12 Key Exercises for Brain Health

How to use movement to activate the brain. Once you activate the brain “it
likes it!” there are five ways to activate the brain. Shifu Matthews talks about this and more in this brief video clip from her youtbue channel.


What are you good at in tai chi?

With enough tai chi practice each practitioner discovers that we have an affinity for a particular skill or technique or style. We discover what we are really good at. Some of us are good at being heavy, some at being light, or fast, or big, or little and so on. In China some people are even given nicknames for what distinguishes them and they are known for that particular ability. This affinity evolves naturally from practice and once you discover it your practice will grow. It could take years.

A Simple Tai Chi BreathingTechnique

Eight Pieces of Brocade drawing
Separate Heaven and Earth posture from a Qing Dynasty text

Visualize breathing from various locations in the body. For example, as the body moves, imagine inhaling and exhaling through the lower back as though through nostrils. Breathe into and out of the joints, the solar plexus, the soles of the feet and top of the head, the back of the neck. See how it changes how your body moves. The central equilibrium gravity dantian open close left right front back big little. You don’t have to practice tai chi to try this. Anyone can incorporate this simple tai chi breathing technique anytime during the day. It relaxes and teaches the body, plus it improves circulation, getting life-giving oxygen and nutrients into the blood stream. (…more about me)

Six common mistakes tai chi practitioners make

Image of susan matthews and george xu
Susan Matthews and George Xu testing internal principles.

One…they don’t learn to connect single basics to form. Teachers say that before you do form you should learn and practice the basic moves. This is key for internalizing the principles of taiji. I practice standing and walking drills which are repetitive and rhythmic. This is better for many, because many try to memorize the form sequences of moves without learning the internal understanding.

Two…they use muscle. They must become conscious of the possibility of moving differently. Go deeper and focus attention on moving from bones, ligaments, tendons, for example. Or go directly to moving with energy; i.e., qi. This refers not only to a new way of moving, but aslo to a different way fo perceiving.

Three…they don’t incorporate mind intention; i.e., yi. Speaking of a new way of perceiving, taiji is a mental practice as much or more than a physical. Develop intent to achieve a specific goal and maintain it. I practice visualization which can help to build a strong connection between mind, energy, and body.

Four…they give up. They think they need to do so much all at once. They should see learning in small pieces and as an incremental stepwise process. This is where learning single basics comes in. Learn to do one thing well before moving on to the next and you won’t have to worry about doing 100 things poorly. As the Taoist proverb says: “The journey is the destination.”

Five…they move on to next move before the current one is completely executed. This is a slightly different perspective of number four, but it merits repeating, because it is so important. Don’t rush. Beginners could coordinate breath with the moves if that works, but it is not necessary. Pace and rhythm are key. Make sure the move is extended completed before changing. The mind initiates then observes and guides.

Six…they are in their heads when they think they are not. They think they are doing the move when they are not. This is a huge obstacle to overcoming our presumptions about movement. But the fact that you are practicing, trying, is admirable. The mind’s focus should be from where the move is initiated: dantian, zhong ding, wherever, just not the head. You should seek a feeling and not a thought. Listen to your body. The mind should be quiet, observant. The qi should flow through.

These statements might be unclear for many readers, but for others they will ring true. The list doesn’t stop at six either. I could go on. Many of these subjects are commonly heard in tai chi practice, such as “no muscle.” Others are more esoteric, but seasoned practitioners will understand them. Ultimately, practice brings you around to them all, plus many more.

Tai chi is like walking in a dark forest

Doing tai chi is like walking in a dark forest. The forest is your body and the space around it. You have to feel your way more than rely on sight. Your awareness is your eyes, your sense of touch, all of your senses unite into a single entity. A feeling rises in your solar plexus and all of the gates. Even in the middle of a sunny day, your forest is dark, mysterious; but your curiosity leads you on into the thick of it. Every time you come out on the other side it is a new forest in some way.

What you do in tai chi is only as good as how you move

What you do in tai chi is only as good as how you do the moves. So learning tai chi is all about how to do them…how to relearn how to move, really. Here are some thoughts on how to think about it. I added the video clip that a friend snuck while I was doing form to my podcast, because I haven’t learned how to do podcasts yet. Visit my youtube channel for more visual media.

Taiji Haiku

durango tai chi haiku
move like an ocean when you do tai chi

where does water flow?
from the mountain to the sea.
and once it’s there, where?