Eastern exercise disciplines, some of which originated thousands of years ago, have become increasingly popular in the West in the last few decades. Eastern disciplines, such as Yoga, Qigong, Tai Chi, Do-In and the martial arts, offer an alternative path to health.
In general, Eastern forms of exercise involve sequences of coordinated movements that use every part of the body and have the effect of promoting suppleness and strength. They also focus on concentration, breathing, posture and balance. Most forms can be performed by people of any age or degree of. Relatively unfit people can benefit from basic Yoga positions involving gentle stretches and breathing control. Tai Chi and Qigong are frequently practised by the elderly as well as the young in Asia and are believed to contribute to longevity. However, some martial arts, such as Tae Kwon Do and Karate, in which the individual uses techniques such as kicking and punching, demand greater fitness, agility and strength.
One of the elements that most distinguishes the Eastern disciplines is the ‘mindfulness’ and spiritual development that they encourage. This spiritual dimension is often closely connected with religious thought. The earliest records of the Indian discipline of Yoga, for example, are found in the Vedas, the collection of scriptures that form the basis of the Hindu religion, parts of which date from 2500 BCE. Yoga focuses on postures known as Asanas, breathing techniques and meditation to improveand release tension, allowing the mind to become clearer, calmer and more focused.
Basic exercises for Yoga, Qigong, Tai Chi and Do-In are included in this website because they are gentle exercises that can be tried at home. However, the best way to master all of the Eastern exercise disciplines is to attend a class where you will receive expert tuition. For example, a teacher will be able to demonstrate the importance of breathing and postural alignment to the correct performance of the movements.