ch'i movement therapy
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taichi daoyin 太極導引 spiral movement
- not in slow motion!
photo credit: Sari Gluckin
What is ch'i 氣？
Yoga practitioners may be more familiar with the notion of prana, often translated as 'life force'. It is the nebulous invisible energy that gives vitality to everything within and around us.
Ch'i (in Chinese), or ki (in Japanese) is a similar concept. The character is composed of two parts: 'air' and 'rice', a marriage of the ethereal with the material. Movement practises such as taichi ch'uan and ch'i gong use ancient wisdom to balance and restore the flow of ch'i within the body.
Taichi daoyin is a less globally known movement practise, which I studied in Taiwan. The movements are extremely slow and deliberate, resulting in a trance-like meditative state. It is based upon ancient Daoist internal healing art forms, a reminder that we are somatically connected to the same fundamental human condition throughout generations.
We move in spirals using the whole body, with a focus on the lower dantian, also known as the hara. Coming from a background in Westernised movement (including most yoga), there is a great deal to 'unlearn' when engaging in this practice. It is effortless yet powerful, using only our internally generated energy rather than over-exerting any particular muscle groups which leads to imbalance.
When practiced with an open body and mind, the effects can be felt almost instantly. The movements are said to have the same effect as an acupuncture session, clearing the meridians and allowing energy to coarse.
Spirals are found everywhere in nature, from flowers and ferns to weather patterns and the solar system. The spiral is therefore not only symbolic, but an actual manifestation of movement, evolution and generation. These slow spinning movements based on holistic understanding of the human condition are compellingly powerful.