Benefits of Tai Chi

There have been a multitude of studies done all over the world that have proven long term benefits from the practice of Tai Chi

  • Improves balance reduces the risk of falling among older adults, helps build joint and muscle strength in both the upper and lower body. Gently moves all joints, muscles, and tendons throughout the body
  • Helps with arthritis pain, the increased range of movement, improved posture, helping people to stretch more thus further improve their flexibility and the structure of the body therefore reducing pain
  • Enhances mental capacity and concentration- improves memory and brain health
  • Tai Chi can have a strong effect on the immune system bringing together exercise, relaxation, and meditation
  • Improves asthma, fibromyalgia, bronchitis, knee osteoarthritis, and emphysema
  • Tai Chi can impact bone health especially in menopausal women as Tai Chi is a weight-bearing exercise
  • Can impact chronic conditions through increasing blood flow and pumping oxygen through the body whereby you become more alert, gain energy improves your ability to heal
  • Reduces stress as you relax and breathe more deeply it lowers blood pressure, enhances the quality of your mood which can help those with depression and anxiety
  • Improves quality of your sleep
  • Helps with faster recovery from Strokes and Heart attacks with increased oxygen intake, mental concentration, and balance are the major areas that are focused on
  • Proven to have a significant impact on such diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Multiple Sclerosis, Arthritis, and Parkinson’s

Tai Chi’s simple, gentle, and safe fluid movements are exactly what the body needs to remain loose and flexible.

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THE TEN ESSENTIALS OF TAIJIQUAN

By Yang Chen Fu recorded by Fu Zhong Wen

  1. Raise the Head

 An intangible and lively energy lifts the crown of the head. This refers to holding the head in vertical alignment in relationship to the body, with the spirit threaded to the top of the head. One must not use strength; using strength will stiffen the neck and inhibit the flow of qi and blood. One must have the conscious intent of an intangible, lively, and natural phenomenon. If not, then the vital energy (jingshen) will not be able to rise.

 

  1. Sink the Chest to raise the Back

Contain (Sink) the chest and raise the back. “Containing the chest” means to lower in the chest slightly to allow the qi to sink to the dantian. One must avoid rigidity in the chest; thrusting out the chest will cause blockage in the chest cavity. One will be heavy above and light below; the heels will float up. “Raise the back” means the qi adheres to the back. If one is able to contain the chest, then one will naturally be able to issue force from the spine, and you will be undefeatable.

  1. Relax the Waist 

 Relax the waist. The waist is the body’s ruler. If you are able to relax the waist, the two feet will have strength and the foundation will be stable. The changes of insubstantial and substantial all come from the turning movements of the waist, hence it is said, “The source of meaning is in the region of one’s waist.” If there is a situation in which you are unable to attain strength, you must seek the cause in the waist first.

  1. Distinguish insubstantial and substantial.

 Distinguish insubstantial and substantial. The art of Taijiquan makes the distinction between insubstantial and substantial as the first principle. If the weight of the entire body is placed over the right leg, then the right leg is substantial (full), and the left leg is empty. If the entire body’s weight is placed over the left leg, then the left leg is substantial, and the right leg is empty. If one is able to distinguish empty and full, then the body’s turning motions will be light and agile, and there will be no wasted strength. If one is unable to distinguish, one’s steps will be heavy and sluggish, one’s stance will be unsteady, and one will easily be unbalanced by an opponent’s pull.

  1. Sink the shoulders and drop the elbows.

 Sink the shoulders, means the shoulders are relaxed, open, and allowed to hang down. If one is unable to relax the shoulders and naturally allow then to hang down, they will rise up under pressure and the qi will also follow them up, thus the whole body will lack strength. “Dropping the elbows” means relaxing the elbows downward and letting them hang. If the elbows are drawn up, the shoulders will be unable to sink, and you will not be able to defuse force or uproot an opponent.

     Use a conscious mind, not strength.

