FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQ’S)
We have tried to put down some of the questions that people frequently ask us along with our responses to those questions. If you do not find a suitable answer to your questions here, feel free to contact us directly.
Tai Chi Chuan or Tai Chi as it is popularly known, is a traditional Chinese exercise that seeks to enhance balance, body awareness, and overall well being through deep diaphragmatic breathing and relaxation with slow, gentle movements. These gentle movements involve positioning of the hands, legs, waist, and spine in a specific way so as to exercise all the muscles and joints of the body. The soft and gentle movements mean that the body is given a complete workout without the heavy impact of regular exercise.
Note: There are two broad ways in which Tai Chi is taught. One is the Public Tai Chi method which involves mostly the form movements and some basic breathing and meditation. The other is the Temple Tai Chi method of teaching that involves the Tai Chi form movements, Qi Gong breathing exercises and meditation practice. Also in the Temple form of instruction, all three aspects are taught simultaneously and are combined together making making ones practice more holistic. Sevangee teaches the Temple format.
Qi Gong (also spelt Qigong or Chi Kung and pronounced “Chee Gong”) is the art of harnessing Chi or energy from the universe and using that energy to revitalise oneself and replenish ones own store of internal energy. There are many different kinds of Qi Gong exercises many of which combine breathing exercises with physical movements. Practitioners of healing arts like Reiki and Pranik Healing will find many similarities with Qi Gong.
It consists of various exercises akin to pranayama in yoga. Because of the secrecy behind more advanced pranayama techniques, and the simultaneous opening up of Qi Gong to public study and research, Qi Gong and its application to the field of personal health have exceeded that of pranayama making it a much more effective tool for maintaining health and vitality.
Nei Gong (also spelt Neigong or Nei Kung) is the art of cultivating Chi or internal energy. Chi Cultivation theory says that every person has their own store of internal energy or vital energy or vital force. Chi Cultivation exercises help to build that store of internal energy. Picture the human body as a machine that requires a battery. Cultivation exercises would increase the power of the battery.
Chi Cultivation is practiced for health, vitality, martial training, mind expansion and spiritual cultivation. The origin of these exercises is traced back to ancient yogic practices. These practices moved out of what is now India to Tibet and then China gaining from rich Tibetan Buddhist Tantric practices and Chinese Taoist longevity practices. The Cultivation path is a tough one. But even though few are able to complete the arduous journey to the end, many are able to reap the benefits from the initial levels of training. These benefits themselves are tremendous when compared to any other single form of exercise or health system and have no known western parallel as far as self-development goes.
Common roots – Tai Chi Chuan is a Chinese exercise form but its energy work, breathing techniques and meditation practices have almost certainly been influenced by Indian Yogic exercises. Such practices were known to have been taken to China via Tibet through traveling Buddhist monks. The most famous of such monks was the legendary Bodhidharma who is said to have founded (or considerably influenced the founding of) the Shaolin form of Ch’an Buddhism (the Japanese name for which is ‘Zen Buddhism’). Legend has it that while meditating in a cave near the Shaolin temple, he is said to have formulated a set of exercises called 18 Lohan shu to keep the monks healthy as well as allow them to protect themselves from attacks by local bandits. These were the first internal martial arts exercises – a combination of breathing techniques and movements which became the precursor to today’s Energy Harnessing and Cultivation (Qi Gong, Nei Gong) and other Shaolin arts. After close study, we have seen the parallels in several Indian yogic breathing exercises.
Differences – While the origins are almost clearly from yoga, Tai Chi Chuan and related Chinese internal arts have seen much progress when compared to Yoga which has remained comparatively stagnant. From where Bodhidharma left off, countless Shaolin monks as well as Taoist monks have further modified and built on those initial exercises to create a large body of internal training. The structure of training also is very different. Practitioners of yoga usually first learn the asanas, then pranayama, then move to concentration, and so on, moving from one kind of practice to another. Tai Chi Chuan practice involves a combination of form movements (asanas), breathing and energy exercises (pranayama) and meditation (samadhi). The strength of the exercises increases as one progresses, but the practice remains organic, developing all aspects of the individual simultaneously.
