Tai Chi is a combination of meditation and slow, controlled movements that’s thought to have been practiced since 1300 A.D. both as a martial arts tradition and to improve health. It’s often referred to as the physical manifestation of Traditional Chinese Medicine, and is believed to relieve stress, combat disease, and generally enhance physical well-being. In my Tai Chi classes, I help students appreciate and experience the meditative aspects of the practice, with the hope that the benefits will extend beyond our studio. These are a few ways the philosophy of Tai Chi can be applied in your everyday life.
- Pick a mantra for the day to harness energy. Central to tai chi is the concept of Qi (chee), or energy that flows throughout the body. Through the practice of tai chi, Qi can flow more freely. However, if you’re not in the studio, you can still be aware of your energy. Before you begin your day, notice your energy level, and pick a mantra to support it. If you’re feeling nervous, excited or jittery, focus on a mantra that calms you. It can be as simple as repeating the word “peace” a few times throughout the day.
- Focus on balance over perfection. Rather than beginning your day with the idea that you must do it all – be the perfect parent, a standout employee or eat only the healthiest of foods, strive for balance. Another central concept of tai chi is Yin and Yang, or opposing elements that need to be kept in harmony. Take stock of your day each evening, where did you expend most of your energy? Make a mental note to approach the next day addressing any imbalances that took place.
- Notice smells, sounds and sights, striving for harmony with your surroundings. The motions practiced in tai chi mimic motions found in nature, and many are named after these motions, such as Cloud Hands, Wind Rolls the Lotus Leaves and Push the Boat with the Current. Connection with nature is an important element in well-being – seek out a few minutes to sit in the sun, feel the wind on your skin or smell fresh cut grass.
- Be intentional about moving slower. Especially in your approach to exercise. Remember, exercise is not just about pushing your body to its limits - do one thing each day that is physical, but doesn’t exhaust you or fatigue your muscles.