Learn Tai Chi for Health: Strategies and Tips
Tai chi is firmly based in the principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Tai chi’s health benefits stem from over 3000 years of knowledge and refinement of TCM. From the TCM perspective, physical health is achieved when “The Qi of your body is full in all respects”.
Good health and full qi is characterized by:
• rapid healing and recovery from health problems or stress
• freedom from pending or hidden long term diseases
• strong and balanced organs and glands
• flexible and springy joints, muscles, and tendons
• good concentration and mental stamina
Most of all, good health is the feeling of being fully alive and vibrant, regardless of age.
Tai chi works directly with the qi or life force to foster health. Here are some specific strategies to gain better health through tai chi.
Feel and work directly with energy in Qi Gong
. Use your awareness and attention to better feel qi. Qi gong exercises are especially helpful with this and a good supplement to the practice of your tai chi form.
With the simple movements of some qi gong exercises, practitioners have more opportunities to development an awareness of energy. Here is information about a useful exercise, .
Apply energy awareness to your tai chi practice. After becoming better aware of qi, you’ll be able to use your tai chi practice to help to identify and to release energy blockages. In TCM, energy blockages can lead to discomfort and disease. Tai chi’s health benefits are best gained when practitioners identify energy blockages and work to restore smooth energy flow.
But, don’t be discouraged if you’re still in the stages of identifying and learning to work with qi. The health benefits of tai chi can still be gained, although not as dramatically, through its rhythmic bending and stretching movements.
Use your legs to power energy flow throughout your body. Much more power can be generated from the legs than the arms. Leg movements create much more blood and energy flow to the upper body, than the arms can cause in the legs and lower body. Leg activity can greatly enhance blood flow, and is needed to maintain good flexibility, strength, and balance.
Although its easy to be distracted by the details of the arm movements in tai chi, begin by focusing your practice on the legs. Work on keeping the hip, knees, ankles, and feet relaxed and engaged—in both legs, whether a leg is bearing your weight or not. Don’t let them freeze or stiffen at any point during your practice.
Try to feel and to increase the flow of energy in your legs as you practice your tai chi form. You’ll find this useful for circulating blood and energy throughout your body as well as being better grounded and balanced.
Drop the energy from head
. Feelings of being stressed and overwhelmed can cause the mind to churn endlessly. To regain calmness and to decrease levels of stress hormones in your body, drop the energy from your head downward.
Focus on the rhythmic movements of tai chi to facilitate the natural flow of energy and to avoid feeding worries.
Practice the slow movements of tai chi. You don’t need to practice tai chi as a martial art to gain its health benefits. Focus on the slow and steady movements of tai chi. Your only opponent is your own tension.
The slow movements of tai chi will improve muscle tone, balance, as well as help internal organs. But don’t slow down so much, that your motions become disjointed and full of awkward pauses. Slow your movements down as much as you can, while still maintaining a smooth rhythmic flow. This will promote the smooth flow of blood and energy throughout your body.
Relax. Relaxation is the most important and sometimes the hardest aspect of a tai chi practice. Relaxation promotes energy flow while stress and tension restrict it.
Do the tai chi form as best as you can, but don’t create stress by trying to do it perfectly or by wondering if you’re doing it well enough to improve your health. Through the regular, attentive but relaxed practice of tai chi, you can gain calmness and better health.
Next: Read about how to practice and to learn tai chi for stress management.