Having experienced stages of my life when I've really looked after my body with a good diet, good habits etc and periods when life and what I 've put in my body has been stressful and less than ideal - taking into account & having controlled all these variables and having practiced Taiji through all these different phases; I'm convinced that all things equal regular Taiji practice gives you this surge of energy and vitality. This feeling of vitality is unlike the feelings of well being from a healthy diet and lifestyle, it is also unlike feelings of strength from being fit & strong from conventional exercise. Hard to explain but the feelings of vitality also boost your strength of will - the feelings of vitality affect both body and mind.
Suryacitta (2011) talks about meditation and body awareness and he might as well be talking about a common experience in the beginning to intermediate stages of learning Tai Chi. That is, over time when we become aware (and learn to relax) the tensions that we hold in our body, these tensions dissolve and not only does the separation between us and others soften but also we feel more at ease with ourselves.
Many people come to start Tai Chi with a vague escapist notion that they want to relax or get a release from stress, or develop their balance, by engaging in some gentle, very light/easy physical exercise, without engaging their minds. You can get some of these benefits from doing Tai Chi but what they don't realize is that it involves meditation which when done properly always involves honestly seeing who we are, or in this case "listening to our bodies. and mind."
"The observation of experience is more important than what is observed. It is the art of watching experience - irrespective of what the experience is - that is going to lead us to freedom. If we cannot watch our experience and contain it and see it for what it really is, then we will be forever lost in our own turbulent subjective worlds." (Suryacitta, , "Happiness & How It Happens": Allen & Unwin:pp39)
As it is with watching or listening to our bodies whilst we move in the Tai Chi way we free ourselves from bad habits.
Most of my practice is done indoors but when you get the opportunity to practice in some lovely natural surroundings you should do so. The sounds of the flowing water and nature make you feel like you're merging with the natural surroundings/or Dao. No words or conscious left-brain/analytical thoughts need to demand your attention whilst your body slowly performs the circular movements of Taiji. Or even being still in standing postures is also equally meditative and intoxicating. Also if you're sensitive enough the circulation/flow of energy/chi around you feels completely different to that of being indoors. Perhaps quiet solitude indoors is better for listening to your body but in a good natural spot - under or near trees - it is like being part of a subtle and lively party with all it's noises, good vibes, and distractions whilst bathing in a gentle and nourishing flow of "energy".
When I do my daily Taiji practice (at night) I'm mindful to work on the lengthening & release of my tailbone, so my spine is gently pulled straight in a vertical direction (just at the right level of tension), followed by the release. When mindfully synchronized with the slow & repeated turning of the hips, my spine (in particular - the lower lumbar region) soon feels great and prepares me for a comfortable and easy transition to the sleep state. I find this a therapeutic antidote to a stiff and tense lower lumbar region especially after hours of sitting or inactivity.
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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