An Introduction to Taoist Yoga
You might have heard of this mysterious practice from China called “Qigong” (pronounced chee-gong), but what is it? Qigong is the yoga of China; or, perhaps more accurately, yoga is the qigong of India! Why would that be? Qigong comes from two words – qi, meaning energy, and gong, meaning work or effort. Qigong is therefore literally means “energy work.” And, since any practice that moves qi (or prana) can be considered “qigong,” yoga is, technically speaking, a form of qigong!
If you understand the concept of prana from yoga, then you know what qi is – it is the energy that underlies and animates the physical form. Whether you consider it to be a bio-electrical energy or a spiritual energy, it does not matter. Qigong is designed to move the energy to create better health, well-being, and longevity.
Qigong, like yoga, has been around for thousands of years and has its roots in ancient Taoism. In Taoist philosophy, the balancing of opposites – the yin and the yang, the masculine and the feminine – plays a key role in finding that connection with the Tao, or all that is. The ultimate goals of yoga and qigong are quite similar, and many of the practices overlap. Alternate nostril breathing, for example, is a yogic practice that is also taught in qigong, as is so-called “belly” or diaphragmatic breathing.
Qigong, like yoga, incorporates postures, movement, meditation, and breathwork. Where qigong differs from yoga is that it adds a component of visualization and refined energy awareness. It also relies less on mantras or connecting to specific manifestations of divinity. Qigong movements are also generally more fluid, more subtle, and typically easier for people with physical limitations, although some choreography can be more challenging to learn at first. Most standing qigong practices can be modified to be performed in a chair, which makes them very adaptable.
A lot of people see qigong in practice and say “Oh, that looks like Tai Chi!” Tai Chi, is, in fact, a form of qigong, although it has since developed into its own martial art and its forms are much more complex and involved than the typical qigong practice. In fact, “Martial Qigong” is its own branch of qigong that focuses on developing strength and vitality for self-defense as well as human potential.
Spiritual qigong focuses more on meditation and building spiritual qualities; Confucian qigong works to build character. The type of qigong most common today in the West is Medical Qigong, which is simply the use of qigong to help improve health and well-being. At its simplest, Medical Qigong can be used for self-healing, and at its most advanced, Medical Qigong has been practiced in special hospitals in China, where qigong practitioners would guide energy for their patients using special healing techniques.
After being taught only to a few chosen disciples over generations, or passed down through families, qigong secrets are now being shared with the public, fostering a growing interest in qigong in the West. It is a wonderful complement to yoga, as the softer qigong movements can potentially teach breath awareness and movement with less strain, which can be very useful when applied to traditional yoga asana. Most qigong is gentle, and can be practiced by people of all ages and physical abilities. And since much of qigong is practiced standing, it does not required a yoga mat, or special clothes, so you can slip in a quick practice in an office or even a small closet if you need to!
ANCIENT TOOLS FOR MODERN HEALING
Yoga Therapy is the practice of applying the art and science of yoga, Ayurveda, as well as research-based anatomy and kinesiology principles to optimize wellness for the individual. By integrating yoga philosophy, effective assessment methods, and the application of therapeutic yoga techniques, yoga therapy successfully addresses a wide variety of health and wellness concerns.
Yoga Therapy empowers individuals to take charge of their own health by incorporating manageable practices into their daily lives. These practices are constructed by integrating time-tested yogic wisdom and tools, current applied research, and the science of behavior change. This therapeutic approach is making major breakthroughs in mainstream healthcare as a powerful, non-invasive, and cost-effective complement to Western medicine.
Yoga Therapy has been shown to improve conditions including
- back & neck pain
- joint pain & other movement issues
- disc & spinal conditions
- injury recovery
- heart disease
- digestive disorders
- anxiety & depression
- PTSD, trauma & grief recovery
- post surgery recovery
- support during cancer treatment
- neurological disorders (Stroke, MS, Parkinson’s)
- autoimmune disorders
I have to admit, when I first started writing this blog about Larry Payne, I didn’t know much about him except that he is the co-author of my Yoga Therapy textbook, Yoga Therapy and Integrative Medicine. Upon my research of Larry, learned that L.A. Times named Larry “One of America’s most respected Yoga teachers”. This is quite the statement, so what is it about Larry?
Larry Payne, Ph.D. E-RYT500, YTRX, is an accomplished Doctor and Yogi with a Master’s degree and Doctorate in fitness education with an emphasis in Hatha Yoga from Pacific Western University. He has also co-authored Yoga Therapy Rx and Yoga for Dummies; that’s three major books including his most recent, Yoga Therapy and Integrative Medicine.
I was curious as to why Larry, a successful advertising executive, got into Yoga. I learned that he, like many Americans, was suffering from chronic back pain and stress. Taking control of his body and life, Larry embarked on a global and life changing journey to learn about yoga and health from The Masters of Yoga. In India, he became a certified yoga instructor and changed his career.
Larry has studied many yogic paths from Kundalini to Hatha with B.K.S. Iyengar, Yogi Bhajan, and T.K.V. Desikachar, son of Sri T Krishnamacharya who is better known as The Father of Modern Yoga. With this wealth of knowledge, Larry founded the Samata (meaning ‘balance’ in Sansrkit) Yoga Center and Prime of Life Yoga® program in Los Angeles.
Prime of Life Yoga® is an overall therapeutic lifestyle approach to Yoga that includes asana that is accommodating, covering everyday bio mechanics, management of common aches and pains and weight reduction with Yoga, gait training, stress reduction and sleeping tips.
Yoga Therapy is quickly becoming a source for many people to find health and well being. Larry, inspired by the teachings of T.K.V. Desikachar and Sri T Krishnamacharya, helps people heal by teaching them Yoga postures (asanas) and breathing techniques (pranayama) adapted to serve individual needs depending on age, physical and mental health, culture, religion, philosophy and occupation. Practicing yoga in this manner has many benefits. You’ll find that your practice is kinder to your body and your thoughts are kinder to your heart.
With a career of 30 years, a background in Psychology, graduate work in Physical Therapy, and his global studies, Larry Payne has accomplished many firsts which truly makes him one of America’s most respected Yoga Teachers.
Yoga and astrology are the oldest knowledge systems developed by the human mind and they show up universally throughout all cultures. Yet it is in the Vedas, or the ancient wisdom of India, that yoga and astrology have enjoyed their most intimate and sophisticated association.
Both were practiced side by side by the ancient seers or rishis of India. To practice yoga without astrology or astrology without yoga was simply incomprehensible to the masters of Vedic thought. To be a great astrologer, one needed to be a good yogi and to progress along the path of yoga, one needed to be an astrologer.
Through astrology we understand the journey of the soul, what karmas it has endured in past lives and which karmas may be encountered in this life. Astrology not only reveals our karmic DNA, it provides the necessary insight to master our destiny and fulfill our greatest potential.
Through yoga we practice the techniques to master the mind, heal the body and live optimally within the cycles of time. Yoga is the technology to manage the change that time brings us and to develop our potentials to meet the challenges an incarnated soul must overcome to reach its ultimate destination of bliss, union and transcendence.
Astrology Yoga brings these two most revered Vedic sciences and teachings together, as they originally complemented each other, to guide us on our spiritual journey through the cosmic cycles of transformation.
Read more about what’s going on in the astrological world by reading Mehtab’s Astrology Blog.
Yoga without astrology and astrology without yoga was unthinkable to the original teachers and practitioners of these scared sciences. And today, for modern students of yoga, it is time to understand the power and personalization that astrology can bring to you practice.