The Essence of Tai Chi
Tai Chi is a key essential in my lifestyle.
What is Tai Chi? It’s an ancient form of martial arts rooted in self-defense forms, practiced in a gentle, flowing, and mindful manner. Chi’ or ‘Qi’ is the body's vital energy and the softness of the art. Our energy must be able to move freely to experience a healthy life. Tai Chi encourages positive energy within the body, balance, a centeredness, presence of mind and a connectedness with one’s breath. ‘
What do those things do for me? They affirm my inner strength, my physical, emotional and mental potential and they teach me it’s safe and strong to be present in the moment.
Some of the guiding principles of Tai Chi are yielding, softness, centeredness, slowness, balance, suppleness and rootedness. The Taoist symbol of the Yin and Yang is commonly associated with Tai Chi not only because of their common ties to ancient Chinese and Taoist culture, but also due to the graceful balance between opposing elements such as full and empty, movement and stillness, soft and hard. In practicing Tai Chi, these complimentary elements are experienced in harmony.
Tai Chi is commonly referred to as Moving Meditation. Tai Chi's slow, graceful movements can be used as a meditation to provide relaxed focus, to quiet the mind and to encourage a deep sense of relaxation that helps release inner tensions.
In my own experience of practice and teaching of Tai Chi, the self-defense based movements help to anchor our postures, while being expressed with flow, beauty and breath. I believe the true benefit of the movement is in the symbolism and gifts of self-empowerment.
I regularly teach my students to resist the tendency to overreach, or push their invisible opponent so far away that you lose your centered balance, or your foundation. For example; in the traditional standing meditation posture, we are positioned to open our hearts in our safe personal spaces, settle strong in our legs, rooted in our feet, and open in our abdomen - our 'Dantian', our energy center. The stance is comprised of gently holding a circular space, fingertips facing one another, thumbs raised to the sky, with softly open arms, and palms open facing the heart and lungs. Our attention is drawn inward. The vibration and direction of our energy is returned back towards us.
Tai Chi teaches me that there is 'receive' as much as there is 'give'. Those ‘things’ we push away or defend against in the form can be as simple as our self-doubt, negative self-talk or the unrealistic expectations we carry around upon our shoulders. Those things I pull in towards my heart can be as powerful as my hopes, my intentions, the things I want most to believe about myself.
Tai Chi connects me with my breath, my power, my faith and my heart. I learn to love what I can do, what I can learn and who I am. I learn to BE with myself in the moment.