Tai Chi conjures up images of hundreds of elderly Chinese, practicing slow and flowing movements in unison. In fact it is practised to such an extent that, in the past, it has drawn the bewildered attention of tourists.
All over China many families rise early to complete their Tai Chi movements in the park, on the rooftops, in car parks and on balconies, in fact anywhere they can find a bit of space, before they go off to work or carry on with the rest of the day.
Who can benefit from the practice Tai Chi exercises?
The answer is just about everyone can improve their general health and well-being with Tai Chi. Regular practice reduces stress levels, relaxes the body, develops dynamic mind control and promotes good health. Tai Chi should was not designed to be used to fix specific health problems. Instead it treats the whole person on a continual basis, each individual regains lost vitality and movement due to their whole system working more efficiently. Tai Chi is an extraordinary tool that rewards its practitioners with improved good health that can be sustained by continual practise.
Health is not the same as fitness, you can be very fit but still unhealthy, and you can be healthy but not necessarily extremely fit. Again balance is the key. This is where Tai Chi leaves other forms of exercise way behind and why it is becoming more and more popular, and equally, why more and more people in the medical profession are sending their patients to Tai Chi classes.
Many are under the impression Tai Chi is just for the elderly, this is incorrect. Tai Chi should ideally be taught from an early age. Traditionally the art has always been passed from generation to generation, parents teaching their children almost as soon as they could walk. It is, however, such a safe exercise system that even the elderly benefit, which is why it is so popular amongst the older age group. Balance, the circulation within the various body systems and breathing all improve with practice, which makes Tai Chi perfect for those who suffer from stress or effects of poor posture, for those with joint problems or for those recuperating from illness. For the perfectly healthy it is an ideal exercise to stay that way!
Another incorrect view it that there are only two or three styles, there are many, many different Tai Chi styles, which were and are still being passed on as family traditions, a bit like ‘Grandmother’s best recipe’. So it is not surprising that all are a little different, some longer than others, some more health than others, some more obvious as a martial art. While in China the various styles are practised next to each other in the parks, in the West there are some Tai Chi schools which proclaim that their style is ‘best’, which of course is nonsense. At present, in England, mainly the Yang Style, the Chen Style, the Wu Style and the Lee Style the later sometimes often called Li Style and the main styles practised.
Is Tai Chi a martial art? It is true that Tai Chi movements were originally developed as extremely effective, precise, yet flowing self-defence movements, which made good posture, balance, sure footing, breath-control, and self-control over one’s emotions necessary. These are precisely the requisites that make Tai Chi useful as a health art and also as an art of self-development – the complex movements must be carried out accurately, learned patiently, the slow balance and correct breathing continuously practised.
Tai Chi is a low impact exercise. The slow movements and your attention to the practice means you can feel when you are putting undue strain on joints and muscles so you know when enough is enough – unlike fast and high impact exercise when injury is only recognized after the event has taken place. Tai Chi does not leave you dripping with sweat. You can practice Tai Chi in your tea break or any other suitable time, 15 minutes will refresh your mind and rebalance your body. You can practise in your work clothes, in your pyjamas or when and wherever you like – just give yourself a little time and space to get back in tune with your body – the mind and spirit connection will follow.
Practising Tai Chi at the start of the day will focus your mind and relax your body, and that feeling will stay with you throughout most of your day. Therefore each new day should mean a new time of practice, after all, you cannot keep drinking constantly from the same cup without replenishing it. The regular health maintenance and renewed sense of well-being is what keeps those who stick with Tai Chi enthusiastic – there is a lot more to it all than just learning some movements by heart.
As Lao Tzu said: “Deal with things while they are small”- health care is no exception. To feel really well a healthy diet, proper sleep and fulfilling relationships at work and at home are essential. Somehow your Tai Chi practice will encourage you to look for those things that are good for you, and leave negative situations and habits behind.
Learning Tai Chi allows you to release tensions and reduce unnecessary movement. You keep simplifying and going back to your essential self – the real you. Tai Chi restores the balance by calming the mind whilst relaxing and rejuvenating the body. Many people find they sleep better after Tai Chi practise.
