by Anita Burns
“Tai chi is about changing our internal environment so that life becomes a joy to live and not a burden to drag into old age and death. It is about helping your body to let go of the past and your mind to slow down and cease churning. Tai chi encourages your internal focus to shift toward cherishing and remembering all that is wonderful in your life. It predisposes you to look forward to ways to make life better, rather than remembering how unsatisfying it has been. Most importantly, tai chi gives us the ability to realize a greater human potential in ourselves and to have genuine compassion for others. Tai chi, with its gentle strength, moves us closer to feeling more truly alive.”—Bruce Frantzis
Practicing Tai chi sends us into an experience of complete oneness with the world. In its satiny, smooth movements, the cares of the world temporarily dissolve into unimportance. Like the ocean tides, each motion flows into the other.
Tai Chi has no sharp or sudden movements. It is done in graceful, rhythmic, circular motions and is the ultimate in moving meditation, blending body and mind in complete harmony.
From it’s humble beginnings in 2205 B.C. as a discipline to prevent life force stagnation in the body, Tai Chi has changed throughout the centuries, evolving from one form to another, each Tai Chi master making improvements and adding a personal touch.
Today, although there are innumerable versions of Tai Chi, they are all derived from four major Tai Chi styles: Yang, orginally a Chen family secret discipline for self-defense and health; Wu, a shorter, less athletic version, developed by a Chen family son when he opened Tai Chi to the public; Ho, an athletic version, usually performed only in China; and Sun, an aggressive, forceful style.
Although watching Tai Chi is a joyful experience, in any style, it was never intended to be a performing art like dance or gymnastics. Tai Chi is an inner art, harmonizing and strengthening the body, mind, and spirit.
Tai Chi, unlike most exercise disciplines, puts no undue stress on the body. You remain completely relaxed during the entire process. You don’t huff and puff, and are never pushed beyond your capability. Tai Chi builds strength and endurance steadily and slowly through the movements, employing balance, motion, and breathing.
There is no age limit for enjoying Tai Chi. People of all ages participate and benefit. Tai Chi masters claim that legs can be strengthened, blood circulation can be improved resulting in a more alert, mind, improved, limber joints, and better balance. Tai Chi teaches us how to relax during movement, promoting strength and force in our actions.
As a meditative practice, Tai Chi creates a calm and alert mind, capable of focused attention. The benefits of meditation are commonly known and recommended by many doctors and psychologists. They claim that meditation provides a release of emotional tension and allows creative flow and introspection. Tai Chi practicers often say they are better able to cope with stress, interact more easily with people, and generally feel better all over.
The philosophy of Tai Chi embraces the relationship between body and mind—that a troubled mind will affect the body and a weak sick body will affect the mind. In a world full of stress, Tai Chi is like an oasis in the desert. The constant flow of smooth, rhythmic, circular motion, creates mental and physical peace and harmony. Many Tai Chi students say they experience a floating, timeless sensation. Worries and anxieties seem to melt away. Tai Chi pulls the attention inward. The practicer becomes acutely aware of body and mind moving in complete unison.
Tai Chi is properly experienced with comfort and ease. The more it is practiced, the better it feels. Master TT. Liang said, “At first I took up Tai Chi as a hobby; gradually It became an addiction”