I’ve been a student of tai chi over the years. Perhaps I should say I’ve been a fan. I’ve lived in a few different places over the years and taken many tai chi classes. There are many different forms of tai chi and I have not learned totally even one of them.
My instructor says it takes many many years to learn a form. Then there are always nuances that make it interesting and you keep learning. I rather think that life is like that too. Just when you think you’ve got it, something else comes along.
I learned just this week that if you breathe in through your nose and take the breath all the way down to your stomach and make your stomach poke out like its full of air, then let the air out through your mouth — you’ve just breathed using your diaphragm. You’ve also used the lower half of your lungs – and most people don’t breath like that. If you’re using the lower half of your lungs, your circulation will improve. Improved circulation will help with arthritis, aches and pains, varicose veins, asthma – just to name a few.
You can practice this kind of breathing for 4 or 5 times a day and it becomes a little meditation. Just follow your breathe for 2 or 3 minutes. Pay attention to the breathe. Let thoughts of other things come and go. After a month or two you will have trained your body to breathe fully all the time.
Slow Down, You Move Too Fast
Tai chi is a series of slow, concentrated movements. In my traditional Debese, I want to get to it and get it done. Oh no, not how it works with tai chi. You take your time, you pay attention to what your hands are doing, you feel the movement. I’m lucky – there are only 2 students in my class. Me and a 75 year old woman. I get a lot of attention from the instructor. He doesn’t yell “slow down”. He just goes slower himself – so I have to go slower to follow him.
I think my friend Liz Strauss must be a tai chi master. She’s taken the principle of slow down and used it in her presentations and conversations. I was in a room full of people just chattering away and making all kinds of noise. It was Liz’s turn to present. She didn’t yell, or stamp her feet or whistle. She just stood quietly, breathing. Finally everyone got quiet. Liz spoke. Softly. Everyone was forced to listen with both ears to hear her. Tai chi is like that. Quiet, breathing, powerful.
Bend Your Knees
In tai chi, you never stand with your legs straight and knees locked. You always have your knees bent. Try it yourself for a day – stand without locking your knees. It’s not easy. It does build up your leg muscles and forces you to strengthen your core.
Benefits? When you stand with knees locked, your bones are rubbing against each other. Eventually – you’ll have pain. And strong legs and strong core lead to a stronger life. Who doesn’t want that?
Next winter, when it’s cold and icy, remember this post on tai chi. If you breathe nice and slow when you’re outside and walk with your knees bent just a little – you’ll be safer on the ice. It’s when we lock up and breath shallow that fear steps in to fill the empty spaces. So relax, bend your knees and breathe. Slow down. Breathe.