Author - Lee Chang Tye
Blog Postings - Relaxed Mind Tai Chi
|Relaxed Mind Tai Chi||
Even though I had been learning & practicing Tai Chi for almost 2 decades, I was very surprised at how much information and detail I was being taught when I first started learning the GM Huang Sheng Shyan version of Prof. CMC's short form with my teacher Wee Kee Jin. It was obvious the depth of detail and knowledge he had of the form was because he was taught incredibly well by his Master (Huang Sheng Shyan) and that he'd been receptive enough, and done all the hard work, in absorbing and internalizing it all within his own practice. Over the years since I first started learning from Kee Jin, those instructions concerning the accuracy of the form have never wavered & has remained true to what the Master taught him. And over the years I've begun to understand the good reasons behind those details and how consistent they are with the Tai Chi principles. I take great consolation in knowing that what I am learning is as close as possible to what the Master taught, so his genius insights live on.
Author - Lee Chang Tye
Sometimes we can't help but be overwhelmed with the demands in our life, they seem to come from all directions and appear urgent. Work, family, social, technological, financial, health demands, worries about the future, maintenance issues, dealing with organizations, disagreements, etc. Prolonged stress is dreadful for our state of being and also spills over in how we deal with those around us when we act irrationally. Stress is an event that occurs in our minds so no matter where we are, it's almost impossible to escape it. Simple Tai Chi exercises can help you calm down and get some deep relaxation in the area where you have control over – in your mind and body. And, I might add naturally, without any negative side effects, without the use of any equipment, drugs, food or expensive escapist activities. Here is a simple exercise that you can try & practice when you're stressed, or even better - everyday -as persistence in practice amplifies and hastens the calming effects.
1/ Stand with feet shoulder width & toes facing the front.
2/ Feel both soles of your feet evenly grounded.
3/ Imagine the crown of your head being gently suspended from above.
4/ Bend your knees slightly & relax your hips.
5/ Align your upper body so that you from the crown of your head to the base of your feet is vertically aligned.
6/ Relax your shoulders, arms & hang them loosely by your sides.
7/ Place your tongue lightly on your upper palate and breathe naturally through your nose.
8/ Imagine roots from the soles of feet growing downward vertically deeper and deeper into the ground – at the same time keep conscious of the crown of your head suspended from above.
9/ When your mind drifts away, gently repeat the process for couple of minutes and see how deeply you can grow the roots under your feet.
10/ Close your eyes if it helps your visualization, listen to your body & you'll feel the tension and stress melt away into the ground, returning you to your normal calm and rational self.
With some practice it becomes very enjoyable. Let me know of your experience with this exercise.
Lee Chang Tye
Principal Instructor - “Relaxed Mind Tai Chi”
In Tai Chi practice (in particular the standing exercises) why do we visualize growing roots or directing the mind intent into the ground under the feet? A major reason is because this image promotes your body to release tension into the ground. It might not be apparent to you doing this exercise but someone experienced watching you can see your tension in your upper body relax as you let go of your chest & upper body. It also begins the process of training you to "borrow the energy from the earth/ground".
Author - Lee Chang Tye
I know that the Daoist exercises that are the fundamentals of Tai Chi as we know it today have many healing applications but was pleasantly surprised when I saw it being heavily tapped into for an alternate method to treat "Tinnitus".
In the book "Tinnitus Alleviation Therapy" by Maria Holl (and supported by the European Federation of Tinnitus Associations), she bases her therapy on:
a/ freeing blocked bioenergy;
b/ self-massage to stimulate & open energy meridians to improve circulation, functioning of the glands & the immune system; and
c/ Taoist healing exercises to harmonize the chi and develop a new sense of awareness. Wow! Sound familiar? Her premise is that many tinnitus sufferers have accumulated too much energy in the head, neck and chest area & not enough in the pelvis, legs and feet, so the goal of treatment is to shift the focus and hence lower the intensity of the tinnitus.
Naturally she adapts it to suit her purposes but uses the standing, self massage & several types of loosening exercises to align the structure of the body, to improve grounding, to release tension, to restore emotional balance, to improve circulation. Within her exercises she uses very similar types of Tai Chi visualization to promote relaxation, grounding, & dantien breathing. It's refreshing to see these Tai Chi/Daoist healing exercises used laterally.
Maria Holl (2013), "Tinnitus Alleviation Therapy", Basic Health publications, Inc. ISBN: 978-1-59120-364-3.
As I gain more experience teaching Tai Chi I see a reasonable percentage of people with lower back pain and stiff lower backs. Causes vary of course (anything from arthritis, being sedentary, trauma, scoliosis, to disc problems) and so does the suitability of any chosen lower back exercise, but in general these people are looking for an exercise which gives them some relief from their lower back pain. Usually they try Yoga first but may find the postures, or the bending/twisting/turning of the spine unsuitable for their condition or age. They may try brisk walking but may find the constant jarring impact with the ground aggravating. They may try massage or other forms of manipulation but this may be expensive and generally only offers relief of the symptoms.
So to answer any questions regarding this topic, good Tai Chi differs significantly from the aforementioned exercises & methods in the way we exercise the spine. Tai Chi practitioners (in general) slowly lengthen & release the spine whilst the spine is aligned vertically and connected (rooted) to the ground via the hips, legs & feet. Using an illustration, it is like the pulling of a spring (spine) that has its top attached to the ceiling - we never "twist" nor “excessively bend” the spine, all the turning is done at the hip joints (the millstone turns). The result of this repeated slow lengthening and releasing (along with several other Tai Chi principles) is a gentle – but substantial - spinal workout that can bring relief to tension & discomfort in the lower back area.
These are my thoughts about various aspects of Tai Chi. They may or may not be original and I try to give credit where credit is due.
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