Although both tai chi and bagua develop softness and strength, each individual student is typically drawn to one side. Most people are either more yin or more yang in their personalities and approach to life. In the West, we naturally gravitate towards our strengths, which means we tend to develop that which is dominant in us and leave behind anything that is lacking or weak. This can create further imbalance—the opposite of what tai chi and bagua practice aims to achieve. Training tai chi helps you develop softness inside bagua, while training bagua helps create more flexibility in tai chi. In turn, greater flexibility from bagua further allows you to access a softer operation of tai chi, while a softer execution of tai chi allows you to generate more strength in bagua. This positive feedback loop continues on many levels throughout your practice over years and decades as you refine and hone your skills on ever-deeper layers.
When you change the flow of qi in the physical body through practice of qigong, tai chi or bagua, you create a shift from stagnancy towards vibrancy. If the blockages are minor (e.g. daily stress), the shift can be permanent; if, however, the blockages are old and lodged deep in the body, any shift will be temporary (at best) as the energetic pattern of the blockage will pull the body back into the closed or distorted state. If you practise regularly, eventually the balance tips and the shift can become permanent.
Tao journal, February 2013 excerpt:
As one of the three key streams of Tao energy arts, Five Element Theory can be applied to understand the manifest world in which we live, such as feng shui and astrology, music and military strategy, martial arts and medicine, diet and therapy. There are many schools of thought and many dozens of systems available to work with the Five Elements. For example, the Creation-Destruction Cycles—or Wood-Fire-Earth-Metal-Water and Wood-Earth-Water-Fire-Metal, respectively—were popularised during the first half of the Han Dynasty (206 BC-220 AD), and remain widespread today.
However, Old Taoism’s approach to the Five Elements is primarily concerned with transformation in body, mind and chi. The Transformational Cycle is represented as: Water-Fire-Wood-Metal-Earth.
In my Tao journal, I’ve been explaining the best training strategies to qi energy power for health, healing, stress relief and achieving high performance goals of any kind. My colleague Dan Kleiman of Qigong Radio had a few questions about the crossover into and the connection between nei gong energy arts and meditation. For those of you who don’t subscribe to my journal, I’ll provide a little context, and then you can listen to or download the interview by following the link offered below.
Taoism encompasses a wide range of practices from martial and healing arts, to yoga and meditation, to poetry, painting, calligraphy and geomancy, as well as methods for working with the Five Elements. All of them are ultimately contained within the teachings of the I Ching (Book of Changes). Although throughout the ages some Taoists have studied all aspects of Taoism, most certainly do not. Instead, each individual attunes to their path to what is relevant to their personal and spiritual development. That said there are core techniques which all Taoists train. They can be classified in three categories: the 16 nei gong, Five Element practices and I Ching arts.