I’ve never done Tai Chi. Well, I guess I can’t say that anymore since I just did a 20 minute Tai Chi video I found on YouTube.
I lived abroad in China after college and saw LOTS of elderly folks performing Tai Chi in the parks surrounding my home. Often they used fans or swords and had elaborate dress, but other times they practiced with no equipment at all.
But I never joined in. Never inquired as to what they were doing.
At the time it wasn’t my style of fitness. Firstly, it involved a group. I prefer to exercise solo. Second, it seemed like everyone already knew the moves. Third, the age group seemed to imply that this was not an exercise for me and I should wait until I was older to appreciate it. I’m pretty sure that last point was merely my ego getting in the way of learning a cool new kind of exercise.
Today I decided I needed to experience Tai Chi.
So I hopped on YouTube and typed in the words ‘tai chi’ and selected the first video that appeared on the first page of results, had over a million views and was around 20 minutes long.
Out came my yoga mat and I pressed play.
An elderly Asian woman was standing in a park alone taking me through the movements one at a time. She said nothing.
What little instruction there was came in the form of short, plain but descriptive text written on the screen. And really, nothing more was needed to follow along.
This is the first time in a very long time where during an exercise TIME SLOWED DOWN.
What do I mean?
I was aware of my breath. I was aware of my hand movements. I was aware of my posture, my balance, and my range of motion or lackthereof. And I realized that several moves in I was acutely relaxed. All my attention was focused on following along with the moves on the screen and my breathing.
The video introduced me to the ‘horse stance’ which is very similar to a squat. After finishing the video I looked up some information on Tai Chi and it turns out that the horse is an important animal in this practice.
I actually stopped the video because it felt like I had been performing Tai Chi for a very long time, only to be shown I had been moving for 9 minutes. 9 minutes! I wasn’t even half way through!
Qigong vs Tai Chi
Then I realized that I hadn’t been doing Tai Chi. The video was Qigong.
There is a difference between the two. As the Gaiam website succinctly states, “T’ai chi is a martial art; qigong is a system of wellness”.
What I find mildly amusing is that of all the videos on the first page of the search, the one I chose was the only one that was Qigong. All the others were Tai Chi. Go figure…
This was a great low impact exercise that helped melt away tension I didn’t even know I had going into the practice. I’m not sure if I’ll continue to seek out more Qigong videos or classes in the future, but this short experiment was fun and I would definitely recommend Qigong to anyone who is looking to add gentle movement into their daily life.
Below is the Qigong video I found on YouTube. Don’t get too excited if you like the channel. At the time of writing this was the only video they had uploaded. I guess they decided to quit while they were ahead?!
Do you regularly practice Qigong? or Tai Chi? Let me know what made you start practicing and your reasons for staying with it.