Hello friends, and welcome to this month’s Joyinmovement newsletter.
For almost 7 years now, I’ve had a T’ai Chi practice. I guess that must mean I enjoy it and gain benefit from it! I receive two types of questions about T’ai Chi. One is, “What’s T’ai Chi” and the other is, “What is it you enjoy about T’ai Chi?”
Whether or not you know about it, or even have a T’ai Chi practice of your own, I encourage you to keep reading and maybe I can spread some chi and add some light to your understanding. Let’s call this newsletter Adding Energy To Your Life: The Essence of T’ai Chi.
Did you know that T’ai Chi is the most widely practiced mind-body art? Most who practice will say that it’s an art that reveals itself to you slowly over time. I’d agree with that.
Within the mind and body of the practitioner a learning process takes place that is often difficult and frustrating. You must learn to mentally relax and to enter into a meditative state. The meditation takes place while your body is in motion with your mind gently focused with intention to move, yet at the same time allowing the flow of continuous action to roll through you.
I’d like to share with you the principles of T’ai Chi and some movements that embody them. I read once that T’ai Chi looks like something, but is nothing: looks like nothing but is something. I find this to be true and good to remember when I practice.
These four principles are the key elements of T’ai Chi. These can be applied to this art form and also to living one’s daily life, for it is not just a system of forms and movement but the art of energy and grace, and those have no boundaries!
Principle 1: Relaxation
In T’ai Chi relaxation means the elimination of unnecessary muscular tension and the absence of anxiety, apprehension, and other counterproductive psychological states. We see this in all great athletes and artists of all types when we witness their peak performances that seem to have an effortless, inevitable magic. Maybe we’ve even experienced this in ourselves.
Learning to relax the body and mind, using only the minimal force and power necessary, leads to improved performance in everything whether it’s agility, breathing, or balance.
Principle 2: Rooting
Rooting is developing a relationship with the ground that goes beyond mere balance. It’s a feeling of actually being connected to the Earth, like a tree or plant. This feeling makes your body stable and powerful. In T’ai Chi it is said that energy is rooted in the feet, developed in the legs, directed by the waist, and expressed through the hands. That’s why in no matter which style of T’ai Chi you study, much attention is given to standing so that the weight of your body falls directly through the weighted foot/feet.
Besides the obvious benefits of improved balance and stability, rooting offers a great feeling of calm power and strength.
Almost ALL the functions of life today (sitting at a desk, driving a car, talking on the phone, writing, or cooking for example) utilize the muscles and neural circuits of the hands, arms, shoulders, face, tongue, eyes, and head. Your lower body is underused and deprived of energy. Rooting turns this pattern upside down and relaxes your shoulders, arms, and head while energizing your feet, legs, and hips!
Principle 3: Neutralization
Neutralizing in T’ai Chi is meant to be used to neutralize an opponent’s force, but I prefer to think of it in terms of a personal life strategy. It is not possible to go straight through every problem, obstacle, or threat, but it is possible, and a lot easier, to step aside, find another solution, flow around the problem, change one’s strategy and yet hold to one’s purposes.
Principle 4: Ch’i
Ch’i is energy, breath, vital force, prana, or elan vital. It’s a spiritual as well as physical entity. It is the intrinsic energy within the body that is considered to be both the critical factor in health and vitality and our link with the harmony of the natural universe.
All systems of medicine and healing work with this natural force.
Cultivating, storing, circulating, and applying this energy are central to T’ai Chi.
Using the concept of ch’i has a profound effect. You become more graceful and at the same time more powerful, and see improvements in health. Simply by paying attention to your own energy, studying its ebb and flow, and the factors that affect it (breathing, diet, emotions, mental intent, environment) you begin to move towards greater health and learn to make choices that give you more energy rather than draining you.
I know earlier in this newsletter I promised that I would include some T’ai Chi movements for you but I’ve decided that this is long enough as it is SO……..email me and let me know you’re interested, and I’ll create a PDF with 4 movements and send it along to you.
It’s late afternoon as I finish writing this and time for my T’ai Chi. I’ve been sitting way too much today and am ready to energize and enjoy some flow of my own ch’i.
Until next month, enjoy your elan vital as you find your Joyinmovement!