THE KEY TO THE HEALING POWER OF TOUCH
The key for healing through the power of touch is in the art of showing compassion in your touch! It’s the human touch in the world that counts. Which means far more to the sinking heart than shelter or bread or wine. For shelter is gone when the night is over, and bread lasts only a day. But the touch of the hand and the sound of the voice live on in the soul always.
The healing power of touch cannot be refuted. Human touch rules our very lives. Without human touch we die – maybe not our bodies, but our minds and our souls. The sense of touch and feeling are at the very core of our being, of the body-mind-soul connection. Experiencing the world through your senses is the way you process information that is useful to you. Imagine a world without sight, hearing, smell, taste or touch. Even if you lost only one of your five senses, it would be a much less enjoyable world. The sense of touch and feeling is a sense that is paramount to your survival. A baby is enveloped in the warmth of the womb, and the amniotic fluid, gently cushioned against the hostile world as it develops. The embrace and warmth of the mother, after birth, is vital for the maternal-infant bond, and is essential for the baby’s survival. The word ‘feeling’ itself is a metaphor for the sense of touch and the emotion that it elicits. Touch equals emotion, or a ‘feeling.’ You feel with your physical body and you ‘feel’ with your emotions. This is the power of touch. To touch and feel is the power of the body-mind-soul connection at work
I believe that this use of language for ‘touch’ and ‘feel’ is no coincidence. When you ‘feel’ emotions, you also ‘feel’ it in your physical body, even though you have not actually ‘felt’ with your hands or the physical body. This is another reason why it is so important to understand the connection between the body-mind-soul. They are one. The physical manifestations of your emotions that help you discover who you really are. You can speak to one another through the healing power of touch. The physical language of the soul is through the power of touch and the emotions that it elicits. When nothing is left to say, or you don’t know what to say, you can convey your understanding and compassion, solely through a truly heartfelt, physical touch. This is the healing power of touch. We can instantly tell the difference between a business-like touch and a compassionate, healing touch. You can communicate that you care or don’t care, in the way you touch. How is this possible? How is this message conveyed, if touch were only a physical experience? Yet you even speak this metaphor when you say, “I was ‘touched’ by his words.” You are ‘touched’ by the act of kindness that both your mind and your physical body ‘feels.’ Others ‘touch’ your life. You say “Let’s keep in ‘touch.'” The healing power of touch, the physical experience combined with the emotional experience to heal the soul is yet another example of the connection of the body-mind-soul or the body-mind connection that leads to healing of the soul. Touch is not an isolated physical event. The caring or lack of caring is transmitted through your hands, through the power of your touch. If what is said, and the physical sensation of touch you actually feel are incongruent, the physical touch will prevail. Physical touch has power over words – every single time. The power of touch is that significant. If caring is transmitted through my hands by means of physical touch, but I am emotionally detached, the sensation of caring will not be transmitted. If I ‘care’ for a patient by bathing and dressing him/her but do not do it in a compassionate manner, while remaining detached, the physical touch will be read as cold, uncaring, hurried or at the very best, neutral. This is why the old adage, when you were being paddled as kids, when the parent said, ‘This is hurting me more than it is hurting you,’ or ‘spare the rod, spoil the child,’ never worked. You never felt loved during this process. One never says, “My parents were so good to me, and I felt deep acceptance for who I was, and I felt love and understanding while I was being paddled!” Or for that matter, immediately after you were paddled. Or when you became an adult and thought about the paddling. In fact, what you probably felt when you were paddled was anger, defiance, feelings of being out of control and even rage, or perhaps submission to your repressed rage. Then these powerful emotions have to be suppressed, for later dealings. In fact these feelings were most likely felt over and over again in you, if you were paddled and are honest with yourself. Correction of the misdeeds of children should never be coupled with physical pain of any nature, in my opinion. The power of touch that is applied in a manner intended to hurt, hurts us physically and emotionally and may leave deep scars. A child, who is coddled, and touched with the full love and caring that the power of touch can convey, that honors the child as an individual, is a healthy child. A child is always able to discern the physical touch that was meant to care and that which is detached, abusive or meant to harm. When you want to care for a person that is grieving, hurting or suffering in any way, and you cannot find words to say, a caring, compassionate touch is all that is needed to convey your love. This is such an effective way to communicate. The power of touch done in a loving, compassionate manner will convey all. No words will be needed. The healing power of touch encompasses all and heals all. We often touch our pets, our dogs and cats with more caring and compassion than we do our fellow human beings! A child that is touched inappropriately in an adult manner will be scarred for life. The kind of ‘caring’ that this abuse portrays to the child will forever distort his/her concept of love. The only healing that can occur after abuse is the surrender to the emotions that are currently manifested in your body. What is supposed to be the most powerful expression of love, human compassion and understanding is the single most abused sense you own – physical