This is spoken of in the “Taijiquan Classics.”  Use the mind/intent connected strength (Yi), not muscular strength (li). In practicing Taijiquan, the entire body is loosened (soong) and open; avoid the use of hard crude force (excessive muscular tension) (Zhuo li), which causes blockage in the sinews, bones, and blood vessels, and causes one to be bound up.

Then you use the mind in the movements, they become light and agile in the changes of direction, and circular rotations will become free. Some doubt: without using strength, how can one increase one’s strength? Now, the human body has meridians – as the Earth has watercourses. When the watercourses are unblocked, the water flows. When the meridians are unblocked, then the qi passes through to the ground. If the whole body is stiff, the Jin fills the meridians, and the qi and blood become stagnant, and the turning motions are not nimble. If one hair is pulled, the whole body is moved. If one does not use strength but instead uses mind/intent (Yi), then where the Yi arrives, the Qi then follows. If the qi and the blood flow fully, daily threading and flowing through the entire body, there will be no time when there are blockages. After long practice, one then attains genuine internal strength. Hence the statement in the “Taijiquan Classics”: “Arriving at the extreme of yielding softness, one afterward arrives at the extreme of solid hardness.” The arms of those who are proficient in the skill of Taijiquan are like iron within cotton, and extremely heavy. When practitioners of external martial arts use strength, then their strength is evident. When not using strength, they are very light and floating. It is obvious that their strength remains as outward energy, as surface energy. When not using mind/intent (Yi) but using strength, it is very easy to be led in and uprooted.

  1. Coordinate Upper and lower Body.

  Upper and lower follow one another is what is referred to in the saying from the “Taijiquan Classics”: “Movement is rooted in the feet, issued by the legs, governed by the waist, and expressed in the fingers. From the feet, to the legs, then to the waist, always there must be complete integration and connection for one’s Qi to move naturally.” With the movements of the hands, waist, and feet, the focus of the eyes also follows these movements. When it is like this, only then can it be called “upper and lower follow one another.” Or if one part moves all parts move. If there is one part that does not move, then the form (movement) is scattered and confused.

  1. Internal and external are united. Integration of the Spirit

 Internal and external are united. What one trains in Taijiquan is the spirit, therefore it is said, “The spirit is the leader, the body follows its order.” If one is able to raise the spirit of vitality throughout the body, one will naturally be able to deport oneself lightly and with agility. The form (movements) is none other than empty, full, open, and closed. What is called ‘open’ is not only the opening of the hands and feet – the mind/intent also opens with them accordingly. What is called ‘closing’ is not only the closing of the hands and feet – the mind/intent also closes with them accordingly. When able to unite inner with outer as one, Jin Qi Shen unite with complete continuity.

  1. Linked without breaks.

 Linked without breaks. With practitioners of external martial arts, their strength is contrived and crude force (hou tian zhi zhuo). Therefore, it has its starts and stops, its duration and cessation. When its called old strength is already depleted, its new strength has not yet been born.

At these times it is most easily overcome. Taijiquan uses the mind/intent, not strength. From beginning to end it is continuous without ceasing, a complete cycle to the beginning, circling without end. In the original teachings it is said: “Move Like the Long River, it flows smoothly on without ceasing.” It is also said, “Move the Jin (earth energy connected hand to foot, this is the same as a kinetic chain) as though drawing silk (from a cocoon).” These words refer to its being threaded together (Guan Chuan) all as one Qi.

  1. Seek stillness in motion

 The external martial arts view leaping and stumbling as ability. They employ exertion of qi and strength, so that after training they are invariably gasping for breath. Taijiquan uses stillness to manage movement. Even when there is movement, there is stillness. Therefore, in practicing the form, the slower the better. When practicing slowly, the breathing deepens and lengthens, the qi sinks to the dantian. One avoids the harm of straining the blood circulation. Students should carefully contemplate this so as to attain its meaning.

Ref: Fu Zhong Wen (1999) “Mastering Yang Style Taijiquan”.  North Atlantic Books; Berkeley, California Translated by Louis Swaim expanded upon by Damon Bramich

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