Home Practice: One key to reaping benefits from tai chi

One key to reaping the greatest benefits from tai chi is to develop a home practice. I like the word practice more than “routine,” which you might hear in some exercise circles. Practice is something you do regularly, which may seem like a routine. But practice, for me anyway, offers opportunities for refinement. You don’t do the same thing every time you do your practice. You create opportunities to discover new things as you learn.

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

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. For all intents and purposes, 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.

It’s not that easy often, mainly because we’re not clear on what we’re doing. It’s too much guess work for us. 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.

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. This is the idea with the poses in Eights Pieces of Brocade, such as bow and arrow.

Moving a muscle or combination of joint, 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 movement itself. The nature of movement refers to speed, quality, shape, size and so on. To reiterate—learn to do what you want to when you want to.

When I say try to relax and release tension, I’m referring to the result of doing something deeper within. This requires cultivating an 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 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. Beware of trying to understand before you practice, or you’ll risk falling into the trap of thinking you’re skilled when in truth you may not be. Understanding is discovered through practice.

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.

Article: Tai Chi helps with depression

“Tai chi significantly reduces depression symptoms in Chinese-Americans”

Published May 25, 2017

The tai chi intervention involved twice weekly sessions for 12 weeks, in which participants were taught and practiced basic traditional tai chi movements. They were asked to practice at home three times a week and to document their practice.

I’ve always believed that journaling one’s tai chi practice helps with the learning and feeding back into the practice. That’s why I blog. Comments are always welcome. Maybe it will be good for you.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/05/170525103816.htm

A Comp. Review identified 163 different physiological and psychological health outcomes of taiji and qigong

This review [published in 2010] has identified numerous outcomes with varying levels of evidence for the efficacy for Qigong and Tai Chi, including bone health, cardiopulmonary fitness and related biomarkers, physical function, falls prevention and balance, general quality of life and patient reported outcomes, immunity, and psychological factors such as anxiety, depression and self-efficacy.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3085832/

 

Tai chi as a practice to train the mind

Renown Zen master DT Suzuki writes in the introduction to the little book entitled Zen in the Art of Archery that describes something that I’ve discovered about tai chi. He writes that a significant feature of the practice of archery is not “… for utilitarian purposes only or for purely aesthetic enjoyments, but … meant to train the mind; indeed, to bring it into contact with the ultimate reality.”

This is la raison d’etre for tai chi for me—to train the mind. Training the body is equally key to balancing the dynamics of yin and yang in motion, of course, but Master Suzuki touches on a very core notion of tai chi practice that takes a little extra effort to grasp. Technique and application are subsumed by training the mind.

“If one really wishes to be master of an art, technical knowledge of it is not enough,” he continues. “One has to transcend technique so that the art becomes an ‘artless art’ growing out of the Unconscious.”

He intrigues the reader with this rather abstract statement, but his next statement, for me, speaks directly to what I try to arrive at in my understanding of taijiquan, qigong, and Chinese internal martial arts, in general.

“The archer ceases to be conscious of himself as the one who is engaged in hitting the bull’s-eye which confronts him. This state of unconsciousness is realized only when, completely empty and rid of the self, he becomes one with the perfecting of his technical skill, …”

This may still appear rather abstract to most tai chi practitioners, but it does speak to what you experience after practicing long enough. That is, when you seek and find silence in your thoughts, the act becomes one of balancing thought with non-thought, or the “unconscious.”

Master Suzuki writes, “As soon as we reflect, deliberate, and conceptualize, the original unconsciousness is lost and a thought interferes.”

If you experience this in tai chi practice, then please share your thoughts with me and others. I recommend reading Zen in the Art of Archery (Eugen Herrigel, 1953) if only to read the introduction by Master Suzuki. I found a copy at White Rabbit Books on the River Trail in Durango.

The Sea Within

The film, Inn Saei, is a fascinating peek into intuition, something that seems to live in the back of my mind almost all the time. As one of the interviewees (Malidoma Some) in the film says,

“Intuition is … The stuff we are not aware of that lies just outside of our consciousness.”

This describes exactly what the practice of taijiquan tries to get us in touch with. Inn Saei means “the sea within,” but also “to see from within,” as well as “to see from the inside out.” I highly recommend watching it.

 

https://zeitgeistfilms.com/film/innsaeithepowerofintuition

Walking is a great tai chi exercise

Yin and yang are always in dynamic play when you walk. Every movement has each in it. Becoming aware of them in motion is step #1 towards cultivating deeper understanding.

How much time to I spend doing tai chi?

People ask, “how much time do you spend doing tai chi? Everyday?” I’m troubled to answer, because time is not an issue, only that I practice. Less and less I have to look for the time. It’s more of a command. I know if I don’t heed it, I will pay a price. I am no longer willing to pay for ignoring it. Once I could ignore the call, but not now. If you ever get to this point in your life, whatever your routine practice may be, I congratulate you. I honor you.

Mindful means….

Mindful means … being aware in the moment of the moment. No past, no future, only now. Not even now!