Taoism is an ancient Chinese tradition that encompasses many different beliefs and philosophies. Taoist practices will vary depending upon the lineage or school, but there are some practices that tend to be universal. Health, vitality and living in accordance with nature are important Taoist tenants. Therefore, most Taoist practices work to develop and integrate these concepts.
T'ai Chi Ch'uan
T'ai Chi Ch'uan, also called T'ai Chi, is a popular Taoist martial art that combines the principles of yin and yang into a sequence of slow, flowing movements designed to stimulate and harmonize chi -- or life energy -- for health, vitality and self-defense. T'ai Chi practitioners use breath, awareness, balance and concentration to produce an internal mediation and achieve outward mobility and strength. There are many different styles of T'ai Chi Ch'uan, depending on the lineage or branch, including Yang, Chen, Sun, Wu and Wu Hao.
Qigong, sometimes written as chi kung, is an integrative practice of breathing excercises, body postures and/or visualizations designed to cultivate life energy and circulate it through the body. Qi, or chi, can be translated as "life force" and kung as "accomplishment or skill." The main goal of qigong practice is to improve and maintain health. However, other purposes include spiritual practice and martial arts training. For the Taoist practitioner, qigong supports the nourishment of mind, body and spirit.
Taoists employ several different methods of meditation. The simplest form, and the most similar to the Buddhist and Hindu traditions, is the inner alchemical meditation. The goal of this meditation is to calm and empty the mind and circulate chi. Like many other practices, Taoist meditation can incorporate mantras, such as repeating the word "om," or focusing on an object or a sound, or simply focusing on the breath. While meditating, you may sit cross legged, in a chair, lie down or even walk. A Taoist may also use visualization techniques in meditation. For example a practitioner may visualize anything from simple energy moving through the body to growing up from a small child to the current adult state. One particularly popular form of visualized mediation practiced and taught by Mantak Chia, includes smiling into your organs, digestive system and spine.
According to Maoshing Ni of the Taoist Wellness center, Taoists strive to live by the principles of harmony with nature and balance in everyday life. Diet plays and important role in achieving this goal. The Taoist diet is one of simplicity, focusing on whole foods that are easy digest. Avoiding chemicals and processed foods is also important. Although historically, some Taoists avoided eating grain, it is now considered a healthy part of a Taoist diet if eaten in moderation. Eating gently cooked, warm, seasonal whole foods help keep the body and mind in balance and harmony. Moderation is emphasized in the Taoist diet, however, there are foods that are typically avoided such as meats, especially red meats, dairy, citrus fruits and spicy or acidic foods.
- National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM): Tai Chi: An Introduction
- Foundations of Taoist Practice, by Jampa Mackenzie Stewart
- College of Tao: Tai Chi and Qigong
- The National Qigong Association: What is Qigong?
- Energy Arts: Taoist Meditation
- Life Events: Taoist Inner Smile Meditation
- The Tao of Nutrition, by Mao Shing Ni and Cathy McNease
- The Taoist Arts: Taoist Medicine and Diet
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