I first started teaching tai chi & qigong in about 1990. Back then, not so many people knew what tai chi was, and even fewer knew anything about qigong.
However, about 3 years after I started teaching, tai chi went through a massive upsurge in popularity, and suddenly, after having beginners classes with only 5-8 beginners, I suddenly had classes with 20 or more beginners. In fact there was one term when I had 40 beginners and had to rent the theatre at RADA Studios for the ‘trial’ class before splitting into 2 groups! But the fashion in exercise constantly moves, and after 2 or 3 years of packed classes, all of a sudden the fashion had moved on to something else.
I found this hard to understand at first; it is such a brilliantly designed form of exercise.
Yoga has always been in the limelight, but we have seen the fashion spotlight focusing on Zumba, Pilates, Military Fitness, and it’s just moving to Ballet Barre workout. Osteopaths I have spoken to are keen on these other forms of fitness, purely for cynical reasons; the exercise brings them a lot of business. Often the teachers don’t appear to be very well trained ….. it’s a fashion, so there isn’t time to get any deep understanding, and, generally in the West, our culture encourages impatience and fast results. Therefore, the students are allowed to overdo it, pulling and straining muscles, overworking body parts that were quite content being dormant before being nudged to wake up a little too abruptly.
I must admit that it surprised me when I heard this about Pilates; obviously there are well-trained teachers out there, but I suppose that it’s not a lot different to someone taking a term’s tai chi lessons and then setting up their own class. It happens, unfortunately, and the beginner doesn’t know any better.
Maybe the instant result package works for some, but it always strikes me that it’s a bit like brushing your teeth, or some other mundane daily task, where all you want is a result and the actual process is a bit irrelevant, and perhaps something to be endured. No wonder people don’t stick to it; working for an end result means not enjoying the journey.
However, in spite of Ballet Barre workout, I have noticed that the wind has changed direction slightly, and tai chi is just beginning to catch the breeze again. Even the medical profession is referring patients to take up tai chi. I am now getting several students every term who have been told by their doctors specifically to take up tai chi. The Western medical profession is beginning, at last, to catch up with the Chinese medical profession and realise how astonishingly good, how amazingly versatile, how incredibly adaptable this exercise is.
So what about qigong? The majority haven’t caught up with this yet, and the Western medical profession still seems to know little about it. I find this slightly odd, because surely the medical profession is aware of what goes on within the Chinese medical profession, where Western medicine, acupuncture, massage therapy, and qigong are used alongside each other, each supporting the other. Qigong is taking its time, although I think that eventually, not so long from now, it will find a place that is on a par with yoga.