Tai Chi can help address pain and “clenching.” But how? Here’s one thought for practice.

I sometimes see pain as a sign of the body or brain talking to you, trying to get your attention, telling you to listen. If you have a painful joint or muscle, it might hurt because it’s doing more than its share of the body’s workload. It’s doing the work of other joints or muscles. One or more of these other parts might be holding back, either reacting to tension or stress, or creating tension and stress. I trace some of this back to the influence of emotion or knowledge. Often it’s low-level, under the radar sort of fear. Sometimes its a lack of clarity on how to respond to some force that you don’t quite Read More …

Thoughts on Developing Your Home Tai Chi Practice Routine

I was recently asked about developing a routine for home practice. Most of us are probably used to being given a set of movements to do—one set for everyone. I take a different approach, suggesting that you choose a few moves from among the many that we do in class that appeal to you and remember them at home. While we share a lot in common, every person is different: different bodies, different circumstances, and different interests, needs and desires. So the routine you develop should be customized to you and not have to be a “one size fits all” approach. Still, you need a place to begin when you’re new to the system. That’s why Read More …

Refining and Single-Basic Exercises

Although single basics are repetitive, they are not repetitious, so to speak. You repeat a pattern, intent on refining, not on repeating it exactly the same way as before. Change is the key. “Changeability” as Master Xu puts it. How do you refine? Pick out a particular locus and focus your attention on how you move there. Focus on the move itself and how you might alter it—make it smoother, rounder, less hesitant.

Knowing what you want to do in tai chi practice and doing it

One key to reaping the greatest benefits from tai chi is to develop a home practice. Practice is something you do regularly, which offers opportunities to refine and discover new things as you learn. I recently suggested working on releasing tension and not to clench or tighten joints, tendons and ligaments, as well as muscle, when moving. This may sound like a rule to apply to all of your efforts, but it’s actually not likely you can do it all the time. It would be great if you could whenever you needed. For the sake of your practice now, just remember to let tension go when you recognize you have it. Try to change that condition Read More …

The bubbling spring and your gongfu

In the beginning, you want to develop sensitivity to the bottoms of your feet, or the “Bubbling Spring,” also called “Bubbling Well,” or in Chinese, Yongquan. As you practice over time and develop your gongfu, that feeling that you once had to concentrate so much in order to develop now results from a more-mature practice. Gongfu = Effort done over time that creates knowledge and ability. A highly sensitized bubbling well liberates you from the initial task of focusing attention on that spot and sustaining concentration as you move from, or through, it mindfully. Once that’s achieved, you can move on and focus on other aspects of practice, such as other parts of the body and Read More …

Tai chi as a practice to train the mind

Renown Zen master DT Suzuki writes in the introduction to the little book entitled Zen in the Art of Archery that describes something that I’ve discovered about tai chi. He writes that a significant feature of the practice of archery is not “… for utilitarian purposes only or for purely aesthetic enjoyments, but … meant to train the mind; indeed, to bring it into contact with the ultimate reality.” This is la raison d’etre for tai chi for me—to train the mind. Training the body is equally key to balancing the dynamics of yin and yang in motion, of course, but Master Suzuki touches on a very core notion of tai chi practice that takes a Read More …

The irony in seeking silence in tai chi practice

Tai chi is getting in touch with your own silence. Your inner place of peace. “Quiet mind,” as the teacher says. Quiet, not inactive, or complacent. The irony is that the ultimate goal of tai chi is to see beyond one’s self. Not just to look inward and find silence, but to go outside of one’s self from a place of silence within. You could argue that you must first find silence within in order to hear what’s out there. If so, then maybe the best avenue to silence in the whole being is to look at what nature offers. We could evolve our practice, thus ourselves, as a result of observing nature. More irony: When Read More …

A goal in tai chi

There is a progression to tai chi. First is to relax places where we’re tight (often painful, too). Often it can be described as “clenching.” For most of us that is true. The next step in the progression is to move. Move around and through the tight places with a mindful intention to dissolve the tension. The moves are designed to help you to relax. Moving changes the body. We use different methods to get that change to happen: loosening, stretching, and single basic exercise. Repetitive, rhythmic, single moves, in which we employ awareness of and intention to the six directions, and then in shapes and patterns. The six directions are up down front back left Read More …