Applying breath and movement from tai chi practice is not just more stuff to add to your daily activities. It is the foundational thing that you do before everything else. Every breath, like every moment, underlies every movement. To get from here to there, you use awareness of breath, body position and intention. These are the paths by which you travel from here to there, from this step to that, from this position to that position. These are all integrated into the whole being of which breath and movement are part. We are not just objects. We are objects that move, feel, think, perceive. Let these be the vehicle by which you live.
Whether you’re sure you want to do tai chi or not, here are things you can consider to help find out if it’s the right thing for you. But DO NOT take someone else’s word for it one way or the other. Which means, technically speaking, don’t take my word for whatever you’re about to read.
Find out what tai chi is. How? Be curious, and ultimately, just do tai chi.
Learn something and experience it. Draw a picture of it in your mind that is not based on second-hand hearsay or ideas you heard somewhere.
Find someone to do tai chi with. Don’t know anyone? They will appear. More and more people are taking it up.
Once you learn a little, practice what you know. You can’t practice what you don’t know, right? However, do try even if you’re not sure. Forget about telling yourself that you won’t do it “right,” and then not try. That would suck. Even wrong is right in this case. Later, test with me or someone to see how close you got.
Wear cool clothes. Naw, … just kidding. Tai chi is more fun in the buff, anyway. Not sure you would feel comfortable doing that? Then wear light, low-volume shoes, and loose-fitting shirts and pants that don’t constrict blood flow or range of motion. In fact, don’t let any constricting thoughts enter into the picture of your efforts.
Know your reason to do tai chi. Let your reason talk to you. Forget reasons not to, even legitimate ones. Question the tendency to think you should do tai chi because others say you should. I think we possess a subconscious tendency to resist such things as “should.” In that case, don’t listen to me—I think you should do tai chi. However, it’s okay to at least try tai chi because someone you admire does. It’s worth considering.
Take time to practice. Actually, don’t “take” time. Maybe you could “give” it time, but it’s more productive not to think of tai chi in relation to time at all. Think of it in terms of effort. For example, learn one thing (PS, I can show it to you) and practice it for one minute, then conclude one thing about that one thing, then one thing you learn from doing it. Notice the emphasis on the “one” idea. How much effort does that take? See what I’m getting at? Time is not the issue.
Prioritize. No, I don’t mean putting tai chi before all those other important demands in life. Okay, so you reached out to a tai chi teacher, you’re (sort of) motivated. You’ve reached out to the universe saying you think it may be important for you to look into learning tai chi, or at least looking into what all the buzz is about it. You’re acknowledging something important. Maybe you’re aging and feeling it. Who knows? In that case, I’m sure you can put off watching your favorite TV show for an hour of tai chi without suffering any major repercussions.
Find a place to do tai chi; like where you feel most comfortable and content. Oh, you mean, that’s on a beach in Bali? In that case, why not just feel being there? Call up the memory and move with it. To a great extent, tai chi is an act of visualizing possibilities. Like time, place is not a constraint, really. Sometimes, I visualize myself standing barefoot on the wet sand of a California beach moving slowly in time with the sound and feeling of the Pacific surf crashing and receding, then crashing and receding …. Of course, just remembering the feeling of doing tai chi itself is enough to make anywhere a good place.
Just do it. Simple, huh? Sometimes tai chi is easier to do with a group of people with similar intent. Sometimes, you feel awkward doing it alone, even when no one is around to see you. When I suggest “just doing” tai chi, I mean to see yourself doing it. To stand in the first position and begin to move. To feel the move. To teach yourself. Don’t wait for some one or some thing to determine for you whether or not to do tai chi. Just do.
Looking for more ideas about stimulating your tai chi practice. Read this related post.
Durango Tai Chi’s mission is to make tai chi available and affordable to everyone everywhere. Plain and simple. If you want to learn tai chi, we’ll find a way. Contact Teacher Tim for a free consultation by phone or in person. He’ll go anywhere on Earth where it’s possible to teach. He donates his time and energy (at least until his savings run out). It’s like a non-profit without the tax-exempt status. Tuition goes to paying expenses for room rent, transportation, advertising, internet fees and printing. Teacher Tim’s private lessons help him with personal income, which he must rely on since he is not employed full-time at another job. Please share this post with friends you care about.
Sometimes you can use tai chi to treat a particular health issue by doing almost the same thing that causes the problem. It’s akin to homeopathy, where you treat the germ with the germ itself, so to speak.
