Monday, June 3, 2013

The dilemma between form and chi

When we do chi-related exercises, like tai-chi (or chi-kung) and yoga, do we focus on the keeping the correct form or maintaining a connected chi (assuming that both cannot be attained, which is usually the case for beginning students)?  In doing yoga (asana), it is form comes first. In doing tai-chi, it is chi connectedness comes first. What is the pros and cons of putting either one as top priority?

Although yoga today sometimes is being practiced as a kind of gymnastic exercise, the classic way of doing yoga is with meditation-towards-enlightenment as final objective. Assuming that this classic way is being done, doing yogasana aiming at form perfect demands strong abdominal breathing to create powerfully enough chi to connect our muscles/tendons together. Issue arises when a lack of strong breathing mechanism is coupled with a form perfect objective. Form perfect objective without the required chi-connectedness (which is generated by powerful abdominal breathing) can easily result in joints being loosened, sometimes irreversibly. In regard to its positive side, this training philosophy can be very effective provided a student has a good coach and a good mental/physical preparation for endurance, which will be demanded for powerful abdominal breathing aiming at generating chi-connectedness.

The Chinese tai-chi or chi-kung system is generally considered to be a softer approach. Here chi-connectedness is being emphasized. The benefit is that, assuming again a student has a good coach, the training process is enjoyable instead of exhausting. Powerful abdominal training is being relegated to a later stage when a student's chi has been trained up to a certain level. At this intermediate level, a student is to use point-focusing (or point-meditation) to facilitate alignment. Abdominal breathing becomes a natural process resulting from heavier workload, rather than, like yoga, as the primarily tool for generating chi-connectedness. The result is that doing (reverse) abdominal breathing in intermediate chi-kung becomes an enjoyable instead of "no-pain-no-gain" process.

The down-side of the Chinese system is that point-focusing for alignment is an art based almost solely on a student's internal feeling, and therefore demands a high level of chi-listening skill (聼勁),  Besides, since a chi-kung student has been trained to put priority towards chi-feeling from day one, his progress towards alignment will be slower than a yoga practitioner.

The best approach I recommend is to combine the benefits of both disciplines. For a yoga student, he can take some basic chi-kung training (like zhan zhuang) so that he can be guided by his internal chi-feeling when doing his yoga asanas. This way, his yoga training sessions will become more enjoyable as well as less prone to cause damage to his joints. He may find himself progressing slower than fellow practitioners but its benefits far outweighs its seemingly slower progress in the beginning.

And for chi-kung or tai-chi student, doing some basic yoga stance (like warrior) can greatly enhance his improvement towards better alignment. And with powerful yoga abdominal breathing, he can feel himself progressing faster instead of just indulging in his good chi-feeling. This is particularly recommended to younger (or younger at heart) chi-kung students

Yoga Warrior


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  2. Thanks for your visiting. I shall keep it up. Cheers.


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