Shalini Pathak interviewed Leslie Sims on 12/2/05 about Yoga and Qigong for her senior project. Shalini has taken classes from Leslie for the last 12+ years.
1) How long have you been practicing yoga?
2) What made you decide to devote your life to teaching it?
My teaching has been evolutionary. I have always been interested in how the body moves efficiently. Teaching yoga evolved from teaching swimming. I realized I could not get people to swim correctly if their bodies did not move correctly. Yoga provided a vehicle to teach people how to move correctly.
3) What about qigong?
My studies under any yoga teacher came to a dead end. Something was missing. Believe yoga has become fragmented. I continued to practice yoga on my own, and a friend introduced me to Larry Johnson, O.M.D., L.Ac.. Larry had 35 years of qigong practice when I met him in 1997. He asked me to describe my observations of yoga. He said my observations were correct. Here was a person who had studied for a long time and agreed with what I had observed and experienced with yoga. I felt I had come home. My qigong practice continues to develop under his guidance to this day.
4) What are the pros and cons of each? The similarities and differences?
Both systems use the regulation of body, breath and mind to create awareness and change perspectives. Both systems require a strong ethical foundation. Both systems direct the practitioner towards meditation. There are universal principles of correct body movement present in each system. Both are based on a medical system. Yoga is based on Ayurveda and Qigong is based on Chinese Medicine. Understanding both medical systems enhances the quality of healing the imbalances. Chinese Medicine seems easier form me to comprehend, but it could be that learning the first medical system was just more difficult and once you have a basal understanding the second is easy. I will never know. The only difference between the two systems on the physical level is in the execution of present day yoga postures. Qigong movements are in complete harmony with Lord Shiva. Present day yoga postures are not in accord with Lord Shiva and can be energetically imbalanced, a profound difference.
The statue of Lord Shiva, the deity of yogins par excellence is historical documentation that present day yoga postures may be energetically limiting. This is explained in Lord Shiva: The Power of Bent Arms and Legs. If present day yoga postures were done as Lord Shiva offers the two systems would be almost identical. Present day yoga postures are the interruption of one person, B.K.S. Iyengar. He printed the first book on yoga, which has become the way. All the postures are his personal interruption. He studied only 2 years under his teacher Krishnamacharya. These facts are documented in The Yoga Tradition of the Mysore Palace by N.E. Sjoman, Abhinav Publications 1996.
The training environment between yoga and qigong is different. Qigong requires nothing special, making it an anytime, anywhere training, more user friendly. Yoga requires you not to eat 1-2 hours before training and a mat with a clean environment.
5) Which of the two do you feel is helping you more physically? Mentally?
The more a student trains the more the student realizes that physical and mental are directly integrated. Our organs affect the way we think and what we think affects our organs. This is supported in What the Bleep Do We Know? DVD. Both systems developed in relatively close geographic proximity. Bodhidarma was an Indian tantra Buddhist yogi who traveled to China and became the founding father for all martial arts. This single fact makes it difficult to separate the two systems. By studying both systems the practitioner becomes aware that both systems guide the practitioner in the same direction. Both systems eventually become a training of the mind. Both yoga and qigong stimulate unlimited possibilities by connecting the practitioner to our life force, universal source. In yoga this energy is called prana; in qigong it is called chi. There is no easy way, no short cuts, training helps everyone, but not everyone is willing to train. Clarity comes from consistent training over a long time. I encourage all students to train both systems.
Hua Shan Taoist Chi is my primary training tool. This complete system (story) clarified my yoga training. Hua Shan Taoist Chi Kung combines both asana and pranayama techiniques in one practice. In Yoga, asana and pranayama practices are often done at separate times. I believe most, if not all, the principles presented in Taoist Chi Kung are present in hatha yoga, but I was unable to grasp in modern day yoga presentations.
6) Which of the two do you think is healthier for the human body in general, or does it vary?
It varies according to age and abilities. It is easier to start with qigong as the movements for correct action are easier to grasp. Yoga requires more physical agility in the beginning. Yoga is more fun for children and young adults. In the beginning the practitioner should follow whatever training keeps them consistently training.
Knowing how to do is not the same as doing. Ultimately both systems become a training of the mind, a healthy practice for the body.