The Great Way is neither easy nor difficult
— Hsin Hsin Ming

Frequently Asked Questions

 

What is a class like? 

Qigong and Taijiquan classes at Embrace The Moon are interesting, traditional enough, but also very relaxed. There are no uniforms.  Etiquette protocol is as you would imagine: come to class on time, turn tech off, respect each other and the training environment (keep the floor, back room and bathroom clean when you use them), listen and practice, but there are few other formalities. There is no requirement to bow. You call your teachers by their first name. Classes are one hour; some are 75-90 minutes. The practices themselves are slow and non-impact. The set forms of movement and breathing are designed to align your physical body, help you to regulate your breathing, and assist in finding a calm and focused mental state. Some forms are quite still; others are more athletic. All classes provide you with very similar benefits: relaxation, energy, coordination, balance (mind & body), joint pain reduction/relief, strength, focus & enjoyment. There is no pressure to learn at a specific pace. In the midst of light hearted but authentic instruction, expect a grounded, unpretentious, rooted practice that avoids hyperbole in favor of guidance that is tailored toward breath, our bodies, and our times.

How do I begin? 

  • Read the descriptions of the Taijiquan and Qigong classes we offer. 
  • If you have no idea what to try, take the New Student introductory month for an overview.
  • You can also take a series of private lessons for collaborative, personalized instruction. 
  • All classes are suitable for beginners except those marked "intermediate."
  • Refer to the Master Schedule for the overview. Consider the times each is offered and don't force you schedule, pick the one that you will attend.  Refer to the Master Schedule for the overview.
  • All classes are suitable for beginners except those marked "intermediate." Go to the Instructors page to see our teachers' qualifications.
  • Read The School page for a sense of the Embrace The Moon community. 
  • If you have no idea what to try, take the New Student introductory month for an overview. You can also take a series of private lessons for collaborative, personalized instruction. Contact Kim Ivy at kim@embracethemoon.com or call (206) 789-0993 for further guidance.

What is Qi? (pronounced: chee)
Qi is energy. Energy is the fundamental life mechanism in all organic material. All life has Qi, including rocks, trees, and humans.

What is the dantien? (pronounced: don tea en)
The dantien is a Chinese term for specific regions of the body that store and produce energy. For example, the “lower dantien” is approximately 2-3” below the navel and includes all the internal organs in that region. The “middle dantien” is the sternum area and includes the heart/lungs. The “upper dantien” is in the center of the brain and includes all the brain funtions.  The dantien is not a point only but an entire region around the above references point locators.

I see Taijiquan and Qigong spelled many ways. What are the differences?
There are two translation systems of Chinese: Pin Yin and Wade Giles. And , then there are general omissions and errors that Westerners make to create a sense of familiarity that does not exist in the Chinese language, even when translated into our alphabet. We use Taijiquan and Qigong because they seem to be the most popular in our culture right now. 

Here are the common spellings of Taijiquan and Qigong that all mean the same thing: Taijiquan, T'ai Ch'i Ch'uan, Taiji, Tai Chi Qigong, Ch'i Kung, Chi Kung, Chi Gung, Chi Gong, Qi, Ch'i, Chi, Ki (Japanese)

The names are pronounced: Tie Chee "Chewhen" and Chee Kung (the K is swallowed a bit, almost like a "guh") When pronounced in Chinese Mandarin or Cantonese, the pronunciations have tones, but this is beyond our scope here. We use the spelling Taijiquan.

How do Taijiquan and Qigong work?
Taijiquan and Qigong work through relaxation, concentration and alignment. The movements, breathing, and focus are designed to give the body and the mind tools by which these three goals may be accomplished. Undoubtedly theThe key process of all is relaxation. If we are tense it is difficult to concentrate, and even more difficult to align our bodies with what we want to do. Think of a hose that is kinked up. When you turn on the faucet, there is a build up above the bend and nothing below the bend; an obvious imbalance that effects not only the flow of water within the hose but the output of water to the garden. The intent of watering the garden cannot be accomplished. With Taijiquan Tai Chi and Qigong practice, we learn to mentally and physically dissolve tension and enjoy relaxed movement . This learned skill helps us towhich in turn sharpens our focus and attunes our body alignment. The purpose of TaijiquanTai Chi and Qigong is for our qi (energy) and our blood to flow more clearly into all parts of our body. The outcome is a calming, stabilizing, nourishing and healing for all parts of the body, mind and emotions. Think again of the hose analogy. All you have to do is find, untangle and release the kink, and the water flows evenly to the garden!

What is the difference between Qigong and Taijiquan?
Qigong and Taijiquan are more similar than they are different. They move energy, strengthen the body and clear the mind. Whereas their choreography and feeling may differ, each is equally beneficial.

