As an exercise routine Tai Chi is probably the mostwidely practised system in the world. Because most of the exercises are done in slow motion it’s ideal for every age and might explain the longevity of the population in China. There are actually five elements of Tai Chi or T’ai chi ch’uan to give it it’s full name. The slow kata style, that appears most in any footage from china, probably defines what we in the west consider to be Tai Chi and once you have learned it you will discover that it is also an excellent means of meditation as well. I have had most of my inspirational spiritual experiences whilst performing Tai Chi.
Tai Chi is a martial art so has many fighting/defence elements do exist in it. The idea is that if you have practised these movements to perfection, at such a slow pace, that in a real fight or flight situation that your body would perform these movements instinctively. One of the elements, ‘Pushing hands’, isn’t practised as much in the west. With this style you face your opponent and every move they make, with their arms, you counteract. It’s almost like you and your opponents arms are stuck together. If an opponent can’t get his arms free to hit you then he just can’t hit you. That’s the theory anyway. It’s certainly a beautiful skill to watch. It’s like watching two courting swans spooning.
Another key element is Qigong (breathing, movement and awareness exercises and meditation). These are shorter one of exercises that you repeat so can be easier to learn than the longer forms of Tai Chi. Qigong helps you to combat stress, prevent illness and promotes fitness and well being. hen practising Qigong you can feel the Qi (life force) buzzing through your body. Many of the exercises to pull Qi into your body closely match methods used in other spiritual systems.
Qigong has almost the same energy centres as the Chakras used in India and the two systems are very closely linked, which you would expect as both countries are close to each other and many of the techniques have passed back and forth over the centuries.
Many studies in the 20th century seem to back up Tai Chi/Qigongs health benefits which include;
- emotional stability
- impoved posture and breathing
- lower blood pressure
- strengthens and loosens joints
- improved immune system
- lowers stress
Accupuncture and Accupressure also tie in with Tai Chi as they both utilise the 12 pairs of meridians or energy channels that travel throughout our bodies. These channels emerge in 365 points in the body that can be manipulated to unblock Qi blockages that can be the source of illness.
Certainly if you have trouble doing seated meditation, as I did, then you could do a lot worse than trying a Qigong exercise repeatively and concentrating fully on each movement that you are doing. This kind of mindfullness meditation can have great results, especially if you have trouble quietening your mind. It’s hard to let your mind wander when you are moving so slowly and watching every move intently.
Here’s an exercise to practise that also incorporates some visualisation work. Visualising Qi flowing enhances all Qigong exercises.
Stand in a relaxed stance, feet hip width apart, knees slightly bent. Put your hands in front of you like you have your palms on top of a table, fingers pointing slightly towards each other. Now slowly raise your hands, keeping the palms flat until they are just above your head. As you lift your hands imagine that you are drawing up a curtain of Qi around your whole body. As you lower your hands back to the imaginary table see that Qi washing down all over your body. As you get used to this add your knees into the process. As your arms go up drop your knees a small distance, like you are sitting on a chair and as your arms come down sit back up again. You should never straighten your legs totally. You will find that initially your legs will shake as this is a really good exercise for the lower torso, you will be surprised at the muscles you discover doing this.
Keep doing this exercise as slowly as you can for 10-15 mins. This is the Earth Wash. Your arm speed should be a slow count of 15 to reachthe top and 15 back down. Two rotations a minute. Keep your wrist supple and all muscles as loose as possible.
Here’s a good example of some more meditation exercises from Youtube.