What Are Tai Chi and Qigong?

Tai Chi

Tai Chi Chuan (or Taiji quan) is a centuries-old health related Chinese exercise. The gentle, slow, flowing movements integrate inner strength with meditation and breathing techniques. Tai Chi exercise can tone muscles, improve flexibility and balance, and nurture physical, emotional and mental well-being.

yin yang

This is the Tai Chi symbol. “Tai Chi” means “the Grand Ultimate.” Or, we might say, “the way the universe works.” The Tai Chi symbol is a picture of this way. It shows the interplay between two opposing forces (Yang and Yin) through which all changes occur. The Yang is the light side with the small dark spot, the active the initiating force. In terms of the universe in which we all live it is the heavens, the source of light. Yin is the receptive, the responsive force, the dark side with the white spot. In Chinese cosmology yin is the Earth, the receiver of the Sun’s energy, the object of its light and warmth. Daytime is yang, the light, the active time; nighttime is yin, he dark, the inactive (passive) time. But within each there is a small part of the other. In the brightest noon there is still a dark shadow, in the most active hour there will be some resting. In the darkest midnight hour there is the light of the moon and the stars, and activity in the midst of rest and sleep. The opposites always moving, always interacting, always seeking a balance, finding a balance, then interacting again.

So “Tai Chi” is a philosophical term that describes the Chinese picture of how the universe works. What’s the relationship between Tai Chi practice and the Tai Chi symbol? We really should call the Tai Chi forms that we learn and practice Tai Chi “Chuan.” Chuan means, quite literally, “soft boxing,” because the forms grew out of and contributed to the martial arts. Tai Chi Chuan is an exercise term. Tai Chi Chuan is an exercise created cut of and based on the Chinese theory of Tai Chi. You could say that Tai Chi Chuan is a motion picture of the Tai Chi symbol. For example, the left hand moves up, toward the heaven. It’s the active hand, the yang. When the left hand is active the right hand is passive; it moves downward, toward the earth. But then, in a continuous slow, curved movement, the hands switch position, the right becomes the yang, the left yin.

Tai Chi Chuan teaches us many things–how to connect with nature, how to connect with the inner self, how to maximize well-being, how to become more gentle, soft, natural and relaxed. Tai Chi Chuan, teaches us to slow down, to relax, to let things happen naturally. It teaches a different way of breathing and how to coordinate our breath with our movements. It teaches us to connect mind and body, It teaches us better balance, it lowers our center of gravity, calms our overstimulated minds, stretches out and loosens our tight muscles, gives us a different perspective, gives us energy, refreshes our spirit. And that’s just the beginning of the list. Of the literally hundreds of persons who have taken one or more classes or a workshop from the Center it is likely that every single one has experienced at least one of the benefits listed above.


Qigong is an ancient Chinese art used for healing and strengthening body, mind, and spirit. Qigong combines movement, meditation, and breathing as a means of cultivating and enhancing the body’s natural internal energy (qi) while increasing awareness of its flow throughout the body.

Qi is “Iifeforce” or “vital energy.” It’s the fuel that powers the universe, the energy in us and all around us. Gong means “work.” Qigong then is &ldquot;energy work.” Qigong patterns (and there are literally thousands) are typically stationary, legs staying in place. Tai Chi Chuan is actually a form of Qigong, a type of moving energy work.

Qigong is a 5,000 year old Chinese health care modality, a powerful healing system. Millions of people practice Qigong in China and around the world each day to successfully treat diseases ranging from hypertension to cancer.