touch. You may have also experienced horror through touch – physical beating, detachment and abuse. You all deserve more. When the power of touch is abused, the entire being, the body-mind-soul is affected. The physical body retains these scars and this deeply held pain. The power of touch needed to heal your soul and heal your scars when you have suffered abuse is immense. You will need to at first recognize that Love and physical touch was not meant to be conveyed in an abusive manner but that Love could be experienced through the healing power of touch. Seeking professional help from practitioners that convey this healing power of touch instead of the abusive power of touch will help you receive love and help you to heal. Seeking Love through grace will help you too. Self-love and self-caring of your physical body through seeking its messages can also help you if you have a deep desire for self-healing. You will need to re-connect with your body and love your body. If you ignore your body, ignore its messages, your dis-ease will only grow deeper. The only way to portray caring through the physical act of touch is to be totally present to the individual you are touching. Remember that through the power of touch, physical touch also ‘touches’ the body-mind-soul. Your mind must be empty of your own self-absorption. You cannot provide caring and warmth through your hands if you are thinking about what you will be cooking for dinner or who won last night’s game. You must be thinking about the other person, and how it would feel to receive your touch. Being present to the other person is so important in all your interactions with others. You all too often do not hear what others are saying, but are already formulating what you will say next. We all think 2-5 steps ahead of the present moment, almost unconsciously. We are all so self-absorbed and not in the present moment! Forget about words. Touch with your heart and soul. Honor the other being.
Never underestimate the healing power of touch. The power of touch to touch the soul for health and healing is great. Bodywork practitioners who perform their art in this fashion are the greatest healers of all. Seek out such practitioners who are more meditative in their presentation to healing. The traditional art of Thai Yoga Massage requires the practitioner to enter the session with a prayer-like, meditative and healing attitude! If only all our healthcare practitioners approached us in this manner with the power of healing touch on their hearts and minds. The world would be full of healthier and more whole individuals. For now, seek your own physical, bodily truth.
TAI CHI AND MEDIATION TOGETHER
Is Tai Chi a meditation tradition?
Or is it that one part of tai chi is not a meditation tradition, but one part of tai chi is a meditation tradition?
There are a lot of misconceptions in general about this both in the West and even in China. This is possible because many see the movements of tai chi and think, “Tai chi looks so meditative and graceful, it must be a moving form of meditation.”
The internal art that existed long before tai chi ever came about is called bagua. Bagua literally means “eight trigrams” and is intimately linked to the I Ching, Book of Changes. Bagua was originally a meditation tradition as it was taught in Taoist monasteries, predating tai chi by a few thousand years. Tai chi also originated from the Taoist tradition, as referenced in the Tai Chi Classics. However, even though tai chi comes from Taoism it would be false to say that it was primarily a meditation tradition.
First, let’s define ‘meditation’. There is a big difference between something being ‘meditation’ and something being ‘meditative.’ There is a difference between doing meditation for stress relief or to attract what you want in life versus practicing meditation for advancing spirituality or attaining enlightenment.
What many call ‘meditation’ in the West is often more about stress relief than spirituality. Casual meditation helps people release their stress and, if practiced enough, helps the practitioner develop inner peace. But make no mistake that meditation for the sake of spirituality, or even enlightenment, is of another order altogether. It requires a significant amount of time, dedication and inner courage. This is a very big distinction. What I personally call meditation is only the latter and I recognize that there are all kinds of ‘meditative’ practices that improve people’s lives.
The overwhelming majority of tai chi in China, as in roughly ninety-nine percent, was never considered meditation within its parent system, Taoism. There was a small group who focused on using tai chi within the Taoist meditation tradition, but that’s an extremely small minority.
Tai chi done as meditation has a range of possible goals much like sitting meditation from simply relieving life’s stresses, to clearing out all of the nonsense that’s inside if you, to deeper goals like finding out what is unchanging inside of you and eventually joining with the universe or the Tao. But this is not the common or traditional way to learn tai chi.
With Tai Chi meditation, not only are you reaping the mental benefits of de-stressing your inner core, you are also getting exercise through movement of your body. Just like Yoga, Tai Chi Meditation practices control movements. This control comes from careful use of the muscles in your legs torso, arms and almost every part of your body. This leads physical sancity as well as inner peace.
The practice of Tai Chi Meditation has also become known as Movement Meditation. In this form one does not have to sit still and ruminate; instead your chi moves through your body to reach out and eliminate the stress you feel (and is done through constant movement of the body). While it may be slow, but constant, you are constantly shifting your weight from one side to the other. By doing this slowly, and in a large circular motion moving the extensions of your body with your thoughts being focused entirely on the movement of the body. These movements are in perfect control and alignment with one another.
