Tai Chi Class

Welcome to WholenessInMotion. Tai chi is a whole body and mind exercise that combines meditation, martial art and health tonic in one. This particular form is the Yang style, 37 posture short form as taught by Prof. Cheng Man-ch'ing. This fascinating and intricate exercise has many benefits and just about anyone can practice it.

Take a look at this site and consider the study of relaxation and how it can benefit you in your daily life. I look forward to working with you. Tom Daly


 

Archive for October, 2009

Tai Chi – Stress Buster! How?

Posted By Tom Daly on October 10th, 2009

Tai Chi is well known for its ability to reduce stress. How does this happen?

Stress is ultimately a body issue. The causes of stress are many and inevitable in life. One type of stress (the garden variety) is self induced – we think too much about things that we have no control over, or on problems that have no acceptable solutions, or solutions we do not like. We want what we want. Perhaps we lack patience, or acceptance of “what is.” Perhaps we are too needy. Maybe we only think of others, or only of ourselves.

While one might claim that all stress is self induced, I tend to think that life offers experiences that are sometimes threatening, uncomfortable or unhappy. Tsunami’s do, in fact, happen. Partners decide they want something different in life and leave us. We lose our jobs because markets change. Or a new boss doesn’t like us. We can’t concentrate on our work. We fail crucial exams. Children die prematurely. Spouses get hit by cars. We are rejected by a university we want to attend. The car breaks down on the freeway at midnight. Cancer invades our lives. It is raining cats and dogs and we forgot to pack an umbrella.

“Life happens” and it doesn’t match our game plan. Some solutions lie in changing how we think. Some solutions lie in simply going with the experience and allowing ourselves to feel where we are (without judgment) and letting it go. (Letting it go is the difficult part.) Or meeting the situation head on with total acceptance. Oy!

Stress is a body issue. Regardless of the source, it will damage your body. Research confirms that stress causes obesity, heart disease, lowers immunity, premature aging, even damages your DNA. We all know of someone under stress and how they “age” suddenly. The New York Times published the following article, October 8, 2009: When Stress Takes a Toll on Your Teeth. Yep, some dentists are seeing an increase in patients with teeth grinding, up 20 to 25 percent from last year due to economic worries on the part of patients. Dr. Steven Butensky reports, “I’m seeing a lot more people that are anxious, stressed out and very concerned about their financial futures and they’re taking it out on their teeth.” Teeth are under attack from stress? Who knew?

The study of tai chi is synonymous with the study of relaxation, whether you are relaxing throughout your form, push hands, sword form or sword dueling. It’s relax relax relax. We use the tools that are always available: gravity, the ground, the air, your muscles, tendons, ligaments and bones. These are the tools we have to experience relaxation. Throughout the study of tai chi, we discover real relaxation, a physical condition inherent to the body you are now “renting.” We gain insight into our own tension and how to let it go. This is the detailed work of a soft martial art. We come back again and again to what is relax? What is letting go? What is a whole body movement? What does it feel like to be “centered”? And we come to experience that particular state and begin to inhabit this state not only during practice, but in our everyday lives.

One way to counter stress is to acknowledge its presence. Awareness, a key element to any study, comes into play, but in tai chi, the particular area of awareness is the body, its tension, and relaxation. Awareness: we are on alert that stress has arrived. Some people are so tense they don’t know what life is like without it. In fact, some people equate life with tension. Prisons, of course, are filled with them. Guards and prisoners bounce off one another like a set of billiard balls. Tension can be motivating to some people. I call this beating the egg whites: lots of activity, lots of effort, lots of motion, lots of noise, lots of thinking, improved muscle tone and then a small result.

Tai chi gives students a way to feel something different and to feel this while they are in motion. Actually, relaxation is the cause of motion. You can relieve stress by going jogging, but you will not let go of muscular holding patterns when you go for a jog. You simply carry them with you, burn yourself out, and then feel what you think is relaxation. Ah! Relief! Actually what you are feeling is exhaustion. Not bad but this isn’t a solution to stress. Exhaustion is the body’s way of escaping stress. Many confuse exhaustion with relaxation and stress relief. Beat those egg whites, exhaust yourself. This is a lifestyle for many. We even admire it at times!

Compare exhaustion to relaxation. Ultimately, with exhaustion, you can’t move, nor do you want to move. The sudden absence of extraneous movement will feel good to those who are prone to exhaustion. But with relaxation, in the tai chi sense of the word, you are simultaneously alert and ready to move. In fact, it feels good to move. It is a source of joy. Just watch any infant in a waking state. Moving is a source of fun. With relaxation you are ready to respond! You are ready to explore and engage.

I was teaching a class to some beginners in a less than desirable situation. We had half of a basketball court. The other half of the court had a group of young athletes having fun shooting hoops. Renegade basketballs inevitably came bouncing our way. One student was hit twice. Not very relaxing! These were beginner students, but if this had been an advanced class, this would be a GREAT way to train. The advanced student would pay attention to the instructions, follow the exercise, but also be aware of the other half of the basketball court. You take in the whole picture and include it. One aspect of tai chi training is being aware of the external world so that you can protect yourself. Alert, but not tense. You align yourself with what is. I feel more relaxed just thinking about this as a possibility.

A while back on a wet cold icy day, I was walking to work very carefully to make sure that I wouldn’t fall. I have delicate knees and I am careful to prevent giving them an unwanted twist. I walked all the way to the building safe and sound. But as I was walking on the hard linoleum in the halls indoors, I struck upon a hidden wet spot and took a complete fall to the ground. Wham! I simply got up without any injury. I think the sense of being whole, relaxed and round helped me with that fall. Somehow I did it right. (We do not train in tai chi in how to fall!)

Once you are aware of stress and tension, does the alternative experience that you are learning from tai chi come to the rescue? You may have to go through some feelings of stress. But if you are a tai chi student you do have some tools in dealing with it. For one, the increased awareness that your body is out of kilter will help you identify the Not-Relaxed state. The second thing is that you can practice tai chi or simple standing meditation to help get you back on track. Even this may not necessarily help when you are in a stressful situation. But what does help is that, knowing you are out of kilter and tense, you will more readily want to find a way to return to a state of centered relaxation.

I do get knocked off center, but my body wants to get back to a whole relaxed state as soon as possible. It seems that I return to “normal” more quickly these days. I look for solutions, or go through the stressful process knowing that something else exists.

I know it because I’ve been practicing it, every day, for years.

My body knows it. Yours can too!

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