Tai Chi & Qi Gong Basics with Matthew Cohen contains two complete workouts, one featuring the ancient martial art of Tai Chi, and the other, Qi Gong, a healing art centered around breathing, meditation and exercise.
Instructor Matthew Cohen has over 30 years experience in the fields of of martial arts, yoga and healing. The DVD has a nice bio and Q&A section where Cohen talks about the history of Tai Chi and Qi Gong and his own introduction to both practices. He was a big fan of the David Carradine television show Kung Fu as a kid, and started taking classes and becoming proficient in martial arts. After an automobile accident, a friend suggested Tai Chi as rehabilitation therapy and he got hooked.
Cohen presents the Tai Chi (literally, supreme ultimate fist) moves in a very laid-back manner. He repeats the moves a few times, so even the more intricate foot and body positions seem attainable. And of course you can always skip back a step or freeze-frame if you’re not sure about your foot positioning. But that really doesn’t seem necessary, as he stresses that Tai Chi is a practice, so if you don’t get it or bend as deeply the first time, you can try it on the next round.
The Tai Chi workout, set in a studio, runs about 30 minutes, with three workouts, plus a warm-up and cool-down. In the first workout he introduces basic standing postures (some beautifully named), including white crane spreads wings, golden rooster stands on one leg, play the pipa (guitar), ward off, deflect downward, snake creeping through the grass. The second workout is a slow practice run-through of each pose, and a fluid and choreographed version of all the poses together forms the third workout. Cohen works through all the postures, with his instructions as voiceover, which adds to the overall calmness of the presentation.
Tai Chi may be a slow and deliberate practice, but it is still a workout, as I was definitely feeling the burn in my legs and had worked up a sweat by the time we reached the cool-down. As Cohen reminds us, after you master the poses, you can speed them up or deepen the stretches to suit your own workout needs.
The Qi Gong (literally, life-force cultivation) workout runs about 40 minutes, and according to the DVD also appeared on Cohen’s other workout DVD, Qi Gong, Fire and Water. It is staged in the very picturesque setting of Alabama Hills, part of the Sierra Nevada mountains, and consists of many standing poses, including the aptly named water pulses, moon circles, and elephant shakes his trunk. It also includes some standing meditation poses (which may be an intense workout, depending on how long you hold the position), and a seated meditation pose. Qi Gong is definitely a more interior, meditative practice, but Cohen points out that many of its water-related movements would be perfect practiced in water. I haven’t yet, but I’d like to try some of these poses out in a pool.
I like the idea of combining the two practices on one workout DVD. If you’re feeling more meditative, maybe one day you’d only choose to practice Qi Gong. On another day you might want to concentrate on perfecting your Tai Chi positions. Or maybe you want a longer workout and combine the two, with Qi Gong being an extended cool down. It’s also possible, once you had some of the positions down, to combine a few from each practice. All the moves seem fine for any age.
Extras include two yoga-related clips from other DVDs, the most interesting an extended excerpt from Yin and Yang Yoga, with quite a few spine-stretching poses. Tai Chi & Qi Gong Basics with Matthew Cohen seems a timely release, as coming in a few weeks on April 30, 2011, World Tai Chi & Qigong Day, “At 10 am, tens of thousands in hundreds of cities, in over 70 nations will come together … to breathe together … to provide the world a healing image of our planet and our people.” You might want to pop in this DVD and get in a little practice in preparation for the event, or just to balance your mind and body.