When you have gathered a great deal of stress and are having a hard time letting it go, one of the best known ways to relieve the stress is meditation. While I realize that there are those that think that sitting and meditating on their problem will only add stress, not decrease it, they are incorrect. By contemplation and reflection on the things that are causing the stress helps in a large way to eliminate it. If you’re the type can’t sit still and deliberate on the causes of your stress, Tai Chi Meditation will help get you where you need to be.
Tai Chi Meditation has been in practice for hundreds of years. Its historical roots are up for debate today, however, it is an ancient Chinese practice that works. Its purpose is to channel your concentration into the movements of your body and align those thoughts with the focus of your mind. In this way, you are releasing your stressors from your body. You are sending your chi or life force to all parts of your body through physical movement which leaves no room for stress. It is eliminated by the practice of Tai Chi Meditation.
Originally tai chi was not done primarily as a health exercise as it is now often promoted (and for good reasons). An interesting way of looking at tai chi is this: it is an incredible system of martial arts that contains, as a side effect of its martial aspects, a movement form that just happens to make the practitioner very healthy, the nervous system very strong and can cultivate incredible mental abilities in the practitioner. The other two internal arts of bagua and hsing-i also make practitioners strong but in other ways. So although tai chi makes people healthy, but it’s classically the ninety-nine percent of people that learned and practiced it primarily as a martial art.
The other positive side effect of learning tai chi was its meditative nature but again this is not necessarily meditation as defined previously as a practice that goes for enlightenment. Through tai chi practice the mind becomes still, which is a basic principle of meditation. But tai chi chuan‘s purpose was about making the mind still not for the goals of meditation, but for the goals of obtaining worldly and martial power.
Drawing directly from the history of the internal arts, we find that tai chi was practiced primarily as a martial art. Each move has a specific martial component and different forms were developed around martial tactics. The wide stances within the Chen style were developed for moving in battle while wearing heavy armor.
In the advanced stages of a tai chi practice, everything is taught from the perspective of the Tai Chi Classics, which come from the principles of Taoist meditation. This keeps the practitioner’s mind focused on the many phrases contained within the Classics. But these phrases and applications of using the mind were always in the service of improving martial capacity, being able to have an incredibly well-developed mind and spirit that could fight well and get an edge to be successful in the world. In the days before guns, being a better martial artist was not a hobby but rather in many cases a matter of life and death.
When we change our point of reference to tai chi as meditation the primary goal is not about fighting better. You might gain some martial ability as a side effect but it is not the purpose. Most people who are very good at meditating can usually also be successful in the world if they simply choose to have their attention, instead of turning inward, turn outward, which is what virtually everybody does to begin with.
As you move into the deeper realms of meditation, something else arises. A person could be a tai chi martial art master, do his or her tai chi push hands very well and excel at fighting. They can probably also think really well and be very successful in some external activity. But this person may still be plagued by all of their inner demons. If they have actually had to hurt others or kill in a fight, they may not be able to handle the emotional, psychic and karmic load that comes with that (much like many of our returning veterans). And if their inner demons are relatively calm after engaging in a real battle, they still don’t have the clarity to know who they are, and they don’t have the clarity to start reaching out to understand what the universe is.
In contrast, a person who does tai chi as meditation may not even particularly care about his or her martial abilities. They are more concerned with getting rid of the emotional, mental, psychic and karmic demons that they have inside of themselves. So the movements of tai chi will be done in a way that supports this purpose.
A person who does tai chi for meditation does so for the same reason that people sit in caves, or the Buddha sat and meditated, or Taoist immortals sat and meditated–to aim for what some call “enlightenment” or spiritual freedom. To them, the moving form of tai chi becomes a container for the meditation. In most traditional tai chi, although it is “meditative”, its moving form is a container primarily for the martial arts, to learn how to fight better. In modern times, it seems as though a large number of people use tai chi as a container primarily for health.
Some of the same techniques that meditators practice to attain spiritual clarity will also make the person very psychically powerful. However, that is not the goal. For martial arts, if you want to be successful in the world, if you want to beat people in the world, being psychically powerful is an incredible edge. But being psychically powerful is not going to get rid of your inner demons. In fact, it may make them worse. It may just give your demons the power to really get nasty and create bad karma. And that would defeat the purpose of tai chi and meditation.
THE STUDY AND BENEFITS OF TAI CHI
The study of t’ai chi ch’uan primarily involves three aspects:
Health: An unhealthy or otherwise uncomfortable person may find it difficult to meditate to a state of calmness or to use t’ai chi ch’uan as a martial art. T’ai chi ch’uan’s health training, therefore, concentrates on relieving the physical effects of stress on the body and mind. For those focused on t’ai chi ch’uan’s martial application, good physical fitness is an important step towards effective self-defense.
