The #1 Mistake in Qigong, Tai Chi, and Meditation

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Do you practice qigong, tai chi, or meditation?

Terrific! I genuinely believe that these arts are the future of medicine.   You’re way ahead of the curve, which is awesome.  High five!

But you may not be getting the results that you deserve.  And that’s because you may be making a super-common mistake.  I see this mistake everywhere — even in my own students (who should know better).

This mistake is simple to fix.  Notice that I didn’t say that it’s easy to fix.  It’s not, which explains why my students still make this mistake even though I correct it over and over.

But it is a simple fix.

And it’s worth it.  Once you stop making this mistake, you’ll immediately start seeing better results.  Immediately.  Not 3 months later, and not even 3 days later, but immediately.

So what’s the #1 mistake that students make?

Here it is:

Students pay too much attention to the physical aspects of qigong, tai chi, and meditation.

When it comes to maximizing your results, there is a simple equation that will help:

  • The physical aspect is responsible for 10% of your results.
  • The breathing aspect is responsible for 30% of your results.
  • The meditation aspect is responsible for 60% of your results.

Let me explain.

The Physical Aspect

The physical movements or postures — whether we’re talking about a qigong exercise,  a tai chi pattern, or a meditation posture (sitting or standing) — are only responsible for 10% of your results.  In other words, even if your physical form is absolutely perfect, it only contributes to 10% of your overall results.

The Breathing Aspect

Your breathing — how you breathe, and what you feel when you breathe —  contributes to another 30% of your results.  In Chinese, the word qi means both energy and air.  And this word just about sums up what’s happening with the breathing aspect:  you’re breathing both energy and air.   If you practice this aspect perfectly, then it will contribute to 30% of your overall results.

The Meditation Aspect

The meditation aspect is the most confusing, probably because we typically try to understand it with our Monkey Mind.  But meditation uses the Zen Mind, which is totally different.  The Zen Mind is a meditative state where the Monkey Mind is relatively quiet, the brain waves are in the Theta state, and the nervous system is in the relaxed, parasympathetic state.  If you practice this well, then it will account for 60% of your overall results.

If you want to learn more about the Zen Mind, then I recommend that you check out the free audio in this article here.

But What About Alignment?!?

Some of you are undoubtedly confused by this 10/30/60 equation.  Perhaps you’ve been taught that proper alignment is critical in qigong.  Or maybe you’ve been taught that the foot must be placed “just so” in your tai chi form.

Alignment does matter.  If we’re talking about tai chi, which is ultimately a martial art, then the placement of the foot does make a difference when you’re blocking or delivering a punch.  In qigong and meditation, the alignment of the spine and the body also matters.

But when it comes to health and vitality, these things still only add up to 10% of your results.

I’ve taught people in wheelchairs, people with prosthetics, and people with partial paralysis. In all of these cases, the students got amazing results even though the physical movements and postures had to be adjusted.  In fact, many of them got better results, possibly because they naturally paid more attention to the breathing and the meditation aspects.

Mary The Butcher

Let me give you a real-life example.  In my introductory Flowing Zen 101 workshop, I teach an amazing qigong exercise called Lifting The Sky.  But I also teach this 10/30/60 equation, and encourage students to absolutely butcher the physical form.  I always see smiles of relief when I tell them this.  Students are thrilled at the idea of not having to get the form perfect.

During one of these workshops, I recognized Mary.  She had taken the workshop 6 months earlier, but was retaking it in order to review.

When I saw Mary performing Lifting The Sky, I actually snortled out loud.  It’s difficult to describe, but let me say this —  it was amazingly awful.  I mean bad.  Really bad.  It was about the worst performance of Lifting The Sky I’ve ever seen.

Physically, that is.

Most teachers would probably rush to correct her.  Maybe even chastise her.  But I did something different.

“Mary, you took this class 6 months ago, right?” I asked her during a break.

“Yes, Sifu.  And I’ve been practicing every day!” she responded.

“Wonderful!  How are your results?” I asked.

“Amazing!  My arthritis pain is almost completely gone, I’m sleeping like a baby, and I’ve got tons of energy!”

After hearing her answer, you think that I corrected Mary’s form?

The answer is a firm “no”.  I didn’t correct her.

Why not?

Mary was obviously doing something right.  She was getting good results. She was following the 3 Golden Rules.  And most importantly, she was practicing regularly.

If I had to score Mary’s qigong performance, it would look something like this.

  • 4 (of 10)  points for the physical aspect
  • 28 (of 30) points for the breathing aspect
  • 55 (of 60) points for the meditative aspect
  • 87 (of 100) points total

In my world, an 87 is solid B+, which is great! Mary’s form was weak, but her breathing was almost perfect, and she was doing a great job of following the 3 Golden Rules during the session. In other words, her overall qigong performance was excellent even though her form was abysmal.

