I’ll bear in mind my visits to San Francisco and passing groups of older grown ups in the parks, practicing Tai Chi. Just enjoying them brought peace, and you could tell they were entirely involved in their activity. It has always interested me, still I have to admit I have still to experience it. However, just recently, at a Mindful Eating workshop, we actually did ‘purposeful walking’, taking incredibly slow as well as controlled steps ‘with intention’. We might feel every single muscle working hard as we minutely and consciously elevated a foot, moved it ahead, and placed it in front of the other one. This reminded me of what exactly Tai Chi might be like.
Still what is Tai Chi, how come people practice it, which enables you to anyone do it? The reason are tai chi movements done consequently slowly? I get this question from commencing students. I’m sure most other teachers complete, too. There are many benefits to slow movement. As far as I am concerned, one of the major reasons for slow movement is so that the learner can pay attention to every detail. When we move quickly, we move in the way we have always moved. We have habits that we follow. Moving slowly allows us to pay attention to how we want to move instead of how we usually move. It can be very difficult for beginners to move slowly. They do not have a well-develop sense of proprioception. Their mind is not even aware of where and how their body is placed. A beginning tai chi class starts to develop this skill in the students. With continued practice, they can become aware of and control finer movements.
Tai Chi was originally a deadly art, guarded by a few families and used for killing. Traditionalists believe that it is important for students of this ancient art to remember its roots, because the techniques of relaxation and breath control were developed for the express purpose of injuring the opponent in an efficient, scientific manner.
Today, of course, we no longer need to practice this martial art for the purpose of killing our enemy. However, some say that now we can use this practice to fight the enemy of fatigue, stress, overwork or lack of understanding of oneself and one’s body. Daily practice of Tai Chi promotes mental clarity and a healthy body, assists with balance and helps the circulation of the blood. For more advanced students, slow movements also help you identify the rough edges that need work. Sometimes we don’t notice that something isn’t quite right until we slow down enough to see it better.