Dating back approximately 5000 years, Qigong is the process of intentionally gathering, moving and releasing energy. This is accomplished through mental focus, deep breathing and physical movement. Dating back approximately 5000 years, Qigong is considered a branch of Chinese Medicine along with Acupuncture, Massage and Herbs. There are many different forms of Qigong and the choreography of each varies widely. Some are very athletic, some completely still. Additionally, Qigong has recently adopted classifications such as Buddhist, Taoist, Martial, Medical and Confucian, yet its roots are undifferentiated. No matter which Qigong you practice, each will heal and strengthen your body and mind for greater overall vitality. 

Taijiquan dates back to the 1600s and is rooted in the martial arts.  It should be noted that even though Taijiquan comes to us from the martial arts, it is still based on all the principles of Qigong. 

In the end, Qigong and Tai Chi are more similar than they are different. They move energy, strengthen the body and clear the mind. Whereas their choreography and feeling may differ, each is equally beneficial.

I like the idea of Qigong. Which form that you offer do I take?
They will allAll forms result in the same health and mental benefits. 8 Treasures is a lovely beginner's form. Muscle Tendon Changing is simple with some great movement and stretching. The Hands of 18 Luohan is the most vigorous of all of the Qigong's we offer, much like a flow Yoga.

I like the idea of Taijiquan. Where do I start?
The best idea here is to start at the beginning! We have several beginning level classes and you can progress at your own pace. Taijiquan is an excellent way of learning to balance power and softness, to receive health benefits and to learn a lovely self-practice routine.

What is the difference between Yoga and Taijiquan/Qigong?
The most obvious difference between the two systems is how the physical forms look. Generally speaking (and there are always exceptions), there is  one will see more stretching in Yoga, holding postures for a time, and in most cases, breaks in-between the postures. Taijiquan and most Qigong forms use continuous choreography where one movement flows into the next.

Qigong and Yoga are probably the most aligned in terms of their intent. The roots of each of these systems are very old and each developed as methods to make the body a stronger place for meditation and spiritual development. Taijiquan is a newer practice for strength and development, and has its roots in the martial arts.

The terminology used for Yoga and Taijiquan/Qigong is different as well, in each because they originated in different parts of the world--different parts of the worldIndia or China, respectively. . (Yoga-India), (Taijiquan, Qigong –China). One Although one will hear much more about "prana" in Yoga and "qi" in Taijiquan/Qigong. , The the inner energetics of each system however isare extremely similar. Qigong and Yoga are probably the most aligned in terms of their intent. The roots of each of these systems are very old and each developed as methods to make the body a stronger place for meditation and spiritual development. TTaijiquanis a newer practice and whereas it is also a practice for strength and development, it has its roots in the martial arts.

When will I see benefits?
The benefits of practice are instantaneous. With the very first breath and movement, the nervous system begins to calm down. A person becomes more focused and starts to relax. Over time, the health benefits continue to grow and develop. When each person begins to perceive the benefits is individual. As with everything, patience and practice are the keys.

How long will it take for me to learn a form?
Generally one gains a sense of familiarity with the core basics of a form in about 4-6 months. Most Qigong forms can be learned in 3-6 months. A short Taijiquan form usually takes a couple months, longer forms, a year or so. It is important to remember that practicing is the key. These are health and meditative art forms that want to become integral to one's lifestyle.

How often should I practice?
Practice a little every day. Try 5 minutes. The most important thing is to practice with a sense of curiosity and playfulness. The harder you 'try' to learn the movements 'perfectly,' the more illusive they become. The key point is to integrate them into your lifestyle. There is a good story:

Question: "Master, how long will it take me to learn this form?
Answer: Three years.
Question: "How about if I practice twice as hard?"
Answer: Ten years.

What if I can't remember the form outside of class? What if I practice it wrong?
The key point to practice is to simply do one little thing over and over until it becomes part of your nervous system. The idea that you are going to practice wrong is erroneous! Practice is practice. There is no right or wrong – especially at the beginning. You are coming to class for form correction – over time, trust that this is true – you will learn and become more refined in your skills. Have fun in class,  and play with the information, and then try to integrate it into your daily life. Then, all of your movements will take on a "flow" quality.

Should I learn more than one form at a time?
This is something to discuss with your teacher and to be evaluated on an individual basis. It largely depends on one's prior experience, goals, time to dedicate to practice, and personality for learning. Generally speaking, it is useful to develop a basic understanding of a form or style, and then add to it. Some common and successful exceptions to this would be combining a Qigong form with a Taijiquan form. They are naturally complementary and learning one enhances the other.

Why not just get a video or book?
Sure, why not! There are some interesting ones out there. The main reason for having a teacher is that even with a mirror it is difficult to self-correct and understand proper alignment. It is useful to have the expertise of someone to help you feel the correct movement and energy flow that is inherent in the forms. And, even though these forms are gentle, they are still physically based forms, and practiced incorrectly, you can injure yourself.  There is also the benefit of working with fellow students, many of who are skilled practitioners and teachers in their own right, and seeing the various genders, ages and body types having the same intent and expressing the same material.  The key to classes is to observe, imprint what you can, and breathe, move, and focus.