Don’t Correct That Form!

What do you think would have happened if I had corrected her physical form?

If I could have simply corrected her form, and added 5 points to her overall performance, then I would of course do it.  But that’s virtually impossible to do.  Here’s why.

Adding points to the form aspect almost always involves taking points away from somewhere else.  Instead of relaxing, letting go of worries, and enjoying herself, Mary would have been worrying about getting the physical aspect of Lifting The Sky perfect.  As a result, the meditation aspect might drop by 20% or even 30%.

Once the meditative aspect drops, then the breathing aspect will also drop because the nervous system begins to tense up.

In other words — correcting the physical form often creates a cascade of negative effects.

The new equation, after correcting her form, might look something like this.

  • 9 (of 10)  points for the physical aspect
  • 19 (of 30) points for the breathing aspect
  • 33 (of 60) points for the meditative aspect
  • 61 (of 100) points total 

In this second equation, Mary scored a 61 with her qigong performance.  That’s a failing grade, folks.  The difference between a score of 87 and a score of 61, in terms of long-term results, is massive.  For students fighting a serious illness, this could literally be the difference between life and death.

Why Students Make This Mistake

Now that you know about this mistake, now that you understand the theory behind it, you’re good to go, right?


As I said, even my own students, who have heard all of this already, still make this mistake.  Why?

We live in a physically-oriented culture.  We perceive the world through our eyes.  We notice what looks good.

Qigong, tai chi, and meditation are what we call “internal arts”.  The 10/30/60 equation highlights the fact that, with internal arts, the most important stuff happens on the inside.  In other words, the important stuff would be invisible to someone who knows nothing about internal arts.

In America, we’re not familiar with internal arts.  We’re more used to external arts, where the important stuff happens on the outside.

Ultimately, the 10/30/60 rule is about focusing more on the internal aspects than the external aspects.  So even if you forget the equation, you can remember the lesson behind the equation.

Learning to pay more attention to the internal aspects is an ongoing process.  It’s about reconditioning yourself to a new way of thinking.   And this takes time.

This is why we have the 3 Golden Rules as a guide for practicing.  If you consistently come back to the 3 Golden Rules, over and over, then you’ll naturally be following the 10/30/60 equation because you’ll naturally be focusing on what’s important (i.e. what’s happening inside).

Try It Out

If you’re already practicing qigong, tai chi, meditation, or yoga, and if you’re new to the idea of this 10/30/60 equation, then I encourage you to give it a try for a few weeks.  Download my free audio so that you can get an idea what I mean by a Zen state of mind.  Then try to incorporate that concept into your practice.

Most importantly, try to let go of your worries about doing the form perfectly.  Even in yoga, where the form is obviously important — still try to focus more on the inside than the outside.  And see what happens.

If you’ve been practicing with a wildly different equation — for example, if you’ve been putting 60% of your attention into the physical aspect, 30% into the breathing aspect, and 10% into the meditation aspect — then you’re going to see an amazing jump in your results, and very quickly.

Let me know in the comments below how this equation works for you.  And if you have any questions, I’ll be happy to answer them.

Mindfully yours,
Sifu Anthony

I’m Anthony Korahais, and I used qigong to heal from clinical depression, low back pain, anxiety, and chronic fatigue. I’ve already taught thousands of people from all over the world to use qigong for their own stubborn health issues. I teach online courses, and also lead in-person retreats and workshops.

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15 Responses to The #1 Mistake in Qigong, Tai Chi, and Meditation

  1. Jacek Kaleta February 20, 2014 at 9:34 am #

    This puts things in the right perspective!

    I shared this article with my friends who practice Yoga.

    Thank you

  2. David Young February 27, 2014 at 12:37 am #

    I do believe I am one of those students whom have made the same mistake. When you first taught me Sifu, you also stated that I was not to concern myself with the proper Form at the start. . . After having practiced a bit placing more emphasis on Breathing, and a little investigation on how I was practicing in the past, I did reveal to myself that I was making a grave error not putting in as much effort on breath (Which would lead to a better Meditation/Chi kung state of mind) rather than the form.

    I can attest that I have received many benefits from Chi kung/Qi Gung pracitce, but looking at my Aims and Goals of where I wanted to be -versus- Where I should be, I think I am beginning to understand why. This article has brought to light something I was missing or just not listening too. Thank you for this wonderful article Sifu Anthony, I can now correct my mistake.

