Tai Chi is different from many western forms of health and fitness. Its training methods are based on Chinese philosophy, traditional Chinese medicine, qigong (cultivation of energy and meditation) and martial principles.
Many people do not understand how Tai Chi training affects the body and mind. Recently, I was talking to some students after class. They commented that they are all experiencing the benefits of relaxation, improved flexibility, greater strength and deeper concentration. These are good results but they could go much further if they simply practise a little every day. I asked if they were practising regularly. Some practised every second day, others only once or twice a week.
The rewards of this training are cumulative – the more you practise, the more you benefit. It works on the mind and body holistically. It also affects the nervous system, the joints, sinews, muscles, organs and qi (internal energy). This is where Tai Chi and other internal arts (Xing Yi and Ba Gua) differ from running, swimming, aerobics and other forms of physical training. These systems have evolved over thousands of years and have absorbed the essence of Chinese culture. After centuries of development, they have risen to the status of an art form.
Training the mind by focusing on movements improves concentration. An untrained mind is unruly and easily distracted. It spins unrealistic stories and is affected by everything around it. Regular practice stabilises the mind and develops self-discipline. It helps to establish an oasis of calm which allows us to restore balance to the nervous system. We become emotionally balanced. Most people live on an emotional roller coaster. Living this way creates problems with health and relationships.
After a stressful day, just twenty minutes of the Hun Yuan Qigong will relax the body, calm the mind and renew energy. Now that is good value. The best way to find out if this is true is to try it for yourself. Tai Chi masters always state that the cultivation of qi requires daily practice. They use the analogy of a balloon. If you leave it for a few days, it will deflate a little. This is what happens to our energy. Constant practice helps to build the qi. In Tai Chi, the more you do, the more you feel. At first, you may not find it easy to establish a routine. However, you know you always feel good and refreshed after a practice session. Gradually, you feel stronger and more peaceful. Eventually, you find you enjoy your daily training so much that you would not want to do without it. It has then become a positive, lasting influence in your life.
The Taoists and Buddhists believe that we live way below our full potential. With consistent effort, we can realise more and more of this potential. Training every day will develop the self-discipline and inner strength necessary to discover the treasures of Tai Chi. Similar to cooking, driving or building, words are insufficient when it comes to explaining a feeling or a particular way to perform a task. You can only know through experience. There are also different levels of skill and development. For example, there is a difference between driving around town and driving in a car race. This is the same for Tai Chi. Turning the waist and feeling the qi are only concepts at first. Once you have done the practice and gained understanding, they will have real significance for you and your life.
Enjoy your journey along the Tai Chi path.
Never give up on yourself!