Tai Chi is Meditation in Motion

Tai Chi Water

If you are looking for internal peace, the ancient Chinese practice of tai chi may be the answer. Whether you are feeling stress from everyday life or have physical issues such as high blood pressure, the calm and relaxed movements of tai chi have been producing calmer minds for over 700 years.

I have found tai chi a great way to stay fit, mentally and physically. Tai chi forces you to focus and be conscious of every movement of your body and every breath you take.  It totally takes your mind off any stressful thoughts you may normally have related to work, family or other normal everyday issues.  For a brief period of the day you are immersed in this calming technique.  After you have finished your tai chi session the relaxing effects of tai chi typically stay with you the rest of the day.

I highly recommend looking into tai chi. It does not take any special skills or athletic ability.  Anybody can join a tai chi group at any age.  Within a very short time you will find yourself enjoying the mindful engagement in fluid motions that relax your mind and body.   You will find tai chi groups in libraries, hospital health centers, senior centers, community centers and private organizations.  I practice tai chi in a park with a group of friends.  We add Chinese music to our tai chi sessions to add to the enjoyment.

Photo by Denis Carrascosa – http://tinyurl.com/y83n4em5 

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Sponsor – This article is sponsored by Zodiacals™ Baby, a line of soft and cuddly t-shirts, body suits and coveralls for infants in sizes 3-24 months available in supermarkets and online at www.zodiacals.com.

Tai Chi for Kids

Kids Tai Chi

If you are looking for a way to help your child maintain focus, calmness and self-discipline tai chi may be the answer. Children can experience a lot of stress today both at home and in school. Tai chi can help children cope with stress because it promotes inner harmony and relaxation. Children who are relaxed and balanced get more out of life. Tai chi is an exercise that involves the body and the mind. You move almost every part of your body while at the same time you are using the mind to remember the moves. It requires focus to think through the movements. Because of this Tai chi teaches children to remember and to have self-discipline.

Tai chi is interesting to children because it is related to the martial arts and many of the movements are derived from the natural movements of animals and birds. It is fun because it is performed slowly and gracefully. While the child is performing tai chi he or she is focusing on posture and balance. This is a good alternative to the sitting position where they spend most of their time. As a side benefit the child practicing tai chi may do a better job of keeping their weight under control. Stress promotes the desire to eat and the combination of exercise and reducing stress in a child can help with the problem of over eating.

Photo by Ben Burkland Carolyn Cook – http://tinyurl.com/y7brvbx8

Sponsor – This article on a child’s growth and development is sponsored by Zodiacals™ Baby, a line of soft and cuddly t-shirts, body suits and coveralls for infants in sizes 3-24 months available in supermarkets and online at www.zodiacals.com.

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Tai Chi in Havana Cuba

Cuba Tai Chi

This week I had an amazing experience practicing tai chi in Havana Cuba. There is an incredible Chinese martial arts school in Havana’s China Town where many locals gather in the mornings to practice tai chi. The name of the school is Escuela Cubana de Wushu and it is headed by Master Roberto Vargas Lee.  Master Lee is an accomplished martial artist who received a 4th degree black belt in karate before he began studying Chinese martial arts in China  He is now a world-class master of wushu and tai chi and heads one of the largest martial arts schools in the western world.

We arrived at Escuela Cubana de Wushu at 7:15 AM and were greeted by around 20 locals who had also arrived early to stretch and get ready for tai chi. Within the next 15 minutes there were at least 60 people filling the practice area.  Their ages ranged from their mid-thirties to their seventies and eighties.  One of the women told me she was 92 years old and had been practicing tai chi regularly for many years.  Around a third of the participants were male.  Everybody was wearing a silk Chinese jacket of various colors and several were wearing a complete silk tai chi uniform.

The Escuela Cubana de Wushu complex is one of the best martial arts training schools I have seen anywhere in the world. There is a huge outside courtyard that comfortably held the 60 plus people in our morning tai chi group.  In addition, there is an indoor training hall with Chinese decorations and martial arts weapons tastefully displayed on the walls.  Each training hall has a raised stage where the instructors are located so everyone can clearly see them.  An excellent speaker system broadcasts music and instructions, making it easy and fun to perform the tai chi forms.  With a large ying yang painted on the floor, the beautiful Chinese decorations and the Chinese flag flying next to the Cuban flag I felt like I was in an authentic martial arts school somewhere in China.

Photo by Tiffany Chang.  All Rights Reserved

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Kung Fu Granny

Kung Fu Granny III

I have long believed that continuous practice of kung fu and/or tai chi would help one maintain a healthy long life. The article Kung Fu Granny by Chieu Luu and Nanlin Fang published by CNN on February 19, 2017 reinforced this belief.  Zhang Hexian, a 93-year-old grandmother started practicing kung fu when she was four and still wakes up at 5 a.m. to practice each morning.  She has been practicing kung fu for 89 years.  Kung fu has been a tradition in her family for more than 300 years.