You can practice both Yoga as well as Tai Chi, however, both are holistic exercise forms meant to achieve the same goals. They are sometimes considered to be parallel paths to a common destination and both require dedicated practice in order to achieve this. While initially you can go ahead and practice both, there will be a point in time where you yourself will realise that you can only follow one path.
The benefits of Tai Chi are not for any one particular age group but for anyone from the age of 18 and above. The exercises do not have a heavy impact but have the same effect as regular aerobic exercises, which makes it very popular among the elderly.
Can I continue working out at the gym if I start practicing Tai Chi?
Weight training and cardiovascular exercises (jogging, running, etc.) are heavy-impact exercises. Tai Chi is a good way to reduce the damage caused by such exercises. However, Tai Chi is so complete an exercise system that after a point the need for weight training and cardio exercises will not arise.
Is Tai Chi a Buddhist exercise form?
Tai Chi follows the combined philosophical traditions of Buddhism and Taoism (although the same concepts are mirrored in other great philosophical works like the Vedas), namely the concept of Change made up of the interplay of opposing forces (Yin and Yang). In simple terms, life is all about change caused by the constant effect of opposing forces or duality of nature – male and female, hard and soft, cold and hot, dark and light, and so on. Tai Chi is nothing but a system of training designed to teach you about Change by finding and maintaining harmony in the opposing forces. The Yin and Yang symbol (seen in the Sevangee logo) is originally a Taoist symbol that shows the unity of opposites and their constant flow or change.
Can Tai Chi cure Diabetes?
Tai Chi practice can definitely help keep Diabetes in check. A combination of a Tai Chi diet and regular practice will help keep your blood sugar levels where they should be and Diabetes related effects away.
Can Tai Chi cure arthritis/osteo-arthritis/osteoporosis?
Tai Chi is one of the few known exercises that can help keep the effect of arthritis/osteo-arthritis/osteoporosis to a minimum and in some cases even do away with it entirely. Results will vary slightly from person to person depending on the severity of the condition and the body type.
Combat Arthritis Through Tai ChiBy Christopher Fernandes Arthritis has plagued man from the beginning of time. Many of the most famous men and women of history have suffered the discomforts of arthritis. It is a chronic illness to which millions of people can testify throughout the world. It can be combated in many a ways; there is medication, which a physician will prescribe, depending on the state of condition. There are recommended rest periods, self-help devices to feel one comfortable, exercises, etc. Arthritis may start at early stages, with minor aches and pains, but left untreated or ignored it can lead to serious illness, with extreme pain and it may even lead to permanent deformities of the hands, wrists, knees, feet or hips. Without proper treatment, arthritis can become so severe that the sufferer may be bedridden for life or dependent on a wheel chair. Think what this would mean to a family, emotionally and economically.
What is Arthritis? The Western method of diagnoses is diseases-oriented. Whereas the eastern concept, such as the Indian and Chinese method, is more on balancing of internal energies, with the external energies i.e. the three bodily senses of humour. According to Western medicine arthritis is also known as inflammation of the joints, common in the middle-aged and old, and is a common complaint in temperate climates. It can be mild or severe, affecting one joint or several joints. There are many types of arthritis; some are affected during illness, e.g. German measles, Rheumatic fever, which is also associated with acute inflammation of the joints. The usual types of arthritis, however, is chronic arthritis and develops slowly, and may last for years. The most common forms are Osteo-arthritis, Rheumatoid-arthritis, Spondylitis, etc.
Osteo-arthritis is a disease, which results from the alteration in the structure of the cartilage of the two joints. When the cartilage caps on the bone ends begin to wear thin until finally there is no cartilage left and the bone ends bear directly onto one another. Then there is the considerable destruction of the bone, as the movements of joints, and also a thickening of the capsule of the synovial membrane that surrounds the joints wears it away. Hence, the cause of osteo-arthritis is the continual stress on the joints. People who are fitness freaks or who are excellent players in football, athletics, hockey, martial arts, etc. during the prime of youth, and for some reasons they cannot continue their training, they are most affected. Even people who are mostly on their feet especially struggles in life are the ones to bear the brunt of this disease when one’s struggles are over or one’s life takes a leisurely turn, then this diseases steps in. The symptoms can be from dull ache to excruciating pain especially while in motion. There may be the pain of a duller character when the joint is at rest. This pain is thought to result from the disorganisation of the way that the veins drain blood from the joint, when the body is in rest the pain may well be due to the joint being congested with blood. This disease causes stiffness. This is usually worse in the morning but tends to get better within a few minutes. The affected joints may also swell in some cases.
