Come join us to celebrate World Tai Chi Day 2015. We are celebrating at RWJ Hamilton Fitness & Wellness on Saturday, April 25th from noon to 1pm (due to studio availability we cannot start at 10 am). Please visit my site for more information www.taichilee.com
Try tai chi to improve your posture and help your back
There are a staggering number of people that suffer from back problems at some point in their lives. It could be a hereditary trait in some, it could be injury related in others or it could simply be from incorrect heavy lifting. But the primary cause is due to a prolonged period of improper posture until our bodies rebel by creating muscle contractions or pain which is a signal to stop what we are doing and make some corrections. All it takes for you to appreciate the benefits of constant attention to good posture is to spend the day lying prone because of back spasms and other back aches and pains.
The question now is how to improve your posture and become better aligned. There is something to be said for chiropractors, deep tissue massage, acupuncture and other forms of healing therapies but one of the easiest forms is simple maintenance and self-therapy. Tai chi offers a great therapeutic way to achieve better posture through a raised sense of body awareness. It isoften said in tai chi practice that you should imagine that you are suspended from above by a string gently pulling up on the back of your head. This has the effect of gently separating the vertebrae of the spine while keeping your posture both open and relaxed. There should also be focus on what is referred to as the “life door.” This is the area in the small of the back that is slightly curved inward. It’s important to maintain this slight curvature and even to extend it now and then by gently arching backwards.
If you persevere with tai chi practice it will help you bring more attention to your posture which in turn can help you pay more attention to the things that both help and hurt your back. Perhaps you can avoid being one of the millions that suffer from back ailments by following an ancient exercise that raises your awareness.
The holidays are upon us again and the shopping frenzy has begun anew. Many of us are running many different directions in store after store trying to find the perfect gift. We are far from alone as we fight the overcrowded malls and sidewalks and find ourselves dodging loaded shoppers and bumping into those that seem locked into their cell phones rather than watching where they are going.
It’s time to put some of our tai chi experience into practice. One of the key ingredients in tai chi requires that we exercise relaxed awareness. In essence that means that we need to hold ourselves in good posture, keeping the body fully relaxed and open. There is a common misconception when we use the word “relax” in tai chi. Very often we think of relaxing as letting everything go limp so as to release tension and stress. In fact to “relax” in tai chi means to open and expand yourself from the inside to allow your internal energy to flow unimpeded. By so doing your posture becomes more suspended, your joints and ligaments more open and your connection to the earth more grounded. This in turn allows you to be more aware and better able to yield to outside force.
It’s a very easy concept to envision but a more difficult one to put into practice. Adding tai chi to your daily routine, however, is a great way to begin thinking about your overall posture and body awareness. Tai chi will help you to focus on these and other underlying principles and allow you to more easily build them into your everyday life. And that includes facing the holiday shopping frenzy!
What better way to spend a couple hours than to go outdoors during the autumn season on a bright, clear and crisp day to observe the colors, the clarity of the sky and watch the leaves flutter down to the ground. It instills a sense of awe with Mother Nature and makes you realize that we are all a part of this great circle in an ever-changing environment.
The leaves change color every year and the trees shed their leaves to prepare for winter only to sprout new buds and new leaves in the spring. In our tai chi practice we must be aware of this great circle of life. All of our movements are rounded and we always return to the source; our center, our root. Our actions should be effortless in the same way that a leaf drifts to the ground by riding the wind and the pull of gravity. The falling leaf does not plan its path nor fight its descent; it merely goes along for the ride.
When you practice your tai chi you can emulate the falling leaves and allow your energy to flow naturally with no set agenda; your legs and feet forming your root and your upper body loose and relaxed, following your waist.
It is well worth your time to observe nature as often as you can for it has much to teach. After all, legend has it that tai chi got its start by observing a fight between a crane and a snake. Who knows what other tai chi legends you can start in your own observations.
Energy, energy everywhere! Think about it; there is energy within us, all around us and in everything we see and feel. There is energy in both natural and man-made things. There’s energy in your house, a tree in your back yard, your car and even the air you breathe! The mystery surrounding this energy lies in the fact that we can’t hear it, see it or touch it.
In tai chi we speak of many different energies, including our own internal energy, or chi. All living things possess a life force and even inanimate things, such as rocks, possess their own energy. We speak of earth and heaven energy perhaps as we focus on our breath in meditation. Equally important in the practice of tai chi is the notion of various energies to be aware of such as ward-off energy, sticking energy, pulling energy and splitting energy. These forces are constantly at play and require our attention as we practice both the empty hand form as well as pushing hands.
The very existence of these energies and the level at which we must raise our consciousness is part of what makes tai chi such a profound art form. We can practice tai chi at a very surface level, enjoying the benefits of an aerobic exercise while relaxing and toning our bodies; or we can practice tai chi at a much deeper level by incorporating the use of these energies or forces and using our creative and meditative skills to achieve a true sense of the martial aspect of tai chi in our practice.
Approach your own tai chi practice with different goals in mind. Perhaps focus on true relaxation and meditation one day and the next day concentrate on your energy flow, followed the next day by your ability to maintain good posture. But always stay in touch with your internal energy as well as the energy you project – it’s everywhere, within us and all around us!
Put your back into it! Oh, my aching back! Aren’t we always talking about how our backs feel or we can’t do something because our back hurts or we didn’t get a good night’s sleep because our back bothered us all night?
Let’s face it; we use our back a lot! In fact we use our back for just about everything we do because it’s our postural support mechanism. It provides us with support and the connectivity of our upper body. Clearly it plays an important part of our overall health and well-being yet many people ignore the importance of this structural load-bearing system.
Tai chi emphasizes good posture, good foundation and whole body movement. The back plays a key role in all three of these elements. Once we establish a firm and relaxed root with our feet, we allow for the free flow of energy, or chi, to our waist. Our waist then controls this movement of energy and directs it up our spine and through our loosened and upright back. The entire body is connected as the internal flow of energy acts like a whip, moving in unison to release stored chi. Read more
It seems that our society is all about quick fixes, quick responses and quick solutions. We are so over-connected these days that normal conversation has been replaced with texting and our notion of getting away on a vacation is nearly impossible because of our attachment to cell phones, lap tops and work pads. Everything is fast paced and very often if we can’t learn it or do it quickly, it isn’t worth our time. What a shame!
It’s time we all stepped away from our computers, put down our cell phones and other electronic gadgets and took the time to “smell the neighbor’s garden.” There is so much to enjoy out there when we squelch our high-intensity lifestyles and stop fighting with the normal frustrations of life. Read more
Arches are fine examples of man made and natural architecture that display elegance but at the same time great strength and expansiveness. Picture some of the arches you have seen in person or in photographs; the ancient arches of Rome and The Arc de Triomphe, the modern Gateway Arch in St. Louis and the many natural arches across the West. They all exhibit great beauty and because of their inherent strength, have withstood the test of time. In tai chi we make use of the arch all the time by practicing the bow stance and the horse stance. These strong, graceful stances are the very foundation for the tai chi form. READ MORE
Many people have been fascinated with the slow, deliberate movements of tai chi and the grace and beauty of the postures. They are mesmerized by the softness and the intense focus of the tai chi player and enticed by their meditative actions. They can clearly see the physical nature of the movements and how it appears as if the body is getting a complete workout. But what they cannot see is how this form of exercise for the mind and the body simply becomes a way of life. Read more