What is Taoism?
Tai chi is rooted in Taoism. But what is Taoism?
Taoism is not a religion: there is no deity to worship and no belief in a supernatural power. It is more a philosophy, which is based on the observation of oneself in the Universe, and the interactions between the self and the Universe. For instance, if we consider the seasons, we realize they all have an effect on us. The goal is to be aware of the effects, without judging them, and to adapt to them. Taoism is a quest for harmony.
Understanding the general meaning of Taoist aspects, such as the Yin and the Yang, the Chi, the Five Elements (Wu Xing) and the I-Ching, will give you a good idea of what Taoism is all about. This article is not a dissertation on Taoism. It is a highly simplified view of the different components of Taoism, in order to shed some light on concepts that are often obscure.
Yin and Yang
Yin is black, it contracts and it absorbs light. When we pull a hand in, we are using yin energy. Yang is white, it expands and it reflects light. When we push a hand out, we are using yang energy. When our heart is beating, it continuously contracts (yin) and expands (yang).
Taoists believe that everything is made of energy, called Chi (or Qi, or Ki, or Prana, etc.) The dense or physical energy, of which humans, metal or plants are made, is more Yang. While the non-physical energy, such as magnetic fields and radio waves, is more Yin.
The Chi has to move constantly. When it is blocked, illness appears. Tai Chi gets the energy to flow, or helps release stagnant energy. There are three sources of chi:
- The chi we are born with: Tai Chi helps regulate it
- The chi we get from food: Tai Chi helps make better use of it
- The chi we get from the air: Tai Chi helps us breathe better
The Five Elements
The Water energy is related to rest, meditation and good sleep. Bad posture and fear may reveal a lack of Water energy.
Whether it is expressed through Yin and the Yang, the Chi, the five elements or the I-Ching, Taoism is always looking at harmony. So what is Taoism? As it is written in “The Tao of Pooh”, it's about how to stay happy and calm under all circumstances. Harmony!