Take carpal tunnel, for example. You get it by doing the same motion repeatedly for long periods of time. Fatigue sets in and your forearms tighten up. You keep doing it because you have to work, make money, pay the bills.
But then muscles, tendons and ligaments start aching from overuse. Pain sets in and doesn’t go away. You hang on, hoping it will disappear on its own, or you’ll overcome it long enough to make it through the day.
Then you hurt even when you’re not at work. It becomes “chronic pain.” A doctor may say tests show nothing wrong. False hope. You’re in pain and you know it.
Maybe he’ll say it’s probably wise to stop doing whatever behavior is causing the problem. Wish you could, right?
Eventually, maybe, a doctor offers some hope, sort of. He suggests surgery. It’s your gamble, though. It’s a 60/40, maybe 90/10, chance that surgery will heal you.
No guarantees, of course, except maybe that they can operate on you and it will cost a lot of money. The irony is the carpal tunnel came from working for money.
The homeopathy idea about tai chi is that repetitive movement over a period of time, such as single, basic moves, can help alter the pattern of movement that causes problems. Something about the different manner and intent of the movement can alleviate pain, soreness, stiffness, and retrieve ease of movement and range of motion. Plus, it can release overall tension and help you feel a little better all around.
No guarantee there either, but no slice and splice, and no hospital bills.
When you practice, you’re not just moving the body, you’re bringing life into it. By circling the eyes, for example, you’re freeing them up from stagnation and decay (atrophy), and allowing them to serve as “gates” (men) through which energy may enter the body. Think of tai chi this way.
Central equilibrium. This is the Chinese word I know it as—Zhong Ding. I assume readers are familiar with it. I came to understand that central equilibrium is more than alignment.
Alignment has a linear quality that we can become aware of in our bodies. It is two-dimensional, a line between two points. Equilibrium, which we can also become aware of, is orientation in relation to our environment. It is multi-dimensional. It is how we balance ourselves in response to the pressures from outside, of which there are many.
Almost every move we make is a response to some external force in our environment. The environment could be the physical environment near us or it could be a more abstract environment — distant and foreign.
Part of the release, and the relief, of letting go of things that are not essential to our well-being, which is a tai chi practice, is distinguishing between what it’s necessary to be concerned about and what is not.
We confront the overwhelming pressure from outside with great risk. We cannot defeat it, but we can relax and let it be. We don’t have to be concerned that we must respond. Yin instead of yang. Let yang take care of itself. Focus attention on yin.
So the act, as simple as it may be, of letting something go—tension, stress, anything at all—is emancipating. Our bodies respond accordingly and become satisfied, contented, rested.
Taijiquan is about cultivating a mood and immersing yourself in it. Continuous and stable, you carry it through the day’s activities—as many as you can. It’s not easy to do this, but many will agree that the mood is very engaging and contagious. I can’t get much more specific without risking mutilating it trying to explain it.
You develop it in group and solo practice. Each practice is a return to cultivating it from where you last left off with it. Often, at some point after leaving class, you might forget this mood. But if you have a big enough taste of it, you’ll want to give it another try.
The more you try, the more you are able to do two things. One is to become familiar with the mood through practice and the second is improved memory. The result is that you’re carrying this mood more and more. You’re not only remembering it, you’re internalizing it. It becomes part of your viewpoint and integral to who you are, as in the case of real long-term practitioners.
It’s like anything that you do. The more you do it, the better you get and the more you get out of doing it. You perceive the external world from the point of view of that mood. It grows, matures, and strengthens. You develop speed, agility, and a greater sense of depth and breadth.
The great Wu Style Taijiquan Master Ma Yueh Liang said it took him 10 years to “discover” qi and the rest of his life to learn what to do with it (Bill Moyers, “The Mystery of Chi,” 1993). We’re all involved in a similar progression of discovery and discerning activities that bring qi into our daily routine.
The real change from a tai chi perspective is in the mind. We think it’s the body because that’s where the problem shows. The pain in there so we think the cause is there.
We have to shift something in our perception in order for the body to make the necessary changes it needs to heal and strengthen.
I suspect that we “discover” qi because it announces itself by virtue of dislodging and flowing, which in turn results from practicing tai chi movement.
You can view many video clips of Master Ma on youtube. I have one of him from many years ago on my website.