The Chinese approach to health promotion is based on an energy source called "chi". Chi literally means air, gas, vapor, and atmosphere. Chi represents "vital energy" around and within us. Tai Chi is based upon unifying chi or the energy of the body.
The belief is that the body was created to be self healing under normal circumstances. Through observation and experimentation, Shaolin Monks have developed practices, which are able to return the body to a more natural state of functioning. Illness is seen as the result of the body's natural healing process being impeded.
Chi flows throughout the body along pathways called "meridians". If the meridian is open, chi can flow unimpeded and nourish the body. If a meridian is blocked in a particular area of the body, chi cannot flow. Thus, illness will develop in that area.
T’ai chi ch’uan or tàijíquán, often shortened to taiji or tai chi in English usage, translates as “supreme ultimate fist.” It is an internal Chinese martial art practised for both its defense training and its health benefits. It is also typically practiced for a variety of other personal reasons: its hard and soft martial art technique, demonstration competitions, and longevity. Some of t’ai chi ch’uan’s training forms are especially known for being practiced with what most people would categorize as slow movement.
Qigong which can be translated as “Life Energy Cultivation” is a practice of aligning body, breath, and mind for health, meditation, and martial arts training. It allows one to literally be able to “play with energy (qi).”
According to Daoist, Buddhist, and Confucian philosophy, respectively, qigong allows access to higher realms of awareness, awakens one’s “true nature”, and helps develop human potential through moving meditation, coordinating slow flowing movement, deep rhythmic breathing, and calm meditative state of mind.
Medical research has found evidence that tai chi and qigong are helpful for improving balance, psychological well being, and physical health and stamina.