What is Yoga?
Yoga translates as being in “union” or harmony and was developed around 5,000 years ago in India as a comprehensive system for wellbeing on all levels: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. Today, many millions of people use various aspects of Yoga to help raise their quality of life in such diverse areas as fitness, stress relief, wellness, vitality, mental clarity, healing, peace of mind and spiritual growth. Yoga is a system, not of beliefs, but of techniques and guidance for enriched living. Since the individual experience of Yoga is quite personal and may differ for each practitioner, there are a wide variety of approaches to its practice. Yoga has in recent times branched out in many new directions, some of which are quite different from its traditional emphases. All approaches to Yoga, however, are intended to promote some aspect(s) of wellbeing. As a result, today’s practitioners have more options than ever as they seek to gain the most from the vibrant, ever-expanding field of Yoga.
What is Qi-gong / Chi-Kung?
Qi-gong (Chi-Kung) translates as "energy-work" and is the ancient Chinese art and science of using posture, exercise, breathing, and concentration to cultivate and stimulate the optimal flow of Chi (Qi), or energy, promoting healing from the mind to the body. Qi-gong is the foundation of traditional Chinese medical theory that’s recognized as a preventative medicine and for its empowerment as a self-healing technique. It is practiced by more than 80 million people in China and is gaining in popularity in the west. Students learn to open blocked pathways and connect to the flow of Qi so that it moves steadily through the body. Thus, any areas of the body that are depleted are filled with healthy Qi and any areas that are congested drain unhealthy Qi from the body. The combination of moving meditation techniques and dynamic exercise improves posture, circulation, strength, stamina, flexibility, and concentration. Qi-gong is a suitable practice for anyone because the exercises are the most basic of the internal arts and can be practiced both in a seated or standing position.
What is Tai Chi Chuan / Tàijíquán?
Tai Chi Chuan (Tàijíquán) translates in philosophical terms to the ultimate source and limit of reality, from which spring yin and yang and all of creation. It’s a moving meditation that sets into motion the Microcosmic orbit that vertically permeates the torso, and the macrocosmic orbit, a circuit through all four limbs. The internal energy travelling through these circuits naturally flows into connecting meridians, and masses potential energy into a tidal wave of force. As a healing element, this flow of energy increases circulation, calms the mind, relaxes the muscles and heals nervous, organic and skeletal problems. As a martial art its use allows internal energy, not muscular force, to defeat an enemy. Tai Chi advocates relaxation of the body and lightness in contrast to other styles, the Tai Chi practitioner cultivates a relaxed state of calm, not simply for enhanced reflexes or clear thinking but also to allow the internal energy to flow unhindered by muscular tension. This relaxed state allows one to cultivate sensitivity to the moment, yielding a present awareness within the practitioner. This is the essence of the internal martial art known as Tai Chi.
Terminology You May Hear
Vinyasa / “arranging something in a special way,” as if the synchronization of breath and movement becomes a “flow” that dances from one pose to another like a moving meditation.
Asana / "to be seated in a position that is firm, but relaxed," the foundation of the yoga practice is the posture.
Seva / “selfless service” for spiritual growth that contributes to the improvement of the community.
Chakra / "wheel of spinning light" or center of power that is considered part of the subtle body (not the physical) anatomy in Yogic thought. The 7 major chakras are considered to be the most important.
Prana / "universal life force" as it relates to all cosmic energy.
Chi (Qi) / "breath/air" or "life force/energy flow," it's the underlying principal in traditional Chinese internal/martial arts & medical theory.
Tan Tien (Dan t'ian)/ "energy centers" or the Chi (Qi) focus centers that are important focal points in moving meditations techniques such as the internal/martial arts of Chi Kung (Qi-gong)/Tai Chi Ch'uan (Tàijíquán).
Yin / cool, subtle, tranquil and lunar energy that flows on a more internal level.
Yang / warm, unrestrained, exact and solar energy that flows on a more external level.