Meditation: The focus and calmness cultivated by the meditative aspect of t’ai chi ch’uan is seen as necessary in maintaining optimum health (in the sense of relieving stress and maintaining homeostasis) and in application of the form as a soft style martial art.
Martial art: The ability to use t’ai chi ch’uan as a form of self-defense in combat is the test of a student’s understanding of the art. T’ai chi ch’uan is the study of appropriate change in response to outside forces, the study of yielding and “sticking” to an incoming attack rather than attempting to meet it with opposing force. The use of t’ai chi ch’uan as a martial art is quite challenging and requires a great deal of training. Despite having a single Chinese spelling, there are two different spellings in the English usage, one derived from the Wade-Giles and the other from the Pinyin transliteration, with the West mostly being familiar with the Wade-Giles, t’ai chi ch’uan. This name is often shortened by Westerners to “t’ai chi“ (or “tai chi,” a common misspelling). This shortened name is the same as that of t’ai chi philosophy, sometimes resulting in confusion between the two. The chi in the martial art’s name can also be mistaken for chi, especially as ch’i is involved in the practice of t’ai chi ch’uan. The up-to-date Pinyin transliteration, tàijíquán, is not subject to such misinterpretation, as the spelling of the hanzi; jí is quite distinct from that of qi. “T’ai chi ch’uan” remains the popular spelling used by the general public today. Many professional practitioners, masters and martial arts bodies write it as taijiquan.
When tracing t’ai chi ch’uan’s formative influences to Taoist and Buddhist monasteries, there seems little more to go on than legendary tales from a modern historical perspective, but t’ai chi ch’uan’s practical connection to and dependence upon the theories of Sung dynasty Neo-Confucianism (a conscious synthesis of Taoist, Buddhist and Confucian traditions, especially the teachings of Mencius) is claimed by some traditional schools. T’ai chi ch’uan’s theories and practice are believed by these schools to have been formulated by the Taoist monk Zhang Sanfeng in the 12th century, at about the same time that the principles of the Neo-Confucian school were making themselves felt in Chinese intellectual life. However, modern research casts serious doubts on the validity of those claims, pointing out that a 17th-century piece called “Epitaph for Wang Zhengnan” (1669), composed by Huang Zongxi (1610–1695 A.D.), is the earliest reference indicating any connection between Zhang Sanfeng and martial arts whatsoever, and must not be taken literally, but must be understood as a political metaphor instead. Claims of connections between t’ai chi ch’uan and Zhang Sanfeng appeared no earlier than the 19th century.
The core training involves two primary features: the first being taolu (solo “forms”), a slow sequence of movements which emphasize a straight spine, abdominal breathing and a natural range of motion; the second being different styles of tuishou (“pushing hands”) for training movement principles of the form with a partner and in a more practical manner.
The taolu (solo “forms”) should take the students through a complete, natural range of motion over their centre of gravity. Accurate, repeated practice of the solo routine is said to retrain posture, encourage circulation throughout the students’ bodies, maintain flexibility through their joints, and further familiarize students with the martial application sequences implied by the various forms. The major traditional styles of t’ai chi have forms that differ somewhat in terms of aesthetics, but there are also many obvious similarities that point to their common origin. The solo forms – empty-hand and weapon – are catalogues of movements that are practiced individually in pushing hands and martial application scenarios to prepare students for self-defense training. In most traditional schools, different variations of the solo forms can be practiced: fast/slow, small-circle / large-circle, square/round (which are different expressions of leverage through the joints), low-sitting / high-sitting (the degree to which weight-bearing knees are kept bent throughout the form), for example.
Breathing exercises; neigong (“internal skill”) or, more commonly, qigong (“life energy cultivation”) are practiced to develop qi (“life energy”) in coordination with physical movement and zhan zhuang (“standing like a post”) or combinations of the two. These were formerly taught only to disciples as a separate, complementary training system. In the last 60 years they have become better known to the general public.
Qigong involves coordinated movement, breath, and awareness used for health, meditation, and martial arts training. While many scholars and practitioners consider t’ai chi ch’uan to be a type of qigong,the two are commonly distinguished as separate but closely related practices, with qigong playing an important role in training for t’ai chi ch’uan, and with many ta’i chi ch’uan movements performed as part of qigong practice. The focus of qigong is typically more on health or meditation than martial applications.
