The Differences Between Qigong vs. Tai Chi

September 2, 2022
The Differences Between Qigong vs Tai Chi


Qigong vs. Tai Chi: Differences and Which One Might Be Right for You

You’re wanting to learn more about Qigong and Tai Chi.

Are they the same? What’s the difference? Is one better than the other?

They are both mind-body practices, and there are other similarities between the two, but Qigong and Tai Chi are not the same.

This article will discuss:

• Qigong vs. Tai Chi
• The differences between them
• Which might be easier for beginners
• How Qigong and Tai Chi differ from Yoga

Keep reading to determine if Qigong or Tai Chi is the best choice for you.

Table of Contents

What Is Tai Chi?
What Is Qigong?
3 Key Differences Between Qigong vs. Tai Chi
Qigong vs. Tai Chi: Which Is Easier to Learn?
Qigong vs. Tai Chi: 3 Ways to Choose Which Is Better for You
How Does Yoga Fit In? Tai Chi vs. Qigong vs. Yoga
Body & Brain Yoga Tai Chi: Find a Tai Chi or Qigong Class Near You

What Is Tai Chi?

Tai Chi movements were originally developed for self-defense, but it has since evolved into a graceful exercise practice.

Tai Chi is a martial art that embraces the:

• Mind
• Body; and
• Spirit

Tai Chi forms are sequences of a system that consists of sequences of very slow, controlled movements.

Tai Chi forms are often used to:

• Help quiet mental chatter
• Help calm the mind
• Help reduce stress
• Help to slow down the busyness

The essential principles of Tai Chi are based on Tao philosophy. This philosophy stresses the natural balance of all things and believes everything is composed of two opposite but complementary elements. This is commonly referred to as “Yin and Yang.”

When most people hear the word “Tai Chi”, they envision specific exercises or forms. However, any practice that involves the movement of energy between Yin and Yang can be described as Tai Chi.

Even though there are different styles of Tai Chi movements, they all consist of slow, controlled motions and promote serenity through gentle and flowing movements.

The goal of Tai Chi is to achieve harmony between the inner and outer self. This comes from integrating mind and body, and most styles of Tai Chi provide this benefit.

Based on his extensive study of Korean martial arts traditions, Ilchi Lee developed the Tai Chi forms we use at Body & Brain Yoga Tai Chi. They are based on timeless principles of self-discipline and his time practicing and studying Taekwondo energy work.

We have three main Tai Chi forms:

• DahnMuDo
• DahnGong
• ChunBuShinGong

What Is Qigong?

Qigong (also spelled Kigong) is an energy training method based on ancient East Asian tradition. It promotes the health of the body and mind through the practices of concentration, movement, and breathing.

As with Tai Chi, the main purpose of Qigong is to not only train the mind and body but also to promote the flow of energy throughout the body.

Throughout East Asia, Qigong is traditionally viewed as cultivating and balancing Qi (i.e., the body’s energy). Along with balancing the Qi, Qigong stretches the body and builds awareness of how the body moves through space.

The practice of Qigong is based on the idea that Qi must flow adequately. If there’s a blockage, the Qi prevents other body parts from being nourished. If the Qi flows too quickly, it causes the internal organs to become energetically exhausted. Qigong practice balances these energies.

Qigong may help you to improve your spiritual and physical health, by incorporating techniques such as:

• Posture
• Movement
• Breathing
• Self-massage
• Sound
• Focused intent

Qigong consists of both external and internal practice Internal qigong focuses on cultivating and nurturing awareness and inner power; external qigong works the body system and develops muscular strength and flexibility.

The underlying principles of Qigong and Tai Chi are very similar, and practicing one can benefit your experience and understanding of the other.

3 Key Differences Between Qigong vs. Tai Chi

Qigong and Tai Chi are both ancient Asian practices

Because Tai Chi is usually used as shorthand when referring to a specific set of forms, we can say that Qigong refers to a broader set of exercises designed to help strengthen the body and support overall vitality. Strictly speaking, however, Tai Chi also refers to exercises that support the proper flow of energy between Yin and Yang states, so in this way, they are not different.

Both Qigong and Tai Chi utilize energy to help manage and strengthen one's physical health, emotional health, and spiritual health through disciplined movement and awareness. They have both been practiced for centuries and may look extremely similar to non-practitioners, but there are some differences. Let’s take a look at them now:

#1: Energy Focus

Energy (aka “Qi”) is an integral part of both Qigong and Tai Chi. Qi is the energy that makes you feel alive and vital.

Tai Chi focuses on developing a sense of energy through the study of forms. By focusing on improving posture and movement, you can naturally develop more of a feeling for the flow of energy.

