"Qigong is the art and science of refining and cultivating internal energy." - Ken Cohen
Rebecca Brooks, Qigong and Tai Chi Instructor, discusses the similarities and differences between the two disciplines and how they draw on ancient wisdom from the Far East in supporting health and vitality, in part, through aligning with the elements of the natural world.
Qigong is an ancient practice with roots in Daoism, which seeks to find balance in nature by harmonizing the 5 elements of metal, water, wood, fire, and earth. Qigong honors our body, mind, and spirit as a microcosm of nature’s macrocosm. Nature strives to balance the 5 elements. We seek harmony within ourselves. When focusing on the 5 elements during practice we bring health, vitality, and qi/chi into balance as yin and yang meet in the middle
Qi/chi (pronounced ‘chee’) means life’s energy. Gong means practice or method of exercise. Qigong and Tai Chi, which is a form of Qigong, are based on the principle that chi flows through the body enhancing health and a sense of wellbeing. Qigong nourishes body, mind, and spirit though practice of slow continuous movements, known as forms, and controlled breathing. Qigong practice calms the mind and improves strength, flexibility, and balance and can help reduce stress. Qigong forms can flow one into another or stand alone to be practiced through repetition. When I consider the practices of yoga, Qigong, and Tai Chi, I place Qigong between yoga and Tai Chi. It is built on slow continuous movement as is Tai Chi, but the stretches can be deeper and more vigorous like yoga. The structure of a Qigong class is similar to that of a yoga class in that one class does not necessarily build on the previous class, as is the case with Tai Chi. Tai Chi requires memorizing a pre-determined sequence of forms, whereas in Qigong that is not necessarily the case.
In Qigong each element is associated with a season, an emotion, and an organ and meridian system within the body. There are many Qigong practices. The most foundational practice is probably 5 Elements because it lays out the philosophical construct of Qigong. There are many variations of the 5 Elements practice, but the conceptual foundation is consistent. I like to begin 5 Elements with metal because it is associated with the lungs, and therefore we focus on our breath as we begin practice.
Metal is about confidence in yourself and respect for others
Rebecca Brooks grew up in East Tennessee on the edge of the Smoky Mountains. The meditative effect of the mountains and respect for nature and the environment were engrained at an early age. She moved her family to Tuscaloosa to take a position as an audiologist in the Department of Communicative Disorders at the University of Alabama. She began practicing Tai Chi and Qigong in 2015 receiving training through the Tai Chi for Health Institute. Since spending her professional career teaching and training students, extending her practice to teach Tai Chi and Qigong was second nature. Her goal is to increase awareness of Tai Chi and Qigong in the Tuscaloosa community.