Reminder: Tai Chi foundation of breath and movement

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.


Overcoming resistance to learning

Build and strengthen your memory of tai chi through regular, sustained practice.

Part of your practice is trying to remember a move or sequence of moves despite whether you actually do recall exactly what they or even how to do them. This process is part of overall learning. Many of us have difficulty doing this, because, well…it seems difficult and it’s easier to not try instead. When this happens, we are procrastinating or suffering from a mild case of mental inertia. Fortunately, if you try anyway, in spite of how you feel, chances are likely that you will overcome your resistance.

Research shows as much. In the popular course “Learning How To Learn” with Barbara Oakley and Terrence Sejnowski, Professor Oakley tells learners that when we simply do our practice despite feeling resistant, we actually are happier we did. At first we just don’t feel like it. This sentiment generates thoughts of things we do like, which stimulates a good feeling that we can apply to the task at hand, which just a minute ago we didn’t want to do.

She also mentions a researcher in Italy who in the early 80s developed the “Pomodora,” which is a timer shaped like a tomato. She instructs to set the time to 25 minutes and really concentrate on one thing for that time. Once the timer goes off, reward yourself with just thinking or doing what you feel like. This trains the brain to do tasks that you otherwise would be reluctant to do left to your own designs. It does so by balancing “focused” mental attention with “diffuse” mental attention. It’s healthy and, for me as a tai chi teacher, a good way to get you to practice!

I suggest a sort of modification of this method for the beginning tai chi practitioner with the following sequence of practices.

  • Stand in Wuji. Raise arms to hold the moon to your heart.
  • Inhale and exhale deeply three times, feeling the sensation of breath filling and emptying the abdomen and lungs.
  • Align the body’s central equilibrium. Knees slightly bent, over the top of the foot. Ears, shoulders, hips, ankles aligned.
  • Rest your mind on your Dantian point and breath calmly for as many minutes as you feel comfortably doing.
  • Visualize a movement, either a qigong or tai chi move. Just visualize it. You don’t have to do the movement, but if your body feels like following your visualization, then let it happen.
  • Begin your solo home practice sessions and go into remembering as much as you can of form or qigong set.
  • Always return to Wuji to rest and gather attention.

Let me know sometime how it works. I would enjoy hearing from you. In fact, comment now in the comment box and share with all readers.

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.