'East' and 'West' have different approaches to exercise and how it relates to health. Another way to identify these two different approaches is to compare their origins:
'Eastern Exercise' - Traditional Chinese Medicine
'Western Exercise' - Modern Bio-medicine
To make the distinction we will compare modern exercise with Tai chi:
- Emphasis on Moving Qi/energy around the body - Conservation of energy and increasing energy levels - Body is integrated as an interconnected whole - Integration of body (tissues, muscles, organs), energy (energy channel systems) and spirit/mind - How to achieve this: The practitioner must develop energy sensitivity, clarity of mind and learn how to relax the muscles/body in order to promote energy flow. All of this provides the practitioner feedback on how to most efficiently utilise energy-exercises (such as Tai chi) to bring about a harmonious high energy state of balance and power.
With this method, the body takes on a natural and healthy shape and form derived from a state of balance. There is no 'template' for a what a healthy body looks like (such as what magazines, movies and advertising tries to tell us), the individual must find their own balance.
- Emphasis on building up of muscles and strength (this brings health benefits but creates and accumulates tensions in the body in the process and can also lead to imbalances is not used correctly) - Expenditure of energy (there are benefits in terms of increasing energy levels but this comes at a high cost to the body's resources) - Increase of bone density - Isolation of body parts and individual muscle groups - Focus on metabolic benefits and nervous system
Interestingly, Tai chi also achieves the same benefits as Modern Exercise (just via a different route). Tai chi's efficiency lies in the fact that it uses the internal energy system of the living organism directly - not by targeting muscles. This energy system (The meridians/channels) are the foundation of all life-activities of the body.