T’ai chi ch’uan’s martial aspect relies on sensitivity to the opponent’s movements and centre of gravity dictating appropriate responses. Effectively affecting or “capturing” the opponent’s centre of gravity immediately upon contact, is trained as the primary goal of the martial t’ai chi ch’uan student. The sensitivity needed to capture the centre is acquired over thousands of hours of first yin (slow, repetitive, meditative, low-impact) and then later adding yang (“realistic,” active, fast, high-impact) martial training through taolu (“forms”), tuishou (“pushing hands”), and sanshou (“sparring”). T’ai chi ch’uan trains in three basic ranges: close, medium and long, and then everything in between. Pushes and open-hand strikes are more common than punches, and kicks are usually to the legs and lower torso, never higher than the hip, depending on style. The fingers, fists, palms, sides of the hands, wrists, forearms, elbows, shoulders, back, hips, knees, and feet are commonly used to strike, with strikes to the eyes, throat, heart, groin, and other acupressure points trained by advanced students. Chin na, which are joint traps, locks, and breaks are also used. Most t’ai chi ch’uan teachers expect their students to thoroughly learn defensive or neutralizing skills first, and a student will have to demonstrate proficiency with them before offensive skills will be extensively trained.
In addition to the physical form, martial t’ai chi ch’uan schools also focus on how the energy of a strike affects the other person. A palm strike that looks to have the same movement may be performed in such a way that it has a completely different effect on the target’s body. A palm strike that could simply push the opponent backward, could instead be focused in such a way as to lift the opponent vertically off the ground, breaking his/her centre of gravity; or that it could terminate the force of the strike within the other person’s body with the intent of causing internal damage.
Most aspects of a trainee’s t’ai chi ch’uan development are meant to be covered within the partnered practice of tuishou, and so, sanshou (“sparring”) is not as commonly used as a method of training, but more advanced students sometimes do practice by sanshou. Sanshou is more common to tournaments such as wushu tournaments.
YOGA AND TAI CHI
Practicing relaxation techniques such as yoga and tai chi can help you achieve the relaxation response, a state of deep calmness that counteracts the negative effects of stress. When practiced regularly, these activities can lead to a reduction in everyday stress levels, anxiety, and muscle tension as well as an improvement in mood, energy, and focus.
Learning the basics of yoga and tai chi is straightforward, but maximizing the stress-relieving benefits requires regular practice. As a beginner, you may benefit by learning from a qualified instructor to ensure you’re performing the poses and movements correctly. You can then continue to practice alone or with others.
Key Difference: Yoga, a form of exercise and meditation, is most commonly practiced in India and is known for disciplining physical, mental, and spiritual forms. The most common yoga practiced in the Western countries is the Hatha yoga and its asanas. Yoga is most commonly associated with meditation and the ‘prana’ or ‘life’. It seeks to balance and relax the body, including joining the breath with the spirit. Tai Chi Chaun, or just Tai Chi, meaning “supreme ultimate”, is a soft martial art that revolves around a person’s ‘Qi’ or ‘Chi’ a life force that drives all living beings and forms. Tai Chi is Chinese meditation practice that is used to strengthen a person’s body and Chi. Both Yoga and Tai Chi are common exercise programs. While both are beneficial forms of meditation and relaxation, they remain completely different.
Yoga, a form of exercise and meditation, is most commonly practiced in India and is known for disciplining physical, mental, and spiritual forms. It is based on the Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali. Various traditions of yoga are found in Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism. Early forms of meditative yoga have been dated back to the Indus River Valley in the 3rd millennium BC, when seals depicting figures in a common yoga and meditation pose were unearthed. Modern yoga became popular during the mid-19th century and was introduced by Swami Vivekananda, who toured Europe and the United States in the 1890s. The most common yoga practiced in the Western countries is the Hatha yoga and its asanas.
Yoga is most commonly associated with meditation and the ‘prana’ or ‘life’. It seeks to balance and relax the body, including joining the breath with the spirit. It is also used in order to improve a person’s flexibility and build up strength. The teachings of Yoga are grouped into three parts: the physical aspect, mental aspect and spiritual aspect. While the physical aspect focuses on strengthening the body, the mental aspect deals with relieving stress and anxiety, along with fostering positive thinking and self-acceptance. The spiritual aspect deals with becoming one with the nature and the joining of the body and spirit as one. Different asanas of yoga are used depending on a person’s need. Yoga can be used for meditation, increasing flexibility, or burning calories. Yoga can also help fight cancer, schizophrenia, asthma and heart diseases; it also increases awareness, improves musculo-skeletal and mental health. It can also relieve stress, anxiety, depression and promote more happy thoughts. One should also be careful when performing the asanas, so that they do not over-exert themselves and cause injuries.