But I feel like a fool in front of other people!
Yup, it's true most of us do at some point! It's all sense of humor training. And remember, no one is looking at you; they are too busy feeling the sensations in their own body. Unless of course you are teaching! Imagine how we feel!

What is this term 'energetics' I hear so much about?
The term energy or energetics as applied to Taijiquan and Qigong refers to a multi-layered concept originating in China several thousand years ago. The energy system in the body can be likened to an electrical grid. The central station is a region amidst of the lower dantien and the kidneys (about 2" below the navel; 'hara' in Japanese systems, first and second Chakra in the Indian systems) with various other stations formed by the internal organs. From these central stations different electrical "wires," known as meridians, run throughout the body to conduct ing positive (yang) and negative (yin) currents to the spine, limbs, appendages, brain, etc. There are a total of 18 meridians that begin forming at conception and finish connecting with each other around puberty.

The stations are originally filled with energy and the genetic qualities of the parents at the time of conception. This is referred to as "prenatal Qi" or "original life force." There is a set amount of prenatal Qi, and when it is gone, death occurs. However, during the course of one's life, one continually goes to various refueling stations: food, air, water, and exercise. This is referred to as "post-natal Qi." Depending on the quality of "fuel," life force can be plumped up or enhanced, and less of the limited prenatal Qi is used to sustain life, thereby lengthening one’s life. Certain types of exercise can also fill up our Qi reserves,

Taijiquan and Qigong are elegant refueling stations because they not only boost post-natal energy; they also heal deficiencies in pre-natal energy. The practices of Taijiquan and Qigong turn up the dimmer switch within the body. The result is a healthier, brighter, and more self-sustaining way of life!

I am an athlete. Aren't Taijiquan and Qigong for older people and those who are sick?
These these arts are indeed fantastic practices for elders and those with special health concerns. However, they are also excellent "cross-training" methods for those with already established practices. For athletes the style of movement integrates the calm fluidity and understanding of energy to create a great "flow state" in runners, weight lifters, kayakers, etc. as well as assisting in athletic injury rehabilitation! Most athletes love to keep moving during the healing process and this is a perfect way. Martial Artists enjoy the addition of a solo practice to their practices and often find strong commonality in the meaning of the movements. The physical nature of the practices strengthen the meditator's body or those with a desk job, allowing a more comfortable sitting experience. Yogini's enjoy developing an understanding of the Chinese "Qi flow" and the Chinese "dantien" approach into their stretching and the relevance to the Chakra system.

Are these religious practices?
No. However, people often find practicing Taijiquan and Qigong enhance their experience with Life and Spirit, however they perceive this.

What can your school offer me?
Our school can offer you a friendly, aesthetic environment in which to learn, and high skilled teachers to guide you. We focus on the structural, energetic and health aspects of the forms we teach , and engender a liveliness and humor to the learning environment. Because we have such a rich offering of curriculum and teachers, we can easily co-create the program that you want, whether it is for health, strength, martial arts skill, meditation, spiritual growth or a combination of all! We salute you if you are just a bit curious or deeply committed. We will support you in any way we can.

What is the demographic of your school?
Our youngest student is 5, our eldest is 85. The average age group is 40-75. We have a fairly equal balance of men and women. The fastest growing group is people in their 20s and 30's with next fastest growing group being fit athletes over over 75.

What are other people in your school looking to gain from these practices?
Over the past 10 years I have seen athere has been a significant shift in why people are starting these practices. These practices used to be seen primarily as a way to specifically improve one's health. Now, we see an overarching goal of "stress reduction " and "peace." Perhaps we are coming to understand that stress is one of the major causes of health problems. These practices have been in the news enough for people to feel comfortable with them as a part of their overall self-improvement and self-care regime.

What are the class sizes?
The classes range in size from 4 to 25, with the average size at any given time around 12-18. The practice space is about 1200 square feet, so there is plenty of room.

What should I expect in my first class?
You will be greeted by one of the teachers and welcomed onto the practice floor. You will be invited across the floor and into the office/conversation room to fill out brief paperwork for our database. You will be shown the bathroom, the tea area and an alternative entrance/exit door. At this point you will probably start to see other students arriving and chatting. Class starts pretty much on time with a few minutes of standing meditation. Then we begin with a basic lesson and go from there. The class time usually goes pretty fast! As with learning any new activity, you will probably be both excited and a little disoriented with the first class or two. This resolves quickly as you very soon relax and get to know a few other students. You will quickly find the fun that is inherent in these practices, and become skilled at releasing excess tension in your body. Soon you won't be in your first class anymore and may realize you have discovered a Way and a practice that will support you for the rest of your life!

New Student Special
The Chinese Sage Lao Tzu says, "Who ever became a good horseback rider by talking about a horse?" You just have to go for it. Try unlimited classes for $90. What do you have to loose? Spend a month and a few bucks, and see what all that you can gain.