T'ai Chi, Qigong (Chi Kung) Home ]

The information provided is courtesy of The Complete Idiot's Guide to T'ai Chi and Qigong, now in fourth edition, with nearly 150 web video support videos to compliment the 300 illustrated instructions.

This overview of Tai Chi and Qigong has been heralded by Booklist Magazine, the nation's premiere library journal, by the United States Tai Chi Forms Grand Champion, Sifu Hong Yijao, and by Team USA Senior Coach, Dr. Michael Steward, Sr., who wrote that although he had studied and taught Tai Chi for over 30 years, he read this book 7 times, and found something new from it each time.

T'ai Chi and Unemployment click for information on excerpts reprint rights

Since people who grew up in high-stress households have higher unemployment rates, T’ai Chi may help both parents and children change that pattern. Furthermore, because many people are increasingly required by the modern economy to change careers several times, T’ai Chi’s promotion of letting go of the past and relaxing into change can be helpful to adults in today’s job market.

England’s Royal Academy of Pediatrics College released a study that concluded that “stressful” households caused problems for children that could last a lifetime. One thing they discovered was that children from such households endured higher unemployment levels than kids from more peaceful households. We know that stress limits our creativity and can affect our self-esteem. T’ai Chi’s ability to provide children with a tool that can help them find a calm place within, even when home is “less than calm,” can be of powerful help to them.

In today’s modern workforce, it is estimated that most of us will change, not jobs, but careers over five times in our lifetime. For people who find change difficult, this can be excruciatingly stressful and even life threatening over time. In a world of constant and relentless change, T’ai Chi’s ability to help us mentally, emotionally, and physically let go can be a great help.

By being able to let go of past employment and being open to new information and self-definitions, we can be ready to flow into our next occupation. This flowing can happen, not only less stressfully, but with an adventurous anticipation, just like when we were kids. This is what T’ai Chi can help us do as individuals and as a society. Once again, view the T’ai Chi Long Form and Mulan Basic Short Form Exhibitions to see how the physical model of flow and release can provide a daily example of how we can begin to flow with less resistance through all aspects of life.

When you catch yourself considering worst-case scenarios while engaged in a task or project, take a deep breath and let your entire body release thoughts, tensions, and fears. Then make a list or flow chart of what is required for success. This will let you realistically decide whether to proceed rather than resist change because of irrational fears. T’ai Chi promotes a sense of being in the moment, of dealing with the tasks at hand, and of letting go of fear-based projections of the future.


T'ai Chi and the Healthcare Crisis
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Approximately 80 percent of the illnesses that send us to the doctor are due to stress. The six leading causes of death are stress related. Our health care crisis is literally due to stress. Stress can be managed, and there is perhaps no more effective stress management tool than daily T’ai Chi and QiGong meditations.

Hospitals and insurance carriers are beginning to incorporate T’ai Chi and QiGong into what they offer clients. Physicians, neurologists, cardiac and hypertension specialists, and mental health providers are prescribing T’ai Chi for a host of physical, emotional, and mental conditions. Medical university nursing programs are also introducing T’ai Chi to their students as part of their training. Others schools are considering offering it to all medical students.

T’ai Chi begins to show us that we have a healthcare crisis simply because we choose to have a healthcare crisis. Each of us has it within our own power to dramatically lower our dependence on general health care, pharmacology, and surgery. The fastest growing investment industry in the United States today is pharmaceuticals. The top three are ulcer, high blood pressure, and mood-altering medications. T’ai Chi and/or QiGong can have significantly positive effects on all three of these conditions in some cases.

Sage Sifu Says

When going to the doctor, think less of expecting the doctor to “heal you.” Rather, think in terms of you and the doctor in partnership. Ask the doctor what healthful habits or activities you can engage in to facilitate your healing. The question should be, “How can I heal me?”