  3. Max March 3, 2014 at 3:00 am #

    Great Article! Thanks so much!

    what do you think about the suggestion I often heard, of using 70% of force when stretching lifting pushing and so on? Beside teachers who tell to ‘use no physical force’, there are others whose excercises have to be done with ‘maximum strength’. Is this Qigong, I wonder? Namely, applying strength I got no result whatsoever.


    • Sifu Anthony Korahais March 3, 2014 at 9:23 am #

      Hi Max. The “70% force” rule, as I understand it, applies to exerting force through a martial arts technique. So it doesn’t apply to qigong at all.

      I think that you might be misunderstanding the 10/30/60 equation. Let’s take a basic Tai Chi punch as an example. The 10/30/60 equation means that the physical form of the punch contributes to 10% of your results in terms of health and vitality. It doesn’t refer to results in terms of combat.

      But even in combat, many of the important factors are invisible, and thus not internal. Timing and distancing, for example — those are invisible, and thus internal skills. So for those factors, what happens on the inside is more important that what happens on the outside.

      As for “use no physical force”, that’s one of the Tai Chi principles. We want to use qi, not muscles. So that’s encouraging you to focus on the 30% rather than the 10%.

      Make sense?

  4. Max March 3, 2014 at 3:04 am #

    I would be very interested in your comment on how to apply these rules to zhan zhuang.


    • Sifu Anthony Korahais March 3, 2014 at 9:26 am #

      These rules apply perfectly to zhan zhuang (which I sometimes call warrior qigong in my classes). The form of your posture does, of course, matter. But it only matters 10%. If you have perfect posture, but neglect the meditation and breathing aspects, then your results will suffer.

      But if your form is slightly off, and you instead focus on the breathing and the meditation — then guess what? Your posture will actually fix itself! The zhan zhuang postures (there are countless variations) are all built on the smooth flow of qi. So if you are internally focusing on the smooth flow of qi, then the physical form will adjust itself naturally.

      • Max March 4, 2014 at 6:42 am #

        Thanks Sifu,
        since zhanzhuang is, according to my understanding, an excercise of mild withstanding [among other things], the 10 rule applies to how much unconfortable is the hands raising sensation?
        I mean, after a while the arms get uneasy. Should we go 10% off the easy zone?
        I’ve heard of a student who was compelled to keep the stance for 30 minutes the very first time. I once kept it for 10 minutes and it was obnoxious. Btw now the student is a teacher.

        Thanks again

        • Sifu Anthony Korahais March 4, 2014 at 9:46 am #

          Hi Max. I think there’s some confusion here. First of all, zhan zhuang is not really “an excercise of mild withstanding”, at least not how I teach it. Zhan zhuang is an energy exercise, not an endurance exercises.

          If your arms get tired during zhan zhuang, that’s going to interfere with ability to breathe well, and your ability to meditate well. So if you simply endure, if you “withstand” the pain in your arms, then you’re focusing on the 10%, rather than the 30% or 60%.

          Make sense?

  5. Ray Morneau August 10, 2016 at 5:35 am #

    Not my circus, not my monkey (mind) … WAIT! Yes, that’s it! On average, I practice 30 minutes each day … that leaves me with 23.5 hours of monkey mind time! Holy crap!!!
    Any guidance, Sifu, on how to extend the Zen halo to include more of my daily life as obviously there’s only 30 minutes of qigong / Tai Chi and 1,410 minutes of “other” daily stuff, like writing reports & driving & talking to clients & cooking …??? — I get the impression that’s where you and the Old Masters excel and toward which your students like me are striving.

    • Ray Morneau August 10, 2016 at 5:39 am #

      Forgive me, but …maybe you’ve already covered that in a different blog post or video or … and I just wasn’t paying attention???

    • Sifu Anthony Korahais August 10, 2016 at 8:46 am #

      Extending the “Zen halo” through the rest of our day is a big challenge, for all of us. One way to describe “enlightenment” would be to say that this extends through the entire day, every day.

      Hakuin, a famous Zen master, had several “enlightenments” or awakenings. Before his 4th awakening, he struggled to keep his “every minute zen”, which means he struggled with exactly what you are struggling with.

      I struggle too. All I can say is that it gets better and better.

  6. Howard November 14, 2016 at 1:03 am #

    Thank you very much, master, for bringing this to light.

  7. Len Dinkin November 17, 2016 at 12:40 pm #

    As my life has unfolded thus far, I have read, studied, praciced, and applied many lessons. Rarely have I found a more accessible message about wholeness, fullness, completeness, and the ways in which preconceived notions of “correct teaching” skew the message.
    Thank you, Sifu.
    So much more grist for the mill.
    Len Dinkin

  8. Stan Cohen November 17, 2016 at 12:50 pm #

    Agree or disagree. The more time you spend in the zen state of mind the more it becomes part of your normal state.

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