Author - Lee Chang Tye
|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
Some of my students have told me (and also from my observations) that when they start practicing in my classes, they feel anxious because they should be "mastering" the exercises or form "as quickly as possible". They have the expectation that it's only going to take a few lessons before they "nail" the movements or exercises. Or that they shouldn't settle for anything less than "perfection" from themselves. I don't think that they are expecting the health benefits to come only if they are perfect - which of course isn't true - you can still get a lot from mindfully learning about the process (eg - improved kinesthetic awareness & coordination, better balance, aware of the areas where you hold tension, moving your major muscle groups, calming,etc) I suppose that expectation is fair enough - I recall thinking similar thoughts when I started learning from my current teacher - after all, I had been practising for a healthy number of years already & knew a lot - so I thought. So I figured after a few lessons & careful observation, I'd have my head wrapped around it & my body would've stored the new information in it's muscle memory. Not to be. So, I try and put my students at ease by telling them not to worry about "perfection" but to gradually practice, remembering what they can & try and to reach it in the long term. Also to just enjoy the process.
It can take awhile for people beginning Tai Chi from scratch to a point where they begin to feel comfortable with the way we move in Tai Chi. Everyone is different and new students have reported physical symptoms such as: stiffness, muscular tension, discomfort in the calves, knees, thighs, back etc when first beginning their practice. Other symptoms have included dizziness, nausea, feelings of hot flushes, and other disorienting releases of heat/energy. Because people normally move quickly and habitually, there is often an inability/difficulty to stay still or as move slowly as we do in Tai Chi. Usually after a period of time, sometimes a couple of weeks (depending on the amount of self-practice) these discomforts subside and they can feel themselves more comfortably doing the Tai Chi movements more calmly as their body adjusts. Occasionally people who have a chronically painful condition bravely try Tai Chi but find that the deliberate slow movements or the static postures only aggravate their condition. I feel for these people and commend them for having the initiative to try something to reduce their daily suffering. As much as I believe in the positive benefits of regular quality Tai Chi practice, unfortunately it can't help everybody.
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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