Alignment, Tai Chi and alleviating chronic pain

What is your goal for exercise? I reach for the benefits of longevity and quality of life. This is how I visualize taijiquan.

Most people drive their bodies too hard (like an animal of burden), wearing themselves down. As we age and injuries add up, we end up with chronic pain. So many of us waste energy in movement which could easily be avoided with correct training. … Or retraining, because we all knew this when we were infants.

Often, if we are more observant with our bodies, we will move differently in order to alleviate discomfort. Tai chi is an excellent practice to relieve tension because it shows you things about moving differently. By shifting weight, spiraling bone, intending outward from the center, and other things. We forgot what came natural to us in the first months of our lives. As infants we all moved naturally, before we learned to move incorrectly, for reasons we have never examined. Probably not long after we learned to walk, even as a result of learning to walk. Tai chi offers a chance to return to the days in our lives when we moved naturally.

For a taiji practitioner adjusting the body to alleviate and even eradicate, for example, arthritic pain, can be simply a matter of alignment. The Chinese taiji masters use the term “zhong ding” to refer to the concept of alignment, which a basic concept with profound applications. More than mechanical or biomechanical, alignment can also be related to qi or intrinsic energy. It is “equilibrium,” a three-dimensional rather than linear concept. It is active movement that is effortless. As my teacher Master George Xu says, you aim for maximum movement with minimum effort in your tai chi practice.

Energy flows and motion occurs where the attention is placed as we observe the results of motion through our bodies and beyond in ever-more new ways and places and configurations. We experience the world with the body, not our thoughts and observations that we process with our intellect. Out senses are conduits of the experience.

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