Article: Tai chi not just for “old”

“Tai chi is not just for old people,” says columnist Viki Mather. I know what she’s talking about. People hate anything that resembles “exercise.” Not my problem. They are so WRONG.

“There is a stigma about tai chi that it is for old people. And it is true that doing tai chi can help regain mobility, balance, prevent falls and all the other things that seniors need to stay independent and active. It does this for younger people, too. It can help you play better golf. It can improve posture, which is important for skiing, skating, horseback riding, and having dinner at Grandma’s house. And it reduces stress.”

https://www.sudbury.com/columns/mather/viki-mather-no-tai-chi-is-not-just-for-old-people-704655

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Fit tai chi into your day, simply

You’re so busy to take in the wonder, not even enough time to take a moment to mourn the loss of the precious time burning away. What do you do? Here are a few ideas.

Tip #1—Where you do tai chi.
Get away from where you do your business in order to do tai chi without interruptions.

Tip #2—When to begin tai chi
When you wake, even before you get out of bed, give a thought to tai chi. When you rise, at least, inhale three times deeply, fully and think about one thing, one move, from tai chi that you did the last time you practiced.

Tip #3—Be kind to yourself
Pay your respects to yourself and every little effort you make to break the routine that has driven you to the point of wanting to learn something from outside of that routine, for example, TAI CHI!

Tip #4—It doesn’t have to be all or nothing
I believe that taking an hour out once a week to learn it in the class is not enough. However, I don’t expect anyone to at first spend hours doing tai chi at home. But I think that you can do a minute or two now and again. Simply standing in wuji is doing tai chi. Taking three full complete breaths is not nothing. Gathering your arms above your head and feel them drop slowly down in front of you like a stream of water pouring down a gentle slope is something. Try it. It just might make you feel good.

Knowing what you want to do in tai chi practice and doing it

One key to reaping the greatest benefits from tai chi is to develop a home practice. Practice is something you do regularly, which offers opportunities to refine and discover new things as you learn.

I recently suggested working on releasing tension and not to clench or tighten joints, tendons and ligaments, as well as muscle, when moving. This may sound like a rule to apply to all of your efforts, but it’s actually not likely you can do it all the time. It would be great if you could whenever you needed.

For the sake of your practice now, just remember to let tension go when you recognize you have it. Try to change that condition into some other state. That probably will take all of your concentration.

Beyond this, you may eventually find the importance of having the control to do what you want when you want. This is a sign of being more aware of what’s going on in your mind and body. For example, more clarity comes from being able not only to relax when you want, but also tighten when you want.

Knowing what you want to do and having enough control of your body and mind to actually do it is one ability you’re searching for in practice.

This is often not so easy, mainly because we’re not clear on what we’re doing. It’s too much guess work for us. One way to approach it is to try to move a part of your body in isolation from the rest. Once you can do that, then you can intend the rest of the body to follow. You should feel sooner or later the energy flowing through your whole being.

As an example of what I mean, I told you once to tighten the hamstrings. This is a way of guiding your focus to move something specific on purpose. I like the word condense energy, where your power coils up and quickly “springs” open when you’re ready.

I also bring out a similar subject when doing qigong and single-basic repetitions. The idea, in this case, is to extend the arms and legs to a point then quickly release and continue on. Don’t hold the tension. This is the idea in Eights Pieces of Brocade, with poses, such as push up sky, and bow and arrow.

Moving a muscle or combination of joints, bones, ligaments and tendons, or fascia as well, begins with holding our attention on a point in the body and initiating a movement from it. Once that’s accomplished, you can hold your attention there while also placing it on a secondary activity, such as another point, or the feeling of movement itself. The feel of movement refers to speed, quality, shape, size, distance, and so on. To reiterate—learn to do what you want to when you want to.

Working to relax and release tension can eventually result from cultivating a deeper awareness of the feeling of your intended movement. You need to feel the move, not just think it. Thinking is a small part of tai chi practice, if any at all. Words may help to describe, but they don’t often adequately explain, nor can they elicit real understanding on their own. You must feel it.

How do you reach that coveted state of understanding? First, you must practice at your level of understanding and observe your actions. Understanding is discovered through practice.

Beware of trying to understand before you practice, or you’ll risk complacently thinking you’re skilled when in truth you may not be.

We can practice and get feedback by sharing our experiences and doing group and two-person training. These are great benefits to learning. But in the end, it’s you who comes into understanding through solo practice.

If you like this sort of info, please let me know by writing a comment. I want to provide you with useful knowledge that you can use and apply in your practice. It would be helpful to hear from you in this regard.

A word on the word “taiji”

This is an excerpt from taijizen.org, a school founded by Jet Li and Jack Ma. The site looks non-maintained, with latest posts in 2013. The facebook page looks current, though. Of course, the meaning of taiji stays the same.

Taiji 太极 is an ancient Chinese philosophy about the natural world and is one of the central elements of traditional Chinese culture.

The word Taiji itself refers to the “great primal beginning” of all that exists, and is often translated as the ‘Supreme Ultimate’. It is the state of absolute and infinite potential, the oneness before the duality. This concept is comparable to the initial state of the universe right at the moment of the big bang, or the initial singularity. From this state, Yin and Yang were generated.

The bubbling spring and your gongfu

In the beginning, you want to develop sensitivity to the bottoms of your feet, or the “Bubbling Spring,” also called “Bubbling Well,” or in Chinese, Yongquan. As you practice over time and develop your gongfu, that feeling that you once had to concentrate so much in order to develop now results from a more-mature practice.

Gongfu = Effort done over time that creates knowledge and ability.

A highly sensitized bubbling well liberates you from the initial task of focusing attention on that spot and sustaining concentration as you move from, or through, it mindfully.

Once that’s achieved, you can move on and focus on other aspects of practice, such as other parts of the body and the physical mechanics of movement, or the energetic configurations of your movement.

 

The Bubbling Well

Zhong Ding

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.

Have you discovered your chi yet?

ma yueh liang

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.

ARTICLES: More research results on Tai Chi helping with health challenges

These two news articles refer to new research results talking about tai chi improving the lives of peripheral neuropathy patients and reducing stroke risks. I continue to hold tai chi and qigong classes in Durango for learners with a variety of challenges, as does my teacher and friend Susan Matthews in Cortez (she’s the anatomy, stroke and Parkingson’s expert). So please tell your friends about this news and help them help themselves by suggesting they try tai chi classes.

UT Tyler improves lives of peripheral neuropathy patients through Tai Chi

http://www.tylerpaper.com/TP-News+Local/273318/ut-tyler-improves-lives-of-peripheral-neuropathy-patients-through-tai-chi

Tai Chi may reduce stroke risk

Session P16 – Poster WP416

American Heart Association

https://eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2017-02/aha-tcm021517.php