WHAT IS TAI CHI AND WHY IT IS GOOD FOR YOUR HEALTH
The most important feature of Tai Chi is the internal nature of the exercise. Tai Chi is a set of movements using hands, feet and other parts of the body to bring about improved changes in the internal functions of the body as well as achieving external benefits. The result is better internal bodily functions like bowel movements, deeper breathing and a better body balance through flexible joints.
Tai Chi Principles
There are several principles to follow when practicing Tai Chi.
- Correct timing and slowness in movement for connection
- Movements are circular and spiralling
- Movements are directed by the waist
- ‘Transitional elasticity’ – the follow through between moves
- No ‘double weightedness’ on the feet
- Feet rooted to the ground
- ‘Song 松’ which means relaxed but focussed
Whole Body Exercise
Tai Chi is a whole body exercise. Every movement is linked to the movement of other parts of the body at the same time. To achieve this, Tai Chi makes use of nine joints in the body known as the nine pearls. The nine pearls are the nine body joints working together like a string of pearls so that all the joints are interconnected as far as movements are concerned. Moving one or two joints will move all the others at the same time. Tai Chi movements are generated by joint rotation and joint extension, rather than by muscles pushing and pulling independently of each other.
The Nine Joints
The nine joints are, from the waist down, foot, ankle, knee and hip joint known as Kua (胯). Hand, wrist, elbow and shoulder are joints above the waist. The final ‘joint’ is the waist band, making up nine joints altogether. The waist band is considered an important joint in Tai chi because it gathers the force or power from the feet, up the leg and expresses out to the hands. Flexibility of all the joints is very important and must be the aim. Inside the waist band about inch below the navel is the Dantian (丹田). The Dantian is the engine of the body where internal energy is stored and distributed to the organs and the rest of the body. Tai Chi generates internal energy which is stored in the Dantian.
The other important joint is the hip joint or the Kua. The Kua integrates the movements of the upper and lower body. Without activating the nine joints, particularly the Kua, there is not much Tai Chi energy (qi 气) flowing, therefore no Tai Chi. In Tai Chi circles, this is known as Tai Chi ‘exercise’ or walking Tai Chi.
The Kua also enables the hips and shoulders to stay level, keeps the posture erect as well as protects the knees by keeping the knee, foot and hips stay in alignment.
Meridians ( 经络 )
In Tai Chi practice, meridians are engaged to improve energy circulations. Meridians are energy highway in our body. For example the web between the thumb and the index finger is the big intestine meridian, also known as the tiger’s mouth. When practising Tai Chi, the web is kept slightly stretched to activate the meridian. The big intestine meridian is a detox meridian in letting go of what is not needed physical as well as emotional. Activating it can improve alertness and mood.
When practising Tai Chi, focus is necessary and gradually it becomes natural. Focus means the senses are engaged but the thinking subsides. Focus also means being present which leads to mindfulness. The result is a moving meditation when practising Tai Chi.
Qigong ( 气功 )
An integral part of Tai Chi is Qigong without which Tai Chi is incomplete. Qigong means life force cultivation through breath and movements. Qigong is a simple short exercise which is built into our Tai Chi program.