Tai chi and digital living: a yin-yang recipe

Asian girls practicing tai chi in the outdoor park

“As attention spans shrink,” says the digital design and marketing text I just read. It’s referring to the amount of time a mobile-device user spends on a site, which depends upon design, content, authenticity, simplicity, speed, and value. I suppose attention and time have always been entwined, but it seems that in these “times,” time lords over attention more than ever.

“…success comes from giving your audience what they want, and the experience of consuming your content is a huge part of that. We found, for example, when content is too long or load times are slow, consumers look elsewhere,…”

What does this have to do with tai chi? Well, if I gave today’s “audience” what it wants, they may never learn tai chi. Brief attention spans make tai chi more difficult to learn. Both tai chi and qigong are all about attention, and if you don’t give them proper attention you probably won’t incorporate the benefits very well into your life. Giving tai chi attention means giving it time, but not just that.

It may be that we lose sight of the fact that our perception of time constrains attention, which stresses us out. We also don’t catch this happening before it produces negative health effects. Ironically, tai chi is exactly what digital lives need to offset the pressure that we put ourselves under to live in these digital times. Nothing can be more yin-yang than the relationship between technology in our lives and tai chi/qigong.

I believe this relationship is what many of us seek to know and learn about, particularly in response to stress. It’s like we feel something is missing in our human form and it nags us until we look into what it may be.

I also believe that an equal and opposite response to living at the speed of digital time and its demands comes in the form of a natural human desire for quietude and tranquility.  Slowing down and paying attention to what you’re doing in the moment is natural. Just the thing you can get from doing tai chi.

The numbers of millennials seeking authentic mind-body experiences in a virtual world are growing. For example, one of the most consistently read posts on this blog is the one entitled, “What Do Young People Think of Tai Chi?”

It’s “well documented”, according to report from the American Psychology Association’s 2012  Stress In America Study, that millennials currently are living: “more stressed, anxious and depressed than any other living generation.” Since I began training in 1999 I’ve seen the age at which people become interested in tai chi drop. It used to be mid-40s when the body has been undeniably showing evidence of breaking down for a few years. Increasingly, millennials are contacting me about learning.

Young people, as well as people of all ages, indeed are discovering the appeal of tai chi and qigong. Tai chi is more prevalent in society, more is being written about it, more classes are offered all over, and young people are searching for activities that define their lifestyles.

Our health is another huge issue that influences the kind of lives we’re able to live. Many “noncommunicable” diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke, are traced back to how we treat our bodies in our younger years. In my experience, it seems we’re getting symptoms of old age while we’re rather young. Posture is where this is evident, but that’s another discussion.

“Because many adult and older-age health problems were rooted in early life experiences and living conditions, ensuring good child health can yield benefits for older people,” according to a National Institute on Aging article.

I can attest to the fact that you’re never too young to start learning tai chi and qigong. I began practice at age 46. However, knowing what I know now, I wouldn’t wait too long. With the cost of healthcare rising outrageously (in the U.S. anyway), it makes so much sense to seek out preventive, health promoting activities—even looking into old fogy stuff like tai chi.

Want to learn more about millennial stress

From APA 2015 report summary: “Younger adults continue to report higher stress, with money and work as the top stressors. On average, Millennials and Gen Xers report higher levels of stress than Boomers and Matures (6.0, 5.8, 4.3 and 3.5 on a 10-point scale, respectively) and have done so since 2012.”

Google “stress in America” to see what you get. I got 1, 360, 000 hits.

The article, “Millennial Mindset: The Worried Well” summarizes a key findings on how important health is to millennials and boomers. Interesting, but brief for the time and attention-challenged among us.


Paul Tim Richard studies and writes about Chinese internal martial arts and produces instructional videos of master practitioners. As instructor at Durango Tai Chi, he teaches fundamental principles of taijiquan and qigong. He lives in Durango, Colorado and likes to travel to study and teach.

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3 thoughts on “Tai chi and digital living: a yin-yang recipe

  1. “Perception of time constrains attention”- so true. It happens to me too when I haven’t done my practices at the usual time. Then, I want to put it off but every time I sit regardless of how late I am going to be, it becomes easier to be present. It took awhile to be able to disconnect to connect.
    Posture is definitely a fallout of the digital age. Instead of looking up in wonder, we look down on a limited screen. In a few generations, our spines may look very different…

    Liked by 1 person

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