Science tells us we are constantly renewing cells, nearly all of the body is replaced every 5 -7 years. Some cells are renewed every minute of the day. So change within the body and without is inevitable. Life is perpetually in flux. Dance along with the flow while keeping an eye out for obstructions.
Tai Chi will help you unravel the wonders of life – enjoy!
Download your Free Beginners Tai Chi book and watch the video clip demonstrating the moves by entering your details in the box (top left) and give it a try yourself. Go on you will be glad you did.
© Copyright 2012 Howard Gibbon – all rights reserved
Tai Chi practise has helped me in so many ways. Tai Chi always restores my balance physically, mentally and spiritually
It is not often I experience a feeling of being totally overwhelmed but a few days ago I woke feeling this way. Probably you have had the same feeling yourself sometime. There were family health issues, disputes, unhappiness in abundance. I had a DVD to finish that had had its share of technical problems. I had a newsletter to get out in a few days. Admin work was piling up on my desk. Decisions to be make over course dates. The list went on and on…
It was 10.30am. I had answered phone calls and dealt with urgent emails already. But I had not done my regular Tai Chi practise yet. My wife called out as I passed her office and asked me to help her with a small task. I had to stop myself barking a reply. Something on the lines of I am too busy.
I was stressed, what no not me surely, an experienced Tai Chi teacher with many years under my belt teaching other people how to bring peace and harmony into their lives.
Am I a hypocrite?
Should I not be above all that sort of thing? Well Tai Chi is a tool not a panacea for all ills of the body and mind.
Tai Chi is no quick fix and like all tools it is only useful when it is put to use.
Time for my Tai Chi practice.
I stepped out into our back garden onto the patio, my usual exercise place. As I looked down to check I was standing on the correct spot I noticed a ladybird to my front. It looked quite dead; I considered that I had probable in my poor mental state, plagued with so many problems, stood on it as I walked onto the patio. Out of dejection and irritation I, gently mind you, flicked it toward the grass with the edge of my shoe. It slid towards the grass rolling over twice in the process and then to my surprise came alive and started walking back towards the spot I expelled it from. Now my focus turned to the safety of this ladybird. It was still full of life heading back to its original spot at a fair number of knots. Filled with remorse for the treatment I gave it I looked around and seeing a dead leaf that had fallen off the ivy climbing our garden fence. I picked it up and tenderly placed it in the path of the ladybird and when it crawled on the leaf, lifted it and placed it amongst the ivy.
Now feeling a little better about myself I set to work on my Tai Chi practise. And work it turned out to be because my mind was still consumed with my worries and waiting tasks. I persevered, completing the Tai Chi long form. This was not the real Tai Chi I had come to know after many years of dedicated practise. This was mere mechanical movement. My mind slipped in and out of control, drifting back and forth from my movements to my problems and concerns and back again to my practice. This was the way I used to perform my Tai Chi in my early years. It had its value in the physical exercise and the brief moments of clarity when I was focused on my Tai Chi. In touch with my physical reality at the very moment of its conception. Then I quickly lost that connectedness again as my mind moved too far in front to think of a forthcoming movement or returned to one gone and analysed it. Both pastimes fruitless for the future has not arrived and the past has gone, forever, never to return.
I perform the Tai Chi long form a second and third time in this very state. Exercising my body, no doubt moving my energy in a sluggish kind of way and struggling to control my thought processes. Then suddenly, remarkable quickly, everything fell into place. The physical flow, that place I have come to know where, I become the watcher and the watched, my being in harmony, body, mind and spirit working together as one, no separation only the essence of being. No more distractions, no more disturbances. The muddy waters now clear and calm. I continued my Tai Chi practise clocking up 1 hour and 10 minutes, more than twice my usual training time for the Tai Chi form and I wanted to go on. It felt so good I did not want it to end. But I knew that balance must be the overruling principle. So I stopped my practise, now calm in spirit and smiling at the ladybird still on the ivy, it and I, happy to be alive. What beauty we have around us and how often we miss it in our obsession to achieve goals. I made a mental note to allow myself more time to exist in my natural state of individualism whilst appreciating the beauty of my surroundings. Now refreshed and ready to tackle those tasks I went up to my office and started work.
Oh! what a blessing the practise of Tai chi has been in my life and continues to be. A true gift from the Dao.
© Copyright 2012 Howard Gibbon – all rights reserved