What is Holistic Movement Meditation

Tai Chi & Qi Gong

What is Meditative Movement?

Meditative Movement can be described as moving meditations, where we’re consciously breathing and directing our bodies in rhythm with our mind and spirit.  Meditative Movements are an ancient and powerful method of prayer in cultures around the world.  

One example of meditation in motion is the Native American powwow.  The heart-beat rhythm of the drum calls to the dancers, and the participants stomp, weave and turn in perfect rhythm to the same traditional songs their ancestors did.

This timeless gathering of Native Americans is not a “dance” – rather it’s prayer in motion, a moving meditation to celebrate the Earth and express gratitude to the Creator for their many blessings.

Another example of moving meditation as a spiritual observance is the Sufi Whirling Dervish dance, started by devotees of the Persian poet and theologian Rumi.

The ancient practices of yoga, Tai Chi and Qi Gong are all about specific stretches and moves to circulate Chi throughout the body, and mindful breathing to align body, mind and spirit in a meditative state.  (image from wikipedia)

Holistic Meditative Movement

The ancient practices of yoga, Tai Chi and Qi Gong are all about specific stretches and moves to circulate Chi throughout the body, and mindful breathing to align body, mind and spirit in a meditative state.

Characteristics of Holistic Meditative Movement

The essential characteristics of Meditative Movement are: 

  • Meditative State of Mine involving a focus of awareness on the body
    • Mind means awareness,  not conceptual thought, with Meditative Movement. The mind is focused on direct bodily experience. This is the principal defining characteristic of MM.  The movements are deliberate, slow and flowing. The awareness is on the sensations of the whole body moving through space; the flow of breath and blood; the experience of balance, orientation, and posture and the felt sense of space.   This way of using the attention is similar to that used in Meditative Yoga; but Meditative Movement often involves additional specific mental techniques and movement.


  • Movement-a form of scripted (or sometimes spontaneous) movement
    • Meditative movement may use either prescribed movement (where the required motion is specific and must be learned and practiced) or spontaneous free-form movement (where the practitioner allows their body to move spontaneously on its own). In some cases, the movement used may be extremely subtle, to the point of being invisible.  In order to move the Qi (cause certain sensations in the body), physical movement is useful but not necessary.  A practitioner may begin by making a large and obvious motion, then make it smaller and smaller until it is imperceptible. In this process the sensations become progressively more intense.  A common saying in Qigong is, “Small movement is better than large movement; no movement is better than small movement”.  In traditional Qigong practice, quiescent seated meditation is considered to be a part of Qigong, as is quiet standing. Although the distinction between “static” and “moving” practice is acknowledged, it is not a major distinction; in traditional Qigong, they were usually practiced together, with each supporting the other.


  • Breathing-specific and directed attention to breath and  breathing
    • Awareness and control of the breath are central in Meditative Movement.  In Chinese and in many other languages, the same word can refer to both “breath” and “life energy.” “Attending to or moving the Qi” can refer either to the physical breathing, or to certain bodily, emotional, or spatial sensations. Various breathing practices are said to enable emotional release, to calm the mind, or to enhance physical power.  A central practice in most forms of Qigong is to pass the awareness through the body in synchrony with the breathing rhythm.  Depending on the desired result, the breath may be slow or fast, felt in various parts of the body, imagined as having different qualities (such as warmth or coolness), or held for various lengths of time.  In Meditative Movement, the breath is described as a bridge between unconscious and conscious functions, a way for the conscious mind to influence the unconsciously controlled functions of the autonomic nervous system. 


  • Deep state of relaxation (balanced tone)
    • The Chinese word for relax usually translated as “song” (soong); a state of completely balanced tone, “eutonis”, in which every muscle is doing exactly what it should. This state is experienced as light, free, open, and effortless; but at the same time stable, powerful, and well-rooted.  Tension is a state of hypertonus, slackness a state of hypo-tonus, and the outcome of successful Meditative Movement practice is a state of eutonis. 


What Are Tai Chi &  Qi Gong?

Tai Chi and Qi Gong are mind-body practices, described by many as Movement Meditation.   Cate Morrill, CTCI, a Tai Chi and Qi Gong instructor at Cancer Wellness, discusses the difference between Tai Chi and Qi Gong:

“What is Tai Chi?”

“Tai Chi is a system of exercise and movement developed long ago as a martial or training art that is now widely used for health and wellness.  It can be practiced by almost anyone and in almost any situation.

“Often known as “moving meditation,” Tai Chi is a series of slow, gentle motions that are patterned after movements in nature.  Most of the work is performed while standing and taking small steps, though it can be modified for seated practitioners as well.

“Through continued and dedicated practice, Tai Chi offers many health benefits to the body, mind and spirit.  In many cases, participants will see benefits after just a few lessons or classes.”

“What is Qi Gong?”

“Pronounced “chi gong,” Qi Gong is an internal process that has external movements. Qi means “life force,” the energy that powers our body and spirit. Gong is the term meaning work or gathering.   Qi Gong together means a form of movement and mind using intention and mindfulness to guide qi to make qi work.

“Qi gong is often referred to as the ‘internal’ portion of Tai Chi.  Its physical expression is characterized by stationary movements that are repeated a certain number of times, such as three, six or nine times.

“Qi, then, is the type of energy that makes us feel alive and helps us experience emotions.  Traditional Qi Gong theory says that we can focus on a feeling, emotion, part of the body, concept or goal and that our qi, or energy, goes where our mind sends it.

“Practicing the same move over and over stimulates muscle, bone, heart, respiration and other functions in the body as shown through Qi Gong theory.”

“What is the difference between Tai Chi and Qi Gong?”

“Qi gong can be thought of as a movement you do for a certain situation, as opposed to tai chi form, which is a series of movements that work on the entire body in a flowing sequence.  For example, Qi Gong can be one move that helps open the lungs. The practitioner will repeat that specific move until he or she has felt the benefit begin to emerge.”

Tai chi classes always include the concepts and theories, and usually movements of Qi Gong, but a Qi Gong practice won’t necessarily include Tai Chi.   Morrill uses this analogy to explain the difference between the two practices:

“Think of a weightlifter who focuses on building his or her biceps with biceps curls.  The weightlifter repeats those curls to build the muscle, focusing on that muscle only. In the same way, Qi Gong focuses on a particular issue in the mind, body or spirit.  Tai chi, on the other hand, has more similarities to a full-body weightlifting routine.”

Source:  https://www.piedmont.org/living-better/the-difference-between-tai-chi-and-qi-gong

What are the Health Benefits of Meditative Movement?

Tai Chi and Qi Gong meditative movement practices are often a part of  holistic health and wellness practices.  These ancient Chinese techniques combine low impact, slow, deliberate movements with meditation and breathing to increase circulation, improve balance and restore energy.  

Both Qi Gong and Tai Chi are excellent fitness activities for beginners and people with physical and mental health conditions, including recovery from substance use disorders.   The movements, or postures, can be practiced with groups, indoors or out, and on your own.   It is suitable for all ages.  Because the movements of Qi Gong and Tai Chi are flowing, the exercises are low impact with little stress put on joints and muscles.  

The movements, or postures, include your core, arms, legs, back and glutes.  Practice with the movements will increase flexibility, strength and balance.  Classes for all levels can be found on Youtube and the internet; also, links are included below for additional information.  DVDs are also available.   








Steve Washington's "The Power of Belief" Real Story of Recovery

See Steve Washington’s YouTube video here

Discover More About Qi Gong

Qigong: The National Qigong Association Link

Discover More About Tai Chi Here

The Tai Chi for Health Institute link

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