Going solo

Tai chi is one of the best exercises. Experiences as a student and teacher have taught me that practicing in a group setting twice a week (at a minimum), along with some degree of practice at home is best for learning and improving memory, as well as for building lasting health benefits.

Tai chi is simple in some ways. In a group practice, you learn a form, or a set of movements that everyone performs in unison. Follow the leader, monkey-see-monkey-do. It gets interesting when there is no group leader to follow.

The goal of learning tai chi is also to develop a home practice or a solo routine, which does not have a “one size fits all” approach. It can be customized to the individual, too. Every person is different: different body, different circumstances, and different interests, needs and desires.

The challenge for many newer learners is where to begin. I suggest simply choosing a few appealing moves from among the many learned in class, then remember them at home. It can be as simple as breathing and opening the body with a simple stretch for a minute. Or it can be memorizing the whole form. Either way, you have at chance to make a difference in your conditioning if you try a more-customized practice, tuned to your unique situation.

Solo training is the seedbed of the master. Ultimately, the movement teaches you. You grow more aware of what it is telling you as you evolve. Then at some point you surpass the limits you had grown accustomed to expecting in yourself.

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.

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.