Yesterday’s 54 degree temp in January inspired me to do some tai chi in the park at the spur of the moment. Check out my bare feet! Connecting to the earth, sunlight and fresh air helps on so many levels, even down to the cellular level.
While walking along my neighborhood lake a few years back I saw this painted rock with the message of “Choose Joy”. How is this message related to my tai chi? For me, tai chi brings me joy. It’s slow deep breath work and gentle movements relax my mind and body. I feel more energized. Doing anything out of joy will restore a person’s sense of well-being because we get positive vibes from it. When our energy is high, we attract people and situations that are also on a higher energy vibration. In this New Year I choose joy over stress and worries. Happy New Year everyone!
As we approach the shortest day of the year remember what Ralph Waldo Emerson quoted, "When it gets dark enough, you can see the stars." This quote is a reminder to me that no matter how dark and dismal life can seem, there is a way to embrace the lightness of life. Tai chi is one way by which I keep myself light mentally as well as more relaxed and healthy physically. Wishing everyone a sense of well-being during the Holidays. Happy Winter Solstice!
In 1986 I followed an inner urge to find a healing modality, which lead me to the local tai chi qigong center where I studied for over 18 years, and taught tai chi and qigong there also. While studying there I was immersed in what my teacher was teaching. I did not open myself up to the world of tai chi and qigong. Also, the internet wasn’t available to do google searches. I think this was very helpful for my study since my mind did not get confused by what others taught or practiced.
After I left the center I was missing tai chi people to connect with. I went to visit another tai chi school, but was told to not come back once the instructor heard that I was planning to teach tai chi and qigong. At the time it seemed to me that there was this unspoken alliance to certain teachers, lineages, schools of tai chi study, and rarely did tai chi qigong schools interact.
For years I wondered why some schools were so separated and closed off. Perhaps it was because they were teaching martial arts with fighting potential so there was secrecy, allegiance to one’s own teacher, and competition among schools.
My initial involvement with tai chi and qigong was for the purpose of healing emotionally and spiritually, and it remains this focus today. I was tired of battling the hardships of life. My teacher focused on healing and spiritual aspects.
I am thankful to the teachers who came my way who taught me without feeling that I was a threat to them. They opened up my eyes to the fact that a huge tai chi qigong world existed with different styles, movements, purposes for doing tai chi and qigong. This makes sense to me because there are so many different people with different focuses and needs, so there needs to be a wide range of teachers and ways to approach tai chi and qigong. My way of teaching might not meet the interest or needs of everyone.
What I say to people who are exploring tai chi and qigong is to try it. If it doesn’t benefit you, go seek another modality or another teacher. There is no one way, no allegiance to a teacher, no right or wrong. Just enjoy the search and be true to yourself!
How do you let go of sorrow, loss, expectations and stress? Recently I went to the beach. It was a means of self-care. When I can't go to an actual beach, doing my tai chi often leaves me feeling like I did. Treat yourself to a self-care day!
At any age it is very healthy to breathe fresh air and to physically move daily. Viruses and other pathogens are less likely to survive in a well-oxygenated body. Movement is important to keep our muscles, joints, bones and circulatory systems functioning better. These seniors were excited to be able to do qigong movements in the fresh September air.
This small group of seniors is teaching me so much about resilience as we age. They are in wheel chairs, use walkers, have physical injuries and memory loss, but they keep showing up to do gentle qigong movements. I’m so honored to be in their presence.
In China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Asian communities in the U.S. you can see groups of people doing tai chi in the parks. It is said that as we age our energy diminishes. We are prone to more falls and mobility issues. Keeping our bodies moving and well-oxygenated is especially important as we age.
I have written often about quieting the mind to achieve mental or emotional balance.
One of the benefits of tai chi is also to improve physical balance so that people can prevent falls. There have been studies on the benefits of tai chi for improving physical balance, especially among the elderly.
Tai chi focuses on rooting, suspending and alignment of the body. When we have our head upright and our feet planted firmly on the ground with our weight sunk into our feet we are in a better position to work with, instead of against, the force of gravity. Paying attention to our posture, how we stand, or how we move with each step we take can all assist with better balance.
In tai chi we learn to be aware of our center of gravity. Are our limbs or our entire body over extended? Where is our weight? How do we move from our center? Are we moving with our entire body or just one part? Are we moving from our waist? Are we rooted, suspended and in a “tuck” position? Being mindful of all these aspects will improve how we stand or how we move, which all helps with balance too.
Learning how to stand or move in a balanced way will influence how you move through your day, or how you move when you are doing other activities besides tai chi. I hope you will get a chance to practice tai chi and learn a bit more about balance.
The early tai chi and qigong practitioners observed nature. Slowing down to observe the natural world can bring great peace and joy! For me, watching Momma duck and her ducklings was as rejuvenating and magical as doing my tai chi outdoor. Life doesn't have to be as complicated as my mind tricks me into believing. As I watched Momma and her ducklings float effortlessly, I realized that we all too can float effortlessly in the midst of life. It doesn't mean that there won't be poor air quality days, or other hardships to face, but rather if we can learn to be in the moment and float as these ducklings and Momma duck know instinctively how to do, then we will gain more trust in our own instincts too. We will know when the time is to be out in life's water and when to come to the shoreline and wait while conditions improve. This is what Momma duck and her ducklings taught me. See what you can learn from observing nature.
When practicing tai chi, as with all things we engage in, our mindset is the key. Sometimes my mindset regards my tai chi as a task to check off on my to-do-list for the day. Yes, it feels good to check it off. Yes, I do feel some relaxation and calmness, but it is just momentarily. When I truly focus my attention on my tai chi my day flows more sweetly and I am less reactive, or restless because my mind and body have had time to fully relax in the quietude of the moment. My tai chi practice becomes like a meditative practice. I become aware of how active my thought patterns are and where I hold tension in my body. Through the slow, gentle movements and breath work of tai chi I release most of my mental, emotional and physical tension, and practice relaxing. A meditation teacher said that relaxing is the key to meditation. When I keep in mind that tai chi is more than just a task to check off, I receive tai chi's true benefits.
I am filled with wonder, gratitude and awe for the journeys we travel and for the teachers we meet along the way.