Tai Chi and Qi Gong Practice Benefits Well-Being
The Benefits of Tai Chi and Qi Gong Include Peace and Serenity
Discovering the Benefits of Tai Chi and Qi Gong Practice
My introduction to tai chi began in October of 2003 and was offered at a local wellness program by my teacher, Laoshi Taj Johnson, founder of SkyValley Taiji.
My study consisted of 2-hour Saturday morning classes and some 1-hour Wednesday evenings that primarily included Yang style tai chi and qi gong breathing exercises.
I chose to take tai chi as an outlet to decrease stress that I encountered on the job as a counselor providing crisis intervention services and therapy to police officers and their families. Little did I know the larger role that the practice of tai chi would play in my life and the unexpected journey of self-discovery and wellness benefits.
World Tai Chi Day 2016
Learning Tai Chi Forms
Class content has since expanded employing intense training in the Wudang Neijia tradition to include several styles of tai chi (Yang, Chen, Wu, Xingi, Bagua) and qi gong. I have also learned more advanced forms such as Liuhebafa.
It can take several months or even years of study before one can truly appreciate the benefits of tai chi with full understanding. You're so focused on trying to follow the basic principles, hold correct stance, breathe, learn the forms, and correctly execute the movements, that you cannot fully grasp the essence of the art.
Laoshi Taj often says, "Tai chi is simple but not easy." He strongly suggests using a journal to record our frustrations and progress. Below is an excerpt from my very first journal entry:
My First Tai Chi Journal Entry
"I started tai chi classes today. It was harder than I thought it would be, physically and mentally. I have a hard time retaining the sequences in movements. I figured out that I'm trying to learn tai chi in 'parts' instead of learning the 'whole.' I'm missing the forest for the trees."
Tai Chi Wu Style Form
Tai Chi Styles
What is your favorite style of tai chi?
Teacher Leading Student in Qi Gong Meditation
Taiji 5 Body Principles and Energetic Path
Over time, I was able to incorporate the five body principles Laoshi drilled into us regularly, as the foundation upon which all else falls into place:
- Body straight and centered; mind straight and centered
- Cultivate 'sung', including a breath that is long, slow, fine, and deep
- Sit upon a tall stool—including hip, knee, and toe alignment
- Allow all movements to be lead by the waist
- Discern between full and empty in all movements
Since tai chi is classified as an internally focused martial art, progress is achieved by engaging in extensive periods of discerning introspection.
According to the teachings of Laoshi, once the physical, emotional, and intellectual alignments are nurtured and refined, the proper execution of the movements emanate from deep within the student, allowing "jing" or essence to manifest visibly in the world.
This is the foundation upon which Laoshi emphasizes the next set of principles referred to as the Energetic Path:
- Taiji is conceived in the mind
- Manifests first in the waist
- Expressed in the legs
- Then the arms
- All as directed by the heart, which in turn calms the mind
Tai Chi Practice Helps Tournament Performance
Applying the Principles With Practice
During my first few years of incorporating the basic principles and learning the forms, I slowly began to understand what "practice" really meant. It takes a lot more than just learning and memorizing a form to maximize your tai chi experience. I thought it might be time to consider entering a tournament.
As a spectator at tournaments, I was intrigued and felt that one day I would like to share in such a forum. It took six years before I felt ready to enter.
About five months before my first tournament in June of 2009, I started to take the "practice" of my tai chi more seriously by reading the classic books of tai chi study and searching for resources online. I practiced more frequently in my backyard, my living room, and my office at work. I occasionally went to a local park to practice in a public place with nature which I found contributed greatly to my preparation.
I also scheduled additional lessons outside of class with my shifu.
Tai Chi Fan Form
Sharing My Tai Chi
I did well for my first tournament. My best accomplishment was a decrease in my anxiety and an increase in my confidence level. The medals were not as significant as you would think. It is all relative, depending on the number of entrants, categories, age groupings, style and school, experience level, and the judges.
The point was to share my tai chi, not to compete against anyone but myself. Getting feedback and critique from the judges was more valuable than the medal itself.
I have since shared at other tournaments in 2010 and 2011, receiving first place medals for my fan form in Other Weapons category. The best way to express my experience at tournament is through my poetry. The poem, "Like Water Flowing," found at the end of this article, was written about my second tournament showing in 2009.
Tai Chi Increases Focus and ConcentrationClick thumbnail to view full-size
Regular Tai Chi Practice
My weekly classes, personal study, and participation in tournaments have given me a better understanding and respect for the practice of the art of tai chi and the discipline required to pay homage to this ancient tradition. As a result, I have been able to maximize my experience as I continue to train and grow as a student.
Regular practice is essential which I still need to improve upon. I've learned that tai chi cannot just be considered a mode of stress reduction as I naively thought in 2003. That minimizes and disrespects the art and the masters who so generously passed it down through the generations.
The practice of the martial art of tai chi must be incorporated into the daily life in order for full benefits and growth to be attained. For this I strive, as I continue to cultivate inner peace and stability. I focus on the expression of my "jing" through my practice in hopes of reaching new levels of mastery and overall wellness.
Closing Qi Gong Practice
"Like Water Flowing" (JLE 2010)
Like water flowing, music moving at one speed,
Underneath the flow is a current of anxiety,
Rushing like waves, moving too fast.
But from the spectator's eye, it flows lovely at one pace,
As waist turns and limbs spread out,
Rounded and extended to the tips of my fingers.
I push my hand through the air,
My body flows as I take a gentle step,
As I create forms in sequences of full and empty.
My jing is good as it flows through my hands,
Everything moving together in sync,
As I balance on one leg, shaking slightly.
I breathe to stay calm and steady,
As I try not to observe the observers,
And gracefully share with them my best tai chi.
Online Sources for Personal Study
- Jing, Shen and Qi: The three treasures in Chinese medicine
Jing, Shen and Qi: The three treasures in Chinese medicine.
- On Peng Energy
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2012 Janis Leslie Evans