Tai Chi Chaun, or just Tai Chi, meaning “supreme ultimate”, is a soft martial art that revolves around a person’s ‘Qi’ or ‘Chi’ a life force that drives all living beings and forms. Tai Chi is Chinese meditation practice that is used to strengthen a person’s body and Chi. According to Old Chinese medicine, the constant flow of Chi in a person is what keeps a person’s body healthy and fit. If the flow of Chi is interrupted then the body becomes sick. The practice of Tai Chi ensures that the Chi inside a person continues to flow without any disruptions. Tai Chi is believed to be originated some two thousand years ago and uses continual movement of the hands and feet as well as proper shifting of weight in order to facilitate movement of Chi through the body. The body has a center called the tan t’ien near your belly button where you relax your hands at the beginning and end of each practice to gather the Chi. In using Tai chi as a combat exercise; it follows the principle of yin and yang, a balance of opposites where soft is used to overcome hard. Similar to Yoga, Tai Chi focuses on a person’s breathing in order to release all the bad energy.
Though, Tai Chi comprise of slow movements, it does not mean it can be just as lethal as aggressive martial arts. Tai Chi training involves five elements, taolu (solo hand and weapons routines/forms), neigong & qigong (breathing, movement and awareness exercises and meditation), tuishou (response drills) and sanshou (self-defense techniques). Neigong & qigong and Sanshou are the most popular forms of Tai Chi practiced today. Tai Chi styles such as, Yang, Wu, and Chen, also have secondary forms of a faster pace for movements. Tai Chi movements are proved to improve coordination, balance, strength and burn calories. It can also be used for relaxation, to relieve muscular tension and pain. According to research, continuous tai chi practice has shown improvements in people recovering chronic stroke, heart failure, high blood pressure, heart attacks, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and fibromyalgia. The only injury that can be sustained from Tai Chi is the tension building up in the knees from improper postures, so if a person feels tension and pain the knees while practicing, they should consult the master or try other poses that alleviates the tension.
There are many different types of yoga. As well as the popular types, there are many yoga classes modified for different needs, such as prenatal yoga, yoga for seniors, and adaptive yoga (modified for disabilities). Most yoga sessions begin with a series of poses to warm up the body, and most sessions end with some type of relaxation exercise.
Tai chi is based on the premise that wellness and relaxation requires the body’s bio energy, or Qi, to flow smoothly around the body. The muscle movements in tai chi exercises are designed to stimulate the flow of Qi through the body and the major organs.
Tai chi focuses on correct body posture and spinal alignment in order to release tension, improve the digestive system, and remove stress from the back. By moving weight from one leg to another, and alternately raising the arms, legs and hands, tai chi varies the weight on different joints increases the flow of nutrients into the joint, increasing flexibility and range of motion. These flowing movements also strengthen muscles, ligaments, and tendons. By focusing your mind on the movements and your breathing, you keep your attention on the present, which clears the mind and leads to a relaxed state.
When looking at Tai Chi vs. Yoga, you need to realize that while Tai Chi has its roots seated far back in Chinese history; Yoga has a similar history that began in India. While there are definite similarities in some of the forms, you will also find that the two practices differ significantly from one another and yet can achieve many of the same goals. These goals are to help you achieve a high level of mental and physical well-being or health through the practice of both physical and metal exercises and the use of the appropriate breathing techniques.
One of the biggest differences when it comes to Tai Chi vs. yoga is that yoga was developed purely as a form of individual and group exercise that can be practiced by anyone. On the other hand while Tai Chi can be used a form of both physical and mental exercise, it is also a martial art that can be used in battle. Beyond this the other major difference is that yoga focuses on using the arms to hold your body’s weight and provide the necessary support, Tai Chi focuses on developing and using the muscles in your legs.
As you consider Tai Chi vs. yoga, you would do well to start by looking at the similarities in the benefits that you can expect from either of them. As both practices involve a series of forms or postures that are designed to stretch and improve the flexibility of your muscles, you will find that they will improve your circulation and blood flow. By learning and practicing the methods of breathing and meditation, you can learn to relax your body and your mind and in doing so eliminate the stress and affects it has on both your mind and your body.
In yoga you are taught to attain a particular posture and hold it for a period of time that will get longer with practice. These forms are designed to have significant positive impact on your physical health and the mental discipline that goes with them can help to create a peaceful state of mind, promote the power of positive thinking and teach you to accept yourself the way you are.
With Tai Chi, your body is constantly in motion as you move fluidly from one form to another. This rhythmic movement, combined with the appropriate breathing technique also has significant positive impact on your overall physical health and is considered to be a low impact form of aerobic exercise. Of equal importance is the fact that this constant motion is a form of moving meditation that serves to calm your mind and eliminate your stress.
