Buddhist qigong originated from India’s Hatha yoga and pranayama (breath and energy control) tradition over 4000 years ago. It travelled into China through two main sources. First, it came to the Shaolin Temple (home of kung fu) in central China, where it was taught to Buddhist monks to make their bodies strong enough to withstand prolonged meditation sessions and stay healthy. The second source of Buddhist qigong is the Tantric tradition of Tibet, from where it spread throughout western China and moved eastward.
Qi-gong is essentially about aligning breath with specific ways of moving and is described as both meditative cultivation and physical exercises. In combination it ends up addressing strength, flexibility and energy flow in the body at the muscular, skeletal and organ level. What makes Qi-gong suitable for everyone is its soft and gentle approach. All the movements and exercises are adaptable to whatever your needs are. To receive the enormous benefits from qi-gong will not take long after you have begun a regular practice. As little as a once a weekly class is sufficient to begin with. Obviously if you do more you will get even more benefit, but it needs to suit your life-style and routine.
Buddhist Tai Chi is built on the foundation of the qi-gong. Tai Chi is essentially the next step on from qi-gong, where postures are developed into a form of more complex movements in a way that harmonises mind, body and breath. Tai chi also drew on the martial arts of the time in the Southern Shaolin Temple where the form was developed. The from incorporates the pure crane style of martial arts which is famous in the south eastern China. The resulting form call Shuang Yang was used for cultivating the monks health as well as training in the martial abilities to defend themselves.
By co-ordinating the postures with the breath in slow movements develops both flow and ultimate control. This results in the practitioner reaching a deep understanding of movement along with the strength and flexibility. This deep understanding of how ones own body moves would also enable the practitioner to predict those of an adversary, should the need arrive, and give the practitioner and advantage in the situation.
From a health perspective performing the Qi-Gong and Tai Chi release tension (the result of stress) freeing up the body and mind to work together as one. The result of this a better physical conditioning of the whole body (organs, muscles, sinews, bones etc) and a calming of the mind enabling one to better handle any given situation in day to day life.