Difference Between Chi Gung And Tai Chi


Chi gives you life. If you have a lot of Chi, then you have a strong life force, which makes you alive and alert. Having a lot of Chi provides you with the ability to be very much in the present moment.  When you don’t have much Chi, then you feel fatigued and you’re sluggish.  There is a desire to get more energy, especially as you get older.

Can you increase your energy levels even while aging? The answer is absolutely. You can develop your Chi so you can feel robust and vibrant at any age. When you increase your Chi, it can help you when you are ill, when you feel weak, and it can also enhance your mental capacity to fulfill any task you have now.

How can you increase your energy levels?  Some people start by practicing Chi Gung.

A Beginner’s Guide To Energy Work

Chi Gung literally means ‘energy work’. It is about learning to control the Chi internally by using the mind 

to direct your energy flow in your body. Physical movements may be used, but not necessary in Chi Gung.

You can do Chi Gung by just standing, sitting, or lying down. Chi Gung is aimed at increasing your life energy to improve your physical health, to have greater mental clarity and also to gain spiritual awakening.

There are different types of Chi Gung: There is Buddhist Chi Gung, Medical Chi Gung, Confucian Chi Gung.  Each one has its own set of exercises and methods to move your energy.  All are intended to cultivate and balance your Chi.

I am mainly going to focus on Taoist Chi Gung, which uses the power of inner awareness to perceive the body’s energy flows. Taoist Chi Gung teaches you to map out how your energy travels through channels along the body, and it helps you to perceive the acupuncture points in your body.  These points open and connect you to deeper parts of your body, notably those of your internal organs. 

Taoist Chi Gung also makes you conscious of the relationships you have within your body –  your internal organs, glands, fluids, tissues, bones, and marrow. From Taoist Chi Gung came the healing practice of acupuncture and other sorts of healing modalities such as herbal medicine, bone setting, and therapeutic Chi bodywork.

Tai Chi is another ancient practice that came from Taoist Chi Gung. Taoist Chi Gung is based on softness, and it is valued for its ability to regenerate your body. It emphasizes a few things:

  1. Complete relaxation of the body – your muscles, tendons, and ligaments.
  2. Smooth, even, silent breathing.
  3. Movements that are soft, fluid, and circular in nature. You can do these movements with ease and comfort.  
  4. All of the above require effort and work.  You have to practice and keep at it.

So there is an emphasis on the total use of effort.  This is done by moving your body, mind and energy.  This effort is accomplished while not creating internal strain in your body. 

Taoist Chi Gung emphasizes physical stretches that are accomplished by using techniques in your body such as a sinking relaxation and letting go of any tension in the nerves. It doesn’t rely on any use of mental willpower and force that often comes with using your muscles.

Recently, someone asked me if I teach Chi Gung.  My answer is no, not really. I teach Tai Chi, which is a movement exercise in one branch of the Chi Gung’s system of wellness. Tai Chi, to put it in very simple terms, came from Chi Gung, which is a huge umbrella in Traditional Chinese Medicine. To be more specific, Tai Chi came from Taoist Chi Gung, which is a 3000-year-old tradition.

The major difference between Tai Chi and Chi Gung is that Chi Gung is used purely for healing while Tai Chi is used mainly as a martial art. For example, placing the hands in front of you with your palms facing your chest is the classic Chi Gung practice known to many. Imagine you’re hugging a tree. While your palms are energetically connected to your heart and lungs in the body, you have the power to heal from within. 

In Tai Chi, there is ward off left, and there is ward off right. Together, with both right and left palms, you create a bubble of protection to keep you safe from outside forces.  This is one of many postures in standing Chi Gung meditation.

Whereas Tai Chi is a form of martial art with techniques to ward off left, and ward off right, there are specific techniques of Chi Gung used for specific diseases. Some Chi Gung methods are used for helping those with cancer and for helping them to mitigate the effects of radiation and chemotherapy treatment.  

But, let’s not forget that Tai Chi is also used to facilitate healing and re-align the energies of the body. It can be very powerful as a self-healing tool for maintaining your health by directly moving your energy in a flow to keep you from a state of energetic inactivity. Conversely, there are Chi Gung exercises which can help you to increase your muscular strength for when you need it.

Chi Gung Exercise To Strengthen Your Abdomen

Watch the video and follow along: Stand, take your arms out and bring them up in front of you. Your fingers are energized in front of your chest, and as you inhale and breathe in, expand your lungs and chest. Then exhale. Bring your arms down to the sides while moving your abdomen, to push the air out of your lungs. Squeeze the abdomen slightly. This helps you to strengthen your internal organs in the abdominal region, and it helps you to increase the strength of your colon and your intestines. This is an abdominal internal exercise used to enhance the strength of your internal organs.

Let’s do this several times.

  1. Bring your arms out in front of your chest. Breathe in and increase the capacity of your lungs.
  2. Exhale. Relax, and use the abdomen to squeeze and push the air out of your lungs while you drop your arms to your sides.
  3. Inhale. Energize the fingers, fill up your chest. 
  4. Relax back down, slowly bringing your arms down to your sides. Gently squeeze the abdominal region, pushing the air out of your lungs.
  5. Then raise your arms out in front of you and repeat.

Tai Chi and Chi Gung have very different movements and they require different kinds of physical coordination. Both have slow-motion movements. So it’s very easy to confuse Tai Chi and Chi Gung. There are hundreds of Chi Gung methods and hundreds of techniques.  Some involve shaking the body, jumping up and down, and others involve making sounds, and yet others make you move at alternating speeds. So you can move faster with Chi Gung exercises than you would with Tai Chi, as well as use a bit more muscle and force, depending on the school you are learning Chi Gung from.

While Tai Chi falls under the umbrella of Chi Gung, they focus on different aspects of energy flow. Taking another example, you can move your energy through a specific acupuncture meridian while practicing the Tai Chi form. A meridian is a pathway just below your skin that connects a series of points along your body. 

So you can move the energy through a meridian, or in one move of Chi Gung, you might draw energy through a particular acupuncture point by opening it. Using the center point on the palm of your hand, or you can work with one of the three dantiens in your body – the lower dantien, middle dantien, or upper dantien.

In Tai Chi, you don’t get to separate these energy practices in this way. This is an important difference to make. Tai Chi is an all-encompassing exercise. You can use Tai Chi to move energy virtually all over your body and direct it any way you want.

Let’s do some Tai Chi right now. Exhale, relax into your feet. 

  1. Energize the fingers up.
  2. Exhale, relax, sink back down. 
  3. Energize the fingers
  4. Exhale, relax back down. 
  5. Notice the abdominal strengthening exercise of Chi Gung can be incorporated into these first few movements. 
  6. Move the energy through your fingers, the spine, and back down through your legs and into your feet.
  7. Experiment and see how Tai Chi works.

So is one better than the other? Is Tai Chi better than Chi Gung when it comes to accessing and personally experiencing Chi within yourself? Stay tuned and follow me on YouTube, and Instagram to find out.

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