Evolution & History
Written records of Yoga practices in Tibet date back to 700 AD and in India to 1500 AD. Initially practiced by men only, it was often taught in secret, passed on verbally from teacher to student. Its aims were to catalyse spiritual awakening, increase vitality (prana/chi) and enhance health. The yogis lived a simple, natural lifestyle – spending time with nature, breathing clean air, eating pure food. Their mode of transport was walking and they were very accomplished in their physical form.
Contemporary Yoga students find themselves living in a very different world. Modern human beings tend to live a sedentary lifestyle, are exposed to pollution, processed food and information overwhelm. Our reasons for practicing Yoga can be very different to yogis living hundreds of years ago. Yoga Chi Gung has developed out of a need to compliment our modern lifestyle; to move our body in a way that counter acts the imbalances created by a more artificial and stressful way of living.
Movement has been used though out the ages to promote healing, strength, flexibility and balance. In the orient, Energetic Exercises were developed to not only catalyse bodily health, but also to bring about mental clarity and revitalise the energy field that surrounds and permeates the physical body. It is this subtle energy field that martial art practitioners, Chi Gung masters and yogis have been attempting to influence for thousands of years.
Yogis, Taoists and ancient sages recognised that the human being is a microcosm of the macrocosm; a small version of the universe and that all the rhythms that occur in nature also occur in man. By studying the natural order they were able to intuit and experience how life manifests within the human being and this catalysed research in techniques to bring individual energies into harmony with the natural and cosmic forces. The sages discovered that they could reach a higher level of consciousness by perfecting their awareness as opposed to suppressing their lower drives and passions. When an individual is healthy, their vitality, creative ability and passions are all heightened. If these natural energies are suppressed or misdirected, the individual’s total potential is dramatically reduced.
Energetic or internal exercises like Chi Gung, Yoga and Tai Chi Chuan evolved as a way to cultivate self-harmony and are the foundation that external arts like Kung Fu and Karate evolved from. External arts rely on ‘Muscle power’ while the internal arts rely on the cultivation of chi and the development of inner intelligence. Practicing naturally develops an understanding of how life in the natural world manifests and the practitioner discovers that harmony is achieved by moving with the natural and cosmic energies, rather than attempting to control or overcome them.
HOW YOGA CHI GUNG EVOLVED
Between 1974 and 1995 Grant Woolven studied and practised various systems of Yoga, Chi Gung, Tai Chi Chuan and Internal Martial Arts. This included research into the principles of the Feldenkrais Method, Pilates, The Alexander Technique, Neuroscience and Neurotheology, which mapped how altered states of consciousness affected the brain. This culminated in the creation of Yoga Chi Gung.
In comparing the Chi Gung systems that evolved in China with modern Yoga, Tai Chi Chuan teacher Beverley Milne writes in her book, “T’ai Chi: Spirit and Essence”:-
It should be recognised that T'ai Chi Chuan (a moving Chi Gung) is of a very different order to Hatha Yoga. Hatha Yoga is a branch of
a greater discipline, and as a living, fluid form is still evolving in the hands of the dedicated. The quiet, fluid movements, subtlety,
roundness and 'Emptiness' of T'ai Chi have had a valuable impact upon Hatha Yoga in the hands of enlightened Western world Yoga