This article was published in the Yoga Bridge Newsletter Vol. 6, Issue 3, Autumn Publication, 2006 produced by the Yoga Association of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
In our daily lives, each of us confronts stressful situations at home, at work, while commuting, and even while shopping. Such mental and physical stresses can charge up the autonomic nervous system. A balanced autonomic system is a primary requirement to stay healthy. Yoga Chi is a combined approach to exercise that can help to balance the autonomic nervous system and provide the foundation for a healthy life.
Yoga Chi is primarily a composite or fusion of three exercise practices: Yoga, Chi(Qi) Gong and Tai Chi Chuan (Tai Chi). Most current Yoga exercises come primarily from India, with others from Tibet, while Chi Gong and Tai Chi originate in China. I propose that all these good exercise modalities can be combined to form one greater exercise modality: Yoga Chi.
Those studying Yoga will be familiar with its eight layers of discipline (Ashtanga Yoga - the eight limbs of yoga). They are:
In the West, the entry point into Yoga is primarily via the asanas - that is, stretching into different poses. Here, our application is most often physical, while in India and Tibet all eight layers of yogic disciplines are emphasized. Nevertheless, yoga practices remain incomplete until the meditative disciplines are also pursued.
In China, the yogic state is entered via breathing exercises called Chi Gong. While there are many styles of chi gong, it can be broadly classified into two divisions: internal and external training. The classification have been further refined into martial arts chi gong (for martial arts application), medical chi gong (promoting good health, vitality. and compassionate healing), and spiritual chi gong (for quickening one's remembrance of one's soul journey while still in this human form.)
Tai Chi (Tai Chi Chuan) became a well known exercise when TV showed to the world the many practitioners doing this exercise in the parks in China. The most noticeable feature of Tai Chi is its movements - deliberate, dynamically slow, gentle, and supple with seamless flow from one stance to another (stance-asana). Tai Chi is mostly practiced for its physical strengthening and meditative discipline found in these movements, and is lesser known for its martial applications.
Yoga Chi fusion offers the following advantages:
Physically-based yoga exercises are basically increasingly challenging forms of stretching. To continue with stretching, the less flexible participants may begin to feel incremental pain and, unable to fully participate further, feel left out. But if the teacher tries to accommodate the less flexible participants in a class, then flexible participants may become bored and drop out.
This is where exercises from chi gong and tai chi can "fill in the gap". They are different in format and form (execution), and thus offer different kinds of challenges to the participants. Within a Yoga Chi exercise class, yoga exercises will be interwoven with chi gong and tai chi exercises so as to attempt to satisfy everyone optimally, with appropriate exercises for a mixed group of people having varied physical capabilities.
In a complete Yoga Chi practice, the entire vertebral column has to be worked out and toned by front, back and sideways bends and by lateral rotation of the spine. This done with selected exercises from yoga or tai chi, depending on the depth to which one wishes to pursue such stretches. Upper and lower limbs strength and flexibility, a cardiovascular-pulmonary workout, mental focusing can also be exercised by using all three modalities in combination or simply one by itself. Which modalities and how they are used will again depend on the depth of the workout one wishes to pursue. The rule of thumb for Yoga Chi exercise: Use yoga for flexibility, strength and balance; use tai chi for dynamic suppleness, strength, and balance; use chi gong for everything else; and, use all three together for different types of concentration and meditation. A Yoga Chi teacher will have to be proficient in yoga, chi gong and tai chi exercises.
Yoga Chi has the following major attributes: flexibility, suppleness, agility & nimbleness. Suppleness , agility and nimbleness can only be discerned through movement.
"Namaste" - my Great Spirit within me bows to the Great Spirit that is within you; and, "To Your Chi" - to your good health, vitality and spirituality.
Paul Yapp is certified by the Gerda Krebs Hatha Yoga Centre and the Yoga Association of Alberta. In addition to founding Yoga Chi, he teaches and practices chi gong and tai chi in Edmonton.