T’ai Chi and QiGong are not at odds with modern Western health care. They can be partners with it. You don’t decide between medication or surgery, and T’ai Chi. If you need medication or surgery, then use it. However, medication and surgery should not be our first line of defense. If we practice T’ai Chi, we may never develop the need for certain medications or for much heart surgery. Again, stress is the reason most of the physical conditions requiring medication or surgery develop in the first place. If we daily water our “T’ai Tree” roots with the soothing balm of life energy, we will be less likely to ever need that medication or surgery, saving ourselves pain and money, while saving our society a great financial burden. We cannot afford to ignore our body’s signals and our health until we are in a crisis situation and then expect society to lavish money upon us for expensive surgery or medication. This isn’t just about Medicare alone; all our health insurance premiums are skyrocketing due to a national need to become mindful of our health. T’ai Chi can save us all big money and help us feel good while doing it.


Tai Chi in Education click for information on excerpts reprint rights

Studies show that change, even change for the better, is stressful. A good example is when you upgrade your computer. The newer program gives you new tools to make your work faster and more efficient, but letting go of the old ways and learning the new is often stressful.

So each day our children in many ways are learning new ways to do everything, both at home and at school. Kids today are under tremendous stress because the world is changing very fast, and they will see changes we never dreamed of in our lives. Therefore, the best tool they can be given to launch out upon the world with confidence and health is, you guessed it, T’ai Chi.

A T'ai Chi Punch Line

If you look at many long-term T’ai Chi practitioners, Chinese or Western, you will find very vibrant people, often at the pinnacles of their professions. T’ai Chi practitioners do not fear and run from change, but find it essential to a full life.


Helping Students Stay Current in a Fast Current!
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Remember how T’ai Chi brings you back to the calm center no matter how fast life’s carousel is spinning. In today’s rapidly changing world, this is a very important tool to give our children. No matter how much math, science, and economic facts we give them, they will be lost if they don’t know how to thrive healthfully in a world of change. Why? Because our understanding of math, science, and economics is changing on an almost daily basis. Of all the discoveries made since the inception of man, nearly all have been made in our lifetimes, and the world is only getting faster with the explosion of the information age. Therefore, children with mind/body training that can help them adapt to new ways easier and more healthfully will have a distinct advantage over kids who only learn the current ways things are done, or the current textbook facts.

If you refer back to the “Stress Is the Symptom” section in Chapter 3, “Medical T’ai Chi: The Prescription for the Future,” you’ll see that we too often respond to stressors (like change) in an unhealthy way. When this happens chronically, it can even inhibit our thinking processes, literally shrinking parts of the brain. So by teaching T’ai Chi, we help children be calm, and provide them a physical model to relax through changes, which thereby can improve their mental function.


Tai Chi as a Health Education Course
      - Studying Health from the Inside Out

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Hopefully every school will eventually provide T’ai Chi instruction through all levels of education and to teachers as well. Teaching universities are beginning to incorporate it into their advanced credit offerings for teachers at all levels, and many teachers are finding T’ai Chi on their own to deal with personal stress from overcrowded classrooms and low education budgets. T’ai Chi is a cross between physical education and health science. It may eventually become a staple of health science. What better way for kids to learn about their body and health than by paying attention to the laboratory they walk around in every day, their own miraculous minds and bodies, through practicing T’ai Chi’s mindful exercises.

Although most of the high school T’ai Chi classes I’ve taught have been in health science, instructors in physical education, art, and drama are considering T’ai Chi as an adjunct to their classes.

Helping Students Avoid Drugs click for information on excerpts reprint rights

Some schools are already providing T’ai Chi to students. I have personally taught T’ai Chi and QiGong relaxation therapy to students in the elementary, junior high, high school, and university level through health science, college preparatory programs, and drug abuse prevention programs. Health science teachers have told me that students claim the main reason they begin smoking or using drugs and alcohol is to alleviate stress. Of course, those of us with more life experience know that in the end, drug abuse creates more stress, but it is not enough to simply tell kids to “just say no.” We must take the next step and provide them with tools to manage the enormous stress they face in an increasingly complex world.

