Monday, October 7, 2013

Tai Chi

I know many people think Tai Chi is what one orders at Starbucks. No, it is not a liquid beverage that cost $5. Tai Chi is a form of martial art.

You have probably seen people in their senior years slowly moving back in forth in this rhythm like motion in the park. You may have even heard expressions like "snake creeps down" or "white crane" much akin to the yoga phrases like "downward dog." Similar to yoga, Tai Chi has many benefits not only for the body but also for the mind.

Tai Chi Chuan (also written as Taijiquan) is an ancient Chinese form of exercise originally created as a fighting art. Tai Chi was accredited to a Taoist Monk named Zhang San Feng as its creator. Its origins date back over 700 years; some say even up to 1500 years. Tai Chi is a type of Qigong (Chi Kung) practiced by millions of people worldwide every day. Qigong in Chinese means energy or breath skill, as Tai Chi when practiced correctly is always practiced using Qigong (breathing, energy) methods. In fact, the forms used in tai chi are either offensive to hurt or defensive to protect if done correctly. However, most of us do not think of or use tai chi in that manner. Instead, we practice tai chi for meditation and health reasons.

Tai Chi promotes a form of mindfulness. In order to effectively perform Tai Chi, one must be fully mindful of his or her body. You need to focus on the body and its movement and work on releasing the tension in the body in order to allow the energy in your body to fully flow throughout. It simply brings you into the moment. It grounds one. You literally and figuratively slow down. Literally you slow down because the actual movements are very slow. It figuratively slows you down because it requires you to focus on your body.

I have been practicing Tai Chi for 8 plus years. I initially started studying it as a way to deal with stress. I try to practice every day, but at times I have not been as consistent as I want. When I practice it, however, I feel much better that day compared to a day where I do not.

In addition, studying Tai Chi is a life long journey. I do not think you ever master Tai Chi because you are learning something new every day. In addition, it is better to start when you are younger because it provides basic principles that you can apply throughout life along with the resulting health benefits. Some of these benefits include increased flexibility, higher levels of energy, better balance, improved strength and reduced stress levels. Most importantly, it brings you back in the moment. You become present.

So take a look at Tai Chi. I believe you will find it as rewarding and enriching as I do. It will become part of your life long journey. It will change your life. I know that sounds like cliché that you may hear in the movie about surfing, Point Break, but it really will change your life.