Qigong may focus less on learning a sequence of forms, and more on the feeling of each motion. By focusing on the feeling of energy, you can naturally learn to improve your posture and movement.

#2: Movements

The nature of the movements can help you tell the difference between Tai Chi and Qigong. Tai Chi commonly refers to a specific sequence of movements and postures (forms) sometimes 7 steps or 24 steps, or even 108 steps.

The practice of Tai Chi forms usually involves the memorization of these steps above all else. Qigong, on the other hand, involves simpler movements, often repeated, rather than strung together in a long sequence. The emphasis is on awareness and feeling, and while some memorization may be required, that is not the primary focus.

Both Tai Chi and Qigong practices may lead to periods of free-flowing and improvised movement, but this is much more commonly a part of Qigong than Tai Chi.

Tai Chi is ...

• More focused on the specific postures; and
• Consists of 5 or 6 styles of movements

Qigong is ...

• Considered to be more straightforward with a lot of repetitions; and
• Consists of more free flow movements

#3: Complexity

Tai Chi is considered by some to be much more complex than Qigong. Depending on the style, it can take six months to a year to memorize a Tai Chi routine well enough to practice without a guide.

Tai Chi might be a good choice if you enjoy...

• Memorization
• Following a set sequence of moves
• Focusing on form
• Performing a routine

Because Tai Chi routines often involve specific postures that require a minimum level of balance, coordination, and flexibility, Qigong may be a better option for those with physical limitations.

However, at Body & Brain Yoga Tai Chi, our Tai Chi postures are designed more like a Qigong practice so that they work for anyone, regardless of:

• Age
• Ability
• Mobility
• Experience

Qigong vs. Tai Chi: Which Is Easier to Learn?

Qigong and Tai Chi both have health benefits. However, if you are questioning which one to begin with, Qigong is generally considered the more straightforward practice to learn.

This is because Qigong is…

• Easily modifiable for beginners
• May not require as much memorization at the beginning
• May help to develop basic body and energy awareness

Because of these facts, Qigong or a Tai Chi class that incorporates elements of Qigong can be a great choice for beginners.

Qigong vs. Tai Chi: 3 Ways to Choose Which Is Better for You

So how do you decide which is the best option for you?

Let’s take a look at some of the questions you might want to ask yourself.

#1: Your Goals

Both of these practices are designed to help relax the body and mind, but is this your only goal?

If you're looking for a profound sense of wellness and physical well-being without working to memorize a sequence of postures and movements, Qigong may be the better option for you.

If you are interested in a routine that you can memorize and perform, focusing on upgrading your form and posture over time, you may enjoy Tai Chi.

#2: Your Current Physical Ability

What is your current physical ability?

Although you can modify Tai Chi forms, there may be less wiggle room than with a Qigong routine. If you have physical limitations in strength, flexibility, or balance, Qigong may be better to start.

#3: Your Health

How is your health?

Both Qigong and Tai Chi are considered to be safe and effective practices for all ages. Both are great options for beginners, but due to the more specific postures required for Tai Chi, Qigong is sometimes considered to be more beginner-friendly.

Research has shown minor aches and pains may occur following Tai Chi, but severe injury is not likely to occur.

How Does Yoga Fit In? Tai Chi vs. Qigong vs. Yoga

Tai Chi, Qigong, and yoga are considered the most popular mind and body practices. All three incorporate meaningful breathing, intention, movement, and focus. Tai Chi, Qigong, and yoga are great systems for fine-tuning one’s body and mind connection and have many benefits.

Even though these three practices target the mind and body, there are differences between them. To determine what sets each of these practices apart, let’s take a closer look at what they consist of and what they target.

Tai Chi incorporates …

• Balance
• Circulation
• Breathing; and
• Stretching Techniques

… and is a sequence of graceful, purposeful movements.

Qigong consists of …

• A series of breath practices;
• Simple strength and stretching postures, and
• Flowing body movements

… and is practiced to cultivate the balance of vital energy in the body.

Yoga involves …

• A combination of muscular activity; and
• Mindful, directed focus on self, breath, and energy

… and integrates spiritual and physical components to improve health.

If your physical condition allows, there’s no reason to choose just one of these practices. All three can provide health and wellness benefits.

Body & Brain Yoga Tai Chi: Find a Tai Chi or Qigong Class Near You

For over 20 years, Body & Brain Yoga Tai Chi has offered yoga, Tai Chi, qigong, breathwork, and guided meditation in classes and workshops.

We aim to help you improve your:

• Emotional wellbeing
• Physical health; and
• Spiritual satisfaction

These three are not separate and are essential to overall health. At Body & Brain Yoga Tai Chi, we provide techniques and programs to help you care for all three.

Are you interested in learning more about Tai Chi or Qigong? Please contact us today!