With a bewildering array of health exercises from China – literally dozens of Tai Chi and Qigong forms, styles and routines – how do we choose one as our daily health routine?
I have explained many times on this blog that for comprehensive health and fitness (“internal” and “external”) the 17 Chinese wand Exercises passed on by Bruce Johnson is a perfect daily routine for just about anyone. That does not mean to say that we would not benefit from other exercises routines once we have completed our daily round of wand exercises. For a long time I performed Tai Chi after the wand exercises, using the wand-led movements as a sort of warm up and stretching routine for Tai Chi.
Then one day I felt that I wanted to continue holding the wand while performing Tai Chi and created the Tai Chi Boating Wand form. It is a flowing and very relaxing form that adds many benefits to gentle movement, such as improvement of posture and increased shoulder mobility.
My daily exercise routine became the wand exercises followed by the Tai Chi Boating Wand. This is as simple and comprehensive as it gets.
But….many students, while enjoying wand exercises, still want to learn Tai Chi and Qigong.
During the late 1970s and early 1980s when I was learning Tai Chi there was basically only Cheng man-ching’s short form in the west. Nowadays the 24 Step Yang form has become and international standard. Both forms, while rewarding for dedicated long-term students, contain elements that are very challenging for the average person. I created the 55 Step “Flow Form” based on both forms but without the static single-leg stances and squats.
So after the wand exercises students can either perform the Tai Chi Boating wand or The 55 Step Flow Form. Both options are as simple and comprehensive as it gets.
What about Qigong?
Students ask about Qigong. It’s difficult to incorporate a Qigong routine into a class syllabus when there are hundreds of routines to choose from. For example the Chinese Health Qigong Association have created many new Qigong forms and still teach updated older forms. The interesting thing is that the stated health benefits of the routines are remarkably similar. Which Qigong form should I choose for class? I decided to use some of the “Shibashi” Qigong exercises because they are similar to the wand exercises in that they focus on both the external and internal and are practised with a moving flow which is neither too slow or too fast.
Putting it all Together
The reality is that most students will not have the time or inclination to study the entire wand exercises, learn the 55 Step Flow Form, the Tai Chi Boating Wand or a the Shibashi Qigong routine.
So I designed a sequence of 34 exercises which contain simple movements with comprehensive benefits from Tai Chi, Qigong and wand exercises. The routine, called the Tai Chi Wandwork 34, not only serves as a general introduction to these different forms but focuses on quickly getting circulation and energy moving in an accessible way. The form is simple yet just challenging enough to be enjoyable.
The first 18 exercises are open-handed (no wand needed) and consist a selection of Shibashi and other Qigong movements and Tai Chi 55 Step Form. The last 16 exercises use a “wand” – a stick, wooden dowel or bamboo pole about 48 inches long and one inch thick to perform some Chinese Wand Exercises and movements from the flowing “Tai Chi Boating Wand” form.
Breathing is integral to the movements of the whole program. Movements should not be too fast (using momentum) or too slow (with stagnant energy and no flow). A moderate, even speed is maintained throughout, coordinated with breathing. This methodology gently stretches the body and massages internal organs (with rocking movements, for example).
While some students may want to go on and learn the various components of this form in their entirety, those seeking a 15 – 20 minute well-rounded gentle exercise routine for health and wellbeing need look no further than the Tai Chi Wandwork 34. It is a sort of one-stop shop for people with a wide range of medical conditions as well as the sedentary and office workers who sit for hours.
Tai Chi Wandwork 34 is accessible for programs such as “wellness in the workplace” and the “GP Physical Activity Referral Scheme”. Doctors are now prescribing Tai Chi and Qigong for conditions such as: High Blood Pressure, High Cholesterol, Heart Disease, Muscle or Joint Problems, Anxiety or Depression, Arthritis, Asthma, Diabetes, Obesity, Sedentary Lifestyle, Posture Problems, Seniors Balance Problems, Slouching & Stooping.
Tai Chi Wandwork 34 is especially beneficial for people suffering from ailments of modern life such as slouching and stooping caused by using smart phones / desktop computers / tablets and playing PC games. The movements excel at opening the chest, strengthening the shoulders, back and neck and combating bad posture.