Rheumatoid Arthritis: This disease affects younger people, more often women. It starts in the small joints of the hands and wrists and may be associated with general ill health. The cause is uncertain although it may be due to altered response to an infection or it occurs when the defense mechanisms (the immune system) react to the presence of the initiating agent and try to eliminate it. This response causes an accumulation of inflamed cells within the synovial membrane that lines the synovial joints. Enzymes that are released from the inflamed cells lead to the breakdown of bone and cartilage within the joint, causing characteristic symptoms. Unless treatment is given fairly promptly, the joint will eventually become deformed. Usually, the stiffness that occurs in the joints is most pronounced first thing in the morning on rising, and it may last for varying lengths of time – from a few minutes to a few hours. This is often accompanied by a general feeling of malaise and tiredness which reflects the fact that the disease affects the whole body and is not confined to a particular area.
Spondylitis: it denotes any diseases which gives rise to inflammation of the joints between spinal vertebrae as well as the associated ligaments. The joints usually involved are those at the bottom of the spine, between the sacral vertebrae and the pelvic bones. This disease results from an abnormal response by the body’s defense or immune system. By which the inflammatory white blood cells get accumulated in the lining of the spinal joints. This leads to loss of mobility, and in severe cases, the spine may become rigid along its whole length so that one is not able to bend their backs at all. This process whereby the spinal joints become fused is known as ankylosis. The most common and earliest symptoms are aching and stiffness in the cervical and lower back region, which are most acute in the morning and wear off during the day. In some advanced cases, some may notice restriction of spinal movement and chest pain as the joints between the ribs and the thoracic vertebrae are involved. In addition, iritis – red, painful eyes – sometimes develops, and may recur. Prompt treatment is needed to prevent this eye damage.
The Chinese concept of Arthritis: In traditional Chinese medicine, arthritis and rheumatism come under one category – the “blockage syndrome”. The Chinese understanding of this range of afflictions is that at some point in the system, the flow of blood and energy is blocked, like a river that has silted up. Such a blockage can develop from a number of sources – old injuries that never properly healed, over-use of a particular joint or limb, or an inappropriate diet leading to poisons polluting the flow in the body. Too hot, too cold, or damp living conditions, or a diet that is unsuitable for the individual – all these factors can lead to a jamming of the flow, with its painful consequences. The Chinese physician’s prescription will depend on the answers to a number of questions. Does arthritis get worse with cold weather? Then perhaps it would benefit from a hotter diet. If things get worse in damp weather then it may well be that an accumulation of foods that produce dampness is part of the problem – i.e. sugary diet, and dairy products. Changing the diet to enhance the flow of blood and energy is often an important part of the healing process. As always with Chinese medicine there is no one answer for all conditions. Each person is a different individual and the problems and solutions require that the physician looks at each person in the context of his or her own lifestyle.
Herbal method: Quite often, arthritis pains can be provoked by an isolated exposure to excessively cold or damp conditions. A good first-aid treatment for pain in the hands or feet is a foot-bath or hand-bath to which add a large (golf-ball sized) lump of fresh ginger that has been chopped up small. Ginger warms and moves the body’s energy, and is very useful for clearing cold from the joints. If one feels that the cold has entered one’s bones then one can even take a bath with a couple of pints of hot ginger infusion added to the water (make the infusion by steeping the chopped ginger in hot water for a few minutes). In general, anything that helps to get the Chi flowing will be helpful for arthritis and rheumatism. Gentle progressive exercise and massage can also be very beneficial.
