and calming and the mind becomes focused and aware. The greatest joy comes from practising outside in nature.
Strength and flexibility are built in the body through slow rhythmic movements. Energy is collected from sky and earth with the limbs and then moved through the body, held in the Dantien which is the storehouse of energy, located just below the navel. The movements are based on nature itself and many of the forms use animal or bird names.
There is a consistent use of natural principles, such as yin/yang which are opposites that contain something of each other like male/female, light/dark, cold/heat, sky/earth, etc. Much time is spent on perfecting the moves and gradually, there is a relaxed turning inwards, as the mind becomes quiet and the body becomes light, while the breath remains gentle. As Torquay sandman Jeff's art suggests, his creations are washed away by the tide every day, signifying the never ending cycle of life.
Before starting Tai Chi I had pulled a muscle doing yoga that took months to heal so this practice was for me much more gentle. It took a while to acclimatise to the new way of moving but I was soon loving the way my body was getting toned. Energy levels were massively increased and I was becoming a calmer more focused person. There was reduced tension and stress and increased body mind awareness. So today I am grateful for all the benefits offered by this ancient practice.
Qi Gong is more simple to learn but instead of being a dancelike continuous movement, it is comprised of a set of forms that are repeated several times over. It is just as beneficial as Tai Chi and without a teacher can be practised by watching YouTube videos.
One of my favourite teachers for Qi Gong is Jeff Chand who offers many free ways of working with the body to combat various physical and mental states or to enhance others. Shi Heng Yi is from the Shaolin Temple Europe. It's worth listening to some of his engaging talks, especially the Ted Talk on The Five Hindrances and he offers a lot of brilliant free practice on YouTube. When the weather is not so good, these videos are an invaluable source for indoor practice.
Some questions and quotes to think about/or discuss below:
Have you tried either practice before and if so, how did you find it?
What appeals to you most about this practice?
What health problems do you have that might be helped?
Can you name 3 other yin yangs (opposing elements)?
What do you think the beach art picture represents?
If you want to reflect more on this subject, here are some links to get you started:
Shi Heng Yi