Your body is the container through which your energy flows.
It makes sense that you start with the physical approach to your health, longevity, and optimum performance through Tai Chi exercise. Each time you practice Tai Chi, you go into the body’s most subtle aspects. You will understand the body’s physical mechanisms and realities.
You will get to know your body’s anatomical alignments. And you familiarize yourself with the different parts of your body and what they do or don’t do well.
Wouldn’t you like to know what your body does and doesn’t do well?
Tai Chi challenges you to learn more about your body, coordinate your movements and learn how they flow together. That’s why you begin learning Tai Chi at the level of understanding the physicality of your body.
What to Expect as a Beginner Learning Tai Chi
The first level of Tai Chi is body work, where all practitioners must begin.
As a beginner student, you can expect to learn the sequences of movements called Tai Chi Chuan. Tai Chi is traditionally taught as a martial art through a form in which you spar with an imaginary opponent.
Each Tai Chi master has a collection of their best fighting techniques which they then use to teach their students via a sequence of movements called a form or set.
Tai Chi moves are strung together with smooth transitions in a seamless, continuous flow without starts, stops, or abrupt movements.
Some movements are based on the master’s observations of nature.
Yield and Evade
Legend has it that Tai Chi was created by a monk who had an ‘aha’ moment after watching a fight between a snake and a crane.
The crane would attack and the snake would yield, evade and then somehow attack the crane back. This would happen over and over again. The crane would attack and the snake would yield, evade, and come around naturally to attack the crane.
Therefore, Tai Chi was developed as a martial art based on natural principles using softness and yielding to overcome force.
Thereafter, coiling and circular movements were emphasized along with mindful strength called Jin, which makes Tai Chi an internal martial art.
Jin is the Chinese word for power. Jin describes the ability to generate force over time. Jin is not just muscular strength. When you generate force using your mind to move the chi rather than relying on just your muscular strength, then this is Jin.
By the way, you learn about Jin at the second level of Tai Chi, which is when you practice mind work.
Changes from one posture to another unfold naturally with time. You learn that movements begin with the feet, steered by the waist, and expressed through the fingers.
Throughout each individual movement, you practice slowly with smooth transitions before settling into your final posture.
Key Places You Center and Focus Awareness during Tai Chi
The slowness of the transition gives you time to sense your body’s position, make appropriate adjustments and organize the different parts of your body so that they work together as one unit. The transitions are also seamless as the movements weave in and out of each other. Movements from beginning to end are continuous as in an endless circle.
Every circle has its center. This is where you get introduced to the concept of a physical and energetic center called the lower dantian. It is one of the key places you center and focus your awareness during Tai Chi practice.
The lower dantian is located behind the naval, close to the body’s physical center of gravity. Centering the dantian helps with your physical balance. It integrates your upper and lower body movements as you step and shift your weight.
Tai Chi involves a constant shifting of weight from one leg to the other, which facilitates improved standing and strengthening of your legs, ankles, and feet.
When you do Tai Chi, you spend more time on one leg compared to when you walk. This improves your leg strength, especially the strength in your knees.
Let’s do a sequence of movements in the Tai Chi form, and follow along with my video to see the movements.
1. First, drop.
2. Energize the fingers up.
3. Exhale, relax, and sink.
4. Energize the fingers up towards the sky.
5. Exhale, relax, and sink.
6. Turn your right foot outward and energize.
From here, you will:
1. Step, shift your weight and exhale into your left foot.
2. Energize – one hand up one hand down.
3. Sink into your left foot. One hand faces the other.
4. Turn, step again, exhale.
5. Energize – ward off right.
6. Turn to the right. Shift the weight back and exhale.
7. Energize, so that one hand follows the other.
8. Exhale, shift the way forward, drop your hips.
9. Press your hands outward.
10. Shift your weight back, open and exhale into your right foot.
11. Energize and push.
12. Shift the weight back, turn, open and step.
Lastly, drop, relax back down, and exhale all the way.
What if you can develop the capacities of your body’s lower dantian to affect all of your body’s physical functions?
How do you feel about becoming more stable and grounded in this world? What are some of the basic body alignments taught in Tai Chi to help you get more grounded?
Stay tuned and follow me on Facebook and find out more about the art of Tai Chi.