The aim of Tai Chi: is to have a well-balanced bone structure, the practice of Tai Chi can in some measure help the afflicted people to be able to stand better, walk better, move better, run better, etc. Hence, it will correct and help one to position oneself during acute stages, by which deformity will not develop. One may thus develop the free movement of the joints resulting in free motion and function, of the joints that were affected by this disease. Alternatively the joint which was unstable owing to the destruction of the ligaments will recuperate. Care should be taken while doing the exercises, that the joints should remain as mobile as possible and should not be exposed to chill and damp weather. Many practitioners of Tai Chi notice benefits in terms of correcting poor postural, alignment or movement patterns, which could have contributed to tension or injury. Keeping a part of, or the entire body in a stretched or relaxed state alternatively is a good means of conserving energy and a way of letting the workload be shared evenly by the different parts of the body.
There are 4 sets of exercises that are and an excellent way to combat arthritis. They are the Tai Chi Walk, Tai Chi Kick, Pushing the Kun Lun Mountain and Golden Rooster on one leg. Let us look at each of these exercises and their benefits:
Tai Chi Walk:
Stand with the feet apart, shoulder-width. Toes and heels curved inwards as though standing on a circle. Bend the knees till the knees are in line with the toes when looking from above. Do not bend beyond that or your knees will begin to pain. Straighten the spine from the tailbone till the 7th vertebrae (base of the neck). Pull the navel backwards and down towards the tailbone. This action will cause the lower back to straighten out completely. Pull the chest in slightly and feel the whole body sinking down to the Tan Tien region (3 inches below the navel and 3 inches inside). Pull the chin to the hollow of the throat but without tilting the head forward. This straightens out the neck muscles. Keep the shoulders at the side loosely. Do not drop them forward or pull them back and keep the arms relaxed. Now shift weight to the left leg and lift the right leg till the ankle reaches the knee and the thigh is parallel to the ground. Then gently place the right heel down in front and slowly shift weight onto the right leg till the knee is in line with the toes. Continue with the other leg. Do not allow the body to move up and down, and maintain the same height. Walk as slowly as possible. Try to coordinate your breath if you can, inhaling as you lift your leg and exhaling as you place it down.
Tai Chi Kick:
Pushing the Kun Lun Mountain: Shift the body weight towards the left side, with left leg in front followed by right leg. Bring both palms together at chest level, palm facing outward, as though one is ready to push something strong and firm, (fig. 1). Now transfer the body weight on the left leg, with 70% body weight, and 30% body weight on right leg and simultaneously push with both palms to the extreme left side from down and up, with palm facing outward, (fig. 2). After the push relax or recoil the body by transferring the body weight on right leg i.e. 70% weight on right leg and 30% weight on left leg. Simultaneously pull the hands from up and towards the chest. It looks the hand is forming an imaginary circle while pushing and recoiling the hands. Repeat these movements 18 times to the left side and then repeat the same movement to the right for another 18 times. Relax your body and stay calm, don’t strain or overexert yourself. Exhale while pushing the palm outward, and inhale while recoiling or bringing the palm towards the chest level. Relax the arms, shoulder, neck, back and leg muscles. Inhaling from nose and exhaling from nose.
The Golden Rooster stands on one leg: Transfer the body weight to the right leg, bring both palm from chest level (fig.3) to upward and downward as though one is trying to lift something heavy with his hands, palm facing the sky. Turn the body to the left side, when the palm comes down to the lowest level of scooping, lift the left toes up to right knee level and hold the position, simultaneously both palm will accompany the left leg. It looks as though both the palms are pulling up the left knee, and it is to the left waist level, (fig.4). Relax, place the left leg to the floor, while the palms turn inward and towards the left leg and goes down as though it is pressing down something. Turn the body towards the right side, while both the palms rises in front of chest level and then outward as though to scoop something, but simultaneously lift the right leg to left knee region, with palm facing the sky, and at right waist region. The movements are same as you did on the left side. Relax the body, don’t over exert or strain the leg or back muscles. Do it for 36 times, 18+18 to both sides. Inhale while lifting the leg; exhale while putting the leg down. Inhaling and exhaling from the nose.