T'ai Chi and Crime and Law Enforcement
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T’ai Chi is now being taught in prison, as well as in court-sponsored rehabilitation programs. T’ai Chi’s ability to build self-esteem, heal childhood trauma, and manage potentially violent stress makes it an incredible coping tool for anyone trying to change. If we want to reduce crime, finding ways people can become productive parts of society is a cost-effective and just plain effective way to do it. It costs twice as much to send a child to prison as it does to send that child to Harvard. The United States has incarcerated more of its children than any nation in the world, per capita. It is time to find creative solutions like T’ai Chi and mind/ body fitness training to heal the very roots of crime—the potential criminals. To do this before the crime occurs will save us all much pain and vast amounts of money.

A T'ai Chi Punch Line

Many people using T’ai Chi to rehabilitate from drug abuse problems like the fact that T’ai Chi gives them something to replace the old habits with. Rather than just denying themselves the high they loved, they are growing toward a new life as T’ai Chi helps them improve each and every day.

Law enforcement officers work in constant danger and often see only the worst sides of people. This can be very stressful. Historically, stress-related maladies like alcoholism, drug abuse, coronary heart disease, diabetes, and suicide have been problems within law enforcement, according to Police Chief Magazine and the U.S. Public Health Service. T’ai Chi may be an effective multipurpose way to help law enforcement officers deal with job-related stress. T’ai Chi’s martial applications would be an added bonus to officers learning T’ai Chi’s soothing stress-management tools. T’ai Chi can help in several ways. First, it can help officers dump job stress after work. Then if they do go out for a drink after T’ai Chi class, they will be doing it for pleasure, rather than for stress reduction. This can mean the difference between a couple of social drinks and a mind-numbing binge.

Second, if officers are less stressed on duty, they will likely see more options in any given situation. Problems can be diffused more easily when in a calmer, clearer state. Even in difficult situations, T’ai Chi’s calming effects can resonate, especially if it helps the officers sleep better, which T’ai Chi is known to do. So T’ai Chi’s calming aspects can help diffuse potentially dangerous situations, which leaves the officer with less stress to take off duty. Less stress begets less stress, and so on and so on.

Hopefully, departments will eventually provide officers with seven-hour shifts and use the last hour for T’ai Chi decompression time. This will make business sense for all the reasons listed in the chapter on corporate T’ai Chi, but these benefits are magnified since law enforcement’s stress can be even higher.

A T'ai Chi Punch Line

Many T’ai Chi practitioners hear others tell them they have “changed,” “are calmer,” or “are easier to be around,” before they even notice the changes in themselves. Even when you are feeling stress, others may see you as “mellow” in comparison to the rest of the world.


T'ai Chi and Violence click for information on excerpts reprint rights

This sounds strange, but most domestic violence is a very ineffective form of stress management. Domestic violence is a way that a very unhappy person takes out their personal stress on their loved ones. It’s ineffective because as we tear down those around us, that eventually tears us down. We create a sanctuary of pain rather than a loving home.

T’ai Chi can change that from many angles. If children begin to use T’ai Chi’s mind/body fitness stress-management tools to self-heal in school, the cycle of pain at home will be changed and diminished in some ways. Then if parents can be encouraged to learn these tools through community services, they will change the cycle even more effectively. There is a great spider web of connection in a community that will be affected as well. If one parent breaks a cycle of abuse and pain, his or her children will not spread that pain by being mean to the children around them at school. Or by growing up and passing it down to their kids by being violent to them.

Alcohol or other substance abuses aggravate much domestic violence. The benefits of Tai Chi for drug rehabilitation are discussed in Chapter 20, “T’ai Chi as Therapy for Young and Old.”

Substance abuse and domestic violence all set a destructive dynamic in motion that reaches far beyond the home. There is a famous “kick the cat” story that shows how a community is affected by one person’s calm or rage.