Yoga originated from India. It is based on breathing, exercising and meditating to facilitate the enhancement of physical and mental health. Yoga instructions usually depend on the needs of the person. Today, it is commonly practiced to relieve one from stress, and for peace of mind. The usual pattern of yoga includes different positions or postures on the floor, either sitting or standing. It often uses the arms to hold the body’s weight, in order to develop strength. Sometimes it causes pressure on the wrists and shoulders. Changes can be made to lessen the stress on the joints. The right information is essential to avoid accidents and injury.
The significance of yoga teachings are grouped into three parts: the physical aspect, mental aspect and spiritual aspect. The physical aspect includes flexibility and good balance. It has also been discovered that yoga can help increase energy, improve breathing and circulatory health, relieve pain, increase vitality, cause weight-loss and make one feel and look younger. It also builds muscle tone, and helps alleviate asthma and carpal tunnel syndrome. Secondly, the mental aspect includes relaxation, especially in handling stressful situations, peacefulness of the mind, and helps to foster positive thinking and self-acceptance. The spiritual aspect promotes consciousness of one’s feelings, body and the environment. It encourages reliance between the body, mind and spirit. Pain is not the virtue of yoga.
Tai Chi, ‘supreme ultimate’, came from China during the 1300′s. It is a soft martial art, designed to work out the muscles and joints using a gentle and low impact method. It involves positions or postures while standing and taking steps. The legs are used to carry the body, while the arms are moving slowly and gracefully in the air. The posture is continuous to make certain that the body is in unvarying motion. The movement should come from the internal part of the body (the abdomen and the back), and not from the external part (arms and shoulders).
Tai Chi is good for relaxation and concentration. It can develop strength, balance and flexibility. It also helps in staying stress free, and boosts stamina and energy. It’s low impact helps lubricate the joints, and is good for those suffering from arthritis. Tai Chi is more of a mind, than body exercise, with gentle movements. It can be practiced at any age.
What is Tai Chi all about?
Can it possibly be incorporated with meditation and yoga?
If you’re looking for a way to reduce stress, consider tai chi. Originally developed for self-defense, tai chi has evolved into a graceful form of exercise that’s now used for stress reduction and a variety of other health conditions. Often described as meditation in motion, tai chi promotes serenity through gentle, flowing movements.
Tai chi is an ancient Chinese tradition that, today, is practiced as a graceful form of exercise. It involves a series of movements performed in a slow, focused manner and accompanied by deep breathing.
Tai chi, also called tai chi chuan, is a noncompetitive, self-paced system of gentle physical exercise and stretching. Each posture flows into the next without pause, ensuring that your body is in constant motion. Tai chi has many different styles. Each style may have its own subtle emphasis on various tai chi principles and methods. There are also variations within each style. Some may focus on health maintenance, while others focus on the martial arts aspect of tai chi. Tai chi is low impact and puts minimal stress on muscles and joints, making it generally safe for all ages and fitness levels. In fact, because tai chi is low impact, it may be especially suitable if you’re an older adult who otherwise may not exercise. You may also find tai chi appealing because it’s inexpensive, requires no special equipment and can be done indoors or out, either alone or in a group.
Although tai chi is generally safe, women who are pregnant or people with joint problems, back pain, fractures, severe osteoporosis or a hernia
should consult their health care provider before trying tai chi. Modification or avoidance of certain postures may be recommended.
Tai Chi is an internal Chinese martial art practiced for both its defense training and its health benefits. It is also typically practiced for a variety of other personal reasons: its hard and soft martial art technique, demonstration competitions, and longevity. As a result, a multitude of training forms exist, both traditional and modern, which correspond to those aims. Some of t’ai chi ch’uan’s training forms are especially known for being practiced with what most people would categorize as slow movement.
Today, t’ai chi ch’uan has spread worldwide. Most modern styles of t’ai chi ch’uan trace their development to at least one of the five traditional schools: Chen, Yang, Wu (Hao), Wu and Sun.
Medical research has found evidence that t’ai chi is helpful for improving balance and for general psychological health, and that it is associated with general health benefits in older people.
The term “t’ai chi ch’uan” translates as “supreme ultimate fist”, “boundless fist”, “supreme ultimate boxing” or “great extremes boxing”. The chi in this instance is the Wade-Giles transliteration of the Pinyin, and is distinct from “life energy”. The concept of the taiji (“supreme ultimate”), in contrast with wuji (“without ultimate”), appears in both Taoist and Confucian Chinese philosophy, where it represents the fusion of Yin and Yang into a single ultimate, represented by the taijitu symbol . T’ai chi ch’uan theory and practice evolved in agreement with many Chinese philosophical principles, including those of Taoism and Confucianism.