Warning Note: The complications and dangers of the disorder relate largely to the joints. Through incorrect use and positioning during acute stages, deformities may develop leading to loss of use of the affected part. One may thus develop contractions of a joint resulting in limited movement and function. Alternatively the joint may become unstable owing to the destruction of the ligaments and this may result in its dislocation. The joints should remain as mobile as possible and, unless they are acutely inflamed and hot, exercise is vital. It could be said to be so essential that one’s future life and enjoyment depend on it. Normally 10 minutes a day should suffice. In the large joints such as the hip and knee there is a tendency for the joints to become bent and stiff; exercises aim to straighten these joints to the limit and maintain mobility. Avoid any exercise that will go beyond the barrier of pain. These exercises also help to cure arthritis and chronic hip, knee or ankle ailments. Some practitioners may get acute pain in the knee region or lower back region, check your posture before proceeding ahead. Simultaneously one will strengthen the lower back muscles, the thigh muscles, the calf muscles, and strengthen the knee joints. The slower one does this exercise, the better the result. This exercise helps to cure arthritis and chronic knee or ankle ailments.
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Can Tai Chi help cure heart conditions?
Tai Chi helps to regularise the body including the circulatory system. Several aspects of Tai Chi exercise deal with exercise of the internal organs like the heart, liver, kidneys, etc. They are designed to prevent disease of these vital organs and can definitely help in ridding the body of existing conditions. Although it must be noted that the severity of the condition will determine whether a certain level of relief is possible or a complete cure. As always, results depend on a variety of factors including the determination of the person practicing.
Can Tai Chi relieve back pain/ neck pain?
Tai Chi can easily tackle most spine related problems from neck to tail bone and everything in between. Basic Tai Chi postures help to align the spine in order to relieve pain particularly in the cervical and lumbar regions of the spine.
How long will it take for me to see results?
Tai Chi is a holistic art and deals with the root cause and not just the symptoms. Hence results will definitely not be quick. But with determined practice you are guaranteed to see results. Other factors include the current state of your mind and body.
How long will it take me to learn Tai Chi from Sevangee?
When you learn Tai Chi with Sevangee, it would take you approximately 3 months to cover the first level of Tai Chi training. Since Sevangee follows a more traditional training format, subsequent levels of training will not have such fixed time frames although they will be progressively longer and more demanding (both physically as well as mentally) with every level you begin. Higher levels are for the serious practitioner as they require a certain level of dedication with regard to self practice.
How long is the Sevangee basic/first level Tai Chi programme?
The basic level Tai Chi training programme that Sevangee conducts is 3 months long. This programme is sufficient to maintain good health and to take care of basic chronic ailments. Please note that this time frame is estimated keeping in mind that you are practicing regularly.
How regularly do I need to practice after I begin learning?
Traditional exercise forms like Tai Chi demanded dedicated daily practice and Sevangee encourages all its students to try and practice everyday. However we do understand the pressures of modern day life and a couple of days of practice skipped should not be a problem. But in the end, hard-work and determination are the only solutions.
Does Sevangee teach Tai Chi as a martial art, and how long would it take me?
Tai Chi is considered by many to be at the pinnacle of martial arts. The main aim of Tai Chi martial application is to use least amount of ones own energy to defeat ones opponent. Although at the core of its teaching, Tai Chi is not about winning or losing or offence and defense, but about balancing opposing forces by nullifying an opponent. This requires a great amount of skill in first understanding and having control over ones own body and internal energy and then by understanding ones opponent, reading his/her energy and then using the opponent’s energy against him/her. As you can see from this definition, a fair amount of practice is involved in order to reach this stage. Besides the regular practice you would also be taught partner-based practice like tui shou (push hands) and chi sao (sticking hands), lop sao (grabbing hands), followed by sparring and other combat practice. This path is not for the weak-willed and would take a minimum of 7 to 8 years of practice before one could actually use it in a real situation. In the olden days it took less time overall, but the time it took was wholly devoted to this practice. The greatest benefit of learning Tai Chi as a martial art is that there is not heavy impact training like that of hard-form martial arts (kung-fu, tae kwon do, karate, etc.) so the body is not being hardened from the outside using brute force, but steeled from the inside using internal energy.
Where and when do you conduct your classes?
Sevangee currently conducts Tai Chi classes in Mumbai at Andheri (East), Andheri (West) and Chembur. For more details, visit our training section.
The above locations are very far for me. Can you start a class in X location?
Lets us know where you stay and if there are more people who are interested in learning Tai Chi and we will see if we can start a class in your area. Click here to contact us.