An executive gets a traffic ticket on the way to work and then fumes at his administrative assistant. She in turn snaps at the other executives and employees she deals with. They get ticked off and snap at their co-workers, who are testy with people in the other companies they deal with on the phone, and so on. Eventually thousands of people who have had a lousy day hit the freeway and begin to give the one-fingered salute to other motorists. And so it goes.

Finally all these seething people get home and yell at their spouses, who yell at the kids, who walk upstairs and kick the cat.

T’ai Chi can inverse this process ending up with thousands of family cats getting a loving caress by kids growing up in a more loving world, nurtured by parents who work at companies that provide health tools to them like T’ai Chi. Sound far-fetched? Not really. Stress is the source of much of our communal pain, and stress management like T’ai Chi is a balm that can dramatically heal it.

A T'ai Chi Punch Line

Once you learn T’ai Chi, you’ll begin to notice people practicing everywhere you go, in any country in the world. T’ai Chi is an international language. My students have done T’ai Chi with people in England, France, Japan, Vietnam, Mexico, China, El Salvador, and Cuba, to name a few. As you travel, T’ai Chi will give you a pleasant vehicle to interact with and meet other people, even if you don’t speak their language.

A study done by the Transcendental Meditation Foundation (which teaches an excellent form of stress management called TM) found that when a small percentage of the population of a community, school, or organization practiced TM, it had a positive impact on that entire social body.

Therefore, even though most people will never practice T’ai Chi, the few that do may change the entire community in positive ways.


T'ai Chi and the Environment click for information on excerpts reprint rights

At first, it may not seem like T’ai Chi has anything to do with our world’s environment, but it does. The word T’ai Chi means “the Supreme Ultimate Point in the Universe.” This means that every single part of the entire world exists within each and every thing, even you and me. Modern physics demonstrates this by explaining that all things are made of energy, the same energy. You, I, the sun and moon, and Earth’s oceans and mountains are all made of the same energy. We are connected. This is brought home even more as science explains that you and I and everyone on this planet has breathed an oxygen atom breathed by Jesus, Buddha, and Mohammed. The world gets smaller.

Sage Sifu Says

Each time you walk outside look up at the sky and at the trees or grass. Let the full breadth of nature’s beauty wash over you. Think of opening your body to the universal energy as if you were an open airy sponge that could fill with the life around you, and likewise you can expand out to merge with it. If you make this a habit and take 30 or 60 seconds to do this each time you walk in or out of your home, it will change your life.

When you practice T’ai Chi and especially sitting QiGong, you often feel at peace, somehow connected to the world around you, as if you were the center of the universe. This experience leaves you feeling as though you matter, yet it also leaves you feeling as though every other person and every other thing in this world is of vast and profound importance as well.

T’ai Chi and QiGong reminds us that we are energy by immersing our mind and body in the experience of it each day. This constant immersion reminds us how closely we are linked to all things. This isn’t an illusion. The illusion is that we think we are separate from the world. The rainforest and ocean are the Earth’s lungs and thermostats. Without them we perish. So, to feel “connected” to the world is to become real. T’ai Chi and QiGong help us to become more and more real.

Our decisions about how to live in our world will be healthfully influenced by the “realness” T’ai Chi cultivates. This will be a powerful asset to building a cleaner, healthier world. As mentioned in Part 1, “T’ai Chi: Relax into It,” T’ai Chi promotes a feeling of optimum mental, emotional, and physical health therapists call homeostasis. By tuning into that healthful center everyday, we are more drawn to ingesting healthful foods, water, and air, and therefore more conscious of the state of our small planet because this is where our water, food, and air come from.

As with all things, the world’s environmental health begins with our own state of health. Your heart beats to supply oxygen to the entire body. However, the first thing the heart feeds is itself because if it is healthier, stronger, and clearer, it is more useful to its world (your body). Therefore, by feeding yourself the healing force of life energy everyday, you enable yourself to be a healing force as you flow through the world around you.