Tai chi ch’uan training involves five elements, solo hand and weapons routines/forms, breathing, movement and awareness exercises and meditations, response drills and self- defense techniques). While t’ai chi ch’uan is typified by some for its slow movements, many t’ai chi styles (including the three most popular –Yang, Wu and Chen) – have secondary forms with faster pace. Some traditional schools of t’ai chi teach partner exercises known as “pushing hands”, and martial applications of the forms’ postures.
In China, t’ai chi ch’uan is categorized under the Wudang grouping of Chinese martial arts – that is, the arts applied with internal power. Although the Wudang name falsely suggests these arts originated at the so-called Wudang Mountain, it is simply used to distinguish the skills, theories and applications of neijia (“internal arts”) from those of the Shaolin grouping, waijia (“hard” or “external”) martial art styles.
Since the first widespread promotion of t’ai chi ch’uan’s health benefits, it has developed a worldwide following among people with little or no interest in martial training, for its benefit to health and health maintenance. Medical studies of tai chi support its effectiveness as an alternative exercise and a form of martial arts therap.
It is purported that focusing the mind solely on the movements of the form helps to bring about a state of mental calm and clarity. Besides general health benefits and stress management attributed to t’ai chi ch’uan training, aspects of traditional Chinese medicine are taught as well. Some other forms of martial arts require students to wear a uniform during practice. In general, t’ai chi ch’uan schools do not require a uniform, but both traditional and modern teachers often advocate loose, comfortable clothing and flat-soled shoes.
The physical techniques of t’ai chi ch’uan are described in the “Tai chi classics,” a set of writings by traditional masters, as being characterized by the use of leverage through the joints based on coordination and relaxation, rather than muscular tension, in order to neutralize, yield, or initiate attacks. The slow, repetitive work involved in the process of learning how that leverage is generated gently and measurably increases, opens the internal circulation (breath, body heat, blood, lymph, peristalsis, etc).
In modern usage, the term is now commonly understood, both in the West and in mainland China, to refer to the martial art and exercise system. However, the term has its origins in Chinese philosophy. The word taiji translates to “great pole/goal” or “supreme ultimate”, and is believed to be a pivotal, spiraling, or coiling force that transforms the neutrality of wuji to a state of polarity depicted by the taijitu. T’ai chi / taiji is thus symbolically represented by a state between wuji and the polar “yin and yang”, not by the actual yin and yang symbol, as is frequently misinterpreted. The combination of the term taiji and quan (“fist”) produces the martial art’s name taijiquan or “taiji fist”, showing the close link and use of the taiji concept in the martial art. Taijiquan does not directly refer to the use of qi as is commonly assumed. The practice of taijiquan is meant to be in harmony with taiji philosophy, utilizing and manipulating qi via taiji, to produce great effect with minimal effort.
There are now dozens of new styles, hybrid styles, and offshoots of the main styles, but the five family schools are the groups recognized by the international community as being the orthodox styles. Other important styles are Zhaobao t’ai chi ch’uan, a close cousin of Chen-style, which has been newly recognized by Western practitioners as a distinct style, and the Fu style, created by Fu Chen Sung, which evolved from Chen, Sun and Yang styles, and also incorporates movements from Baguazhang (Pa Kua Chang).
In the last twenty years or so, t’ai chi ch’uan classes that purely emphasize health have become popular in hospitals, clinics, as well as community and senior centres. This has occurred as the baby boomers generation has aged and the art’s reputation as a low-stress training method for seniors has become better known.
As a result of this popularity, there has been some divergence between those that say they practice t’ai chi ch’uan primarily for self-defense, those that practice it for its aesthetic appeal, and those that are more interested in its benefits to physical and mental health. The wushu aspect is primarily for show; the forms taught for those purposes are designed to earn points in competition and are mostly unconcerned with either health maintenance or martial ability. More traditional stylists believe the two aspects of health and martial arts are equally necessary: the yin and yang of t’ai chi ch’uan. The t’ai chi ch’uan “family” schools, therefore, still present their teachings in a martial art context, whatever the intention of their students in studying the art.
The philosophy of t’ai chi ch’uan is that, if one uses hardness to resist violent force, then both sides are certainly to be injured at least to some degree. Such injury, according to t’ai chi ch’uan theory, is a natural consequence of meeting brute force with brute force. Instead, students are taught not to directly fight or resist an incoming force, but to meet it in softness and follow its motion while remaining in physical contact until the incoming force of attack exhausts itself or can be safely redirected, meeting yang with yin. When done correctly, this yin/yang or yang/yin balance in combat, or in a broader philosophical sense, is a primary goal of t’ai chi ch’uan training.
Alessandro Sicuro wrote: …”Tai Chi is the best gift that you can do to your body, to your mind and your spirit …”