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Tai Chi/Qigong(Chi Kung) and Yoga

What a Tai Chi Teacher Learned from a Yoga Teacher

by Susan Lowell , ATCQA Certified Tai Chi Instructor (Level III)

For the last couple of years, I have been "going" to England on a monthly basis by participating in Yoga teacher Joanne Avison's Fascia Talkshow webinar series offered by Bodywork Professional Development CPD in the UK. Of course I continue my usual studies with Qi Gong and Tai Chi teachers, but for keeping track of the leading edge in the science of human movement, the BPD Fascia Talkshow webinars have become one of the pillars of my continuing education.

Traditional reductionist theories of biomechanics which model our bodies as machinery are being challenged by a new wave of theorists who are looking at research which reveals a structural continuum of the fascia as part of a hierarchy of tensegrity architecture (biotensegrity) in the body. Medical understanding of the role of the fascia (gossamer thread-like collagenous ground structure) has been burgeoning over the last decade. The first International Fascia Research Congress (IFRC) was not even held until 2007, when 650 scientists, physicians and sport, health and wellness professionals from 28 countries gathered at Harvard Medical School to share and expand their understanding of the fascia. The fourth IFRC will be held in the Washington DC area next year. 

Although Bodywork Professional Development CPD gears its offerings primarily to the massage and manual therapy community, the body wisdom the Fasica Talkshow webinars impart go far beyond such bounds. As teachers certified through the American Tai Chi and Qi Gong Association, we have the latitude to include unconventional adjunct continuing education work as part of our training hours for certification and recertification.

For me, this has meant following Avison's tours of the latest perspectives on human structure and movement, including Tom Myers' "Anatomy Trains" (myofascial meridians), Stephen Levin's theory of biotensegrity, and Robert Schleip's Fascial Fitness work. Avison herself is no slouch: she is co-founder and director of the Art of Contemporary Yoga Teacher Training School, a Structural Integration practitioner, a Fascial Fitness teacher and a Cranio-sacral therapist. Her book, "Yoga: Fascia, Anatomy and Movement," (coming out soon from Handspring publishing) integrates the fresh perspectives of her webinar series with her work as a yoga teacher.(interview here:

As a Tai Chi teacher, I'm left to imagine how I might integrate the new with the old: recent scientific research with these ancient arts of Tai Chi and Qi gong. But then again, balancing Yin and Yang is at the heart of what we do! And, learning about the fascial web which constitutes the continuum of our bodies (and which is load bearing, communicative, force distributing and highly energy efficient) recalls the wisdom of the Tai Chi classics: "the body as one unit.. with all parts of the body linked as if threaded together."

What can a Tai Chi teacher learn from a yoga teacher? Plenty! I'd be very interested in learning about how other ATCQA members improve their understanding of movement and the body. What unusual territories do you explore in order to hone your skills as a tai chi teacher?

Related links & resources:


Tai Chi and Qigong Basic
Superme Chi Living


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