Ms. Zhang says “to have good body you need to exercise and keep a positive attitude”. She credits kung fu, plenty of sleep and a healthy diet for keeping her healthy.  She has never had to go to a hospital.  Zhang, who lives in China’s southeastern Zhejiang province says all of her family members have learned kung fu.  She believes it instills discipline and strength.  She also feels it is a good way to learn self defense.  I personally have been practicing either tai chi or kung fu several times a week for over 25 years and I feel great.  Hopefully I can also keep doing it until I am 93.

Photo by CNN – http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/19/asia/china-kung-fu-granny-trnd/index.html

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Why You Should Practice Tai Chi

world-tai-chi-day

If you are looking for a relaxing way to stay physically active and vital, the ancient Chinese practice of tai chi may be the answer. I practice tai chi several times each week and find it a great way to improve my flexibility and balance.  Whether you practice tai chi at home, in a formal class or outside in a park with a group the same benefits apply.  The slow deliberate movements and breathing exercises can help your circulation, improve your balance and restore your energy.

The slow graceful movements of tai chi flow together without pause putting minimal stress on your joints and muscles. As you flow from move to move you use your entire body including your core muscles, your arms, your legs and even the muscles in your back.  These movements help improve your flexibility and even in a subtle way increase your strength. Tai chi is not intended to provide aerobic exercise and you should supplement tai chi with some type of aerobic exercise like walking.  I combine my tai chi exercise with kung fu and tae kwon do, which I find gives me the best of both worlds.

Photo by Brian Robinson – http://tinyurl.com/jm86zhd 

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Can Tai Chi Be Used For Self Defense?

chinese-tai-chi

On Sunday mornings I usually go to a local park with friends and practice tai chi for exercise and relaxation. This peaceful healthy exercise is typically not thought of as a fighting martial art but it can be a critical skill for defending against attackers.  In reality, each movement in a tai chi form can be used as a fighting application that can be used against an opponent.

The best way to start thinking of tai chi as a martial art is to focus on one of the moves in the form you are practicing in your tai chi form. For example, I practice Chen style tai chi and one of the movements is a circular move with both hands circling around my face.  This is repeated several times in the form.  For years I thought of this as simply a stretching exercise until one day I was shown the fighting application.  It turns out each time my hands pass in front of my face I am blocking an incoming punch.  This is followed by a knife hand strike to the opponent’s neck and then a palm-heal strike to the opponents nose.  In reality this simple move is an amazing self-defense technique.

Unlike western fighting or many other types of martial arts, the strategy of tai chi is to flow around obstacles and to redirect the energy of an incoming attack back outward. Tai chi gives practitioners a way of dodging an attack and then responding to incoming punches or kicks.  Tai chi teaches us to remain grounded, balanced and calm.  The relaxed, circular approach of tai chi can be an extremely effective way to defend oneself regardless of a person’s size, sex, age or strength.  If you are willing to make a commitment to learning tai chi as a martial art you will be able to use these skills even in your senior years.

Photo by Richard Barton – http://preview.tinyurl.com/jdsve8a 

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Are Chinese Zodiac Personality Descriptions Accurate?

Description: Goddard Chinese American Club (GCAC) offers weekly Tai Chi class to all Goddard employees. People feel refreshed after each Tai Chi exercise. At the end of each season, the Tai Chi class will perform Yang 24 movements at various Goddard events (e.g. Goddard Day). Time: Thursday Oct 28, 2010, 11:30 – 12:30 PM Location: Goddard Building 28  Credit: NASA/GSFC/Jinghong Janice Chen

I am not traditionally a believer in things like Chinese zodiac predictions. I know that they come from thousands of years of observation but somehow I have never really become a believer.  This all changed last week, however, when several people in my tai chi class decided to purchase t-shirts from the online store zodiacals.com.  The Chinese Zodiac animals featured on these t-shirts come with a short description of the personality of the person born in year of that animal. Because I know all of these people I was amazed at how closely the description of the animal sign of many of these people was to their actual personality.

I have been told for many years that the Chinese zodiac’s exploration of a person’s traits, personality, and characteristics are deep and resoundingly accurate.   The theory is that the Chinese zodiac views the human spirit as a holistic system of who we are born to be.  Each of the Chinese zodiac animal signs includes a breakdown of the personality traits and characteristics of those born in a certain year.  People born in the Year of the Horse, for example, tend to be energetic and fun loving.  People born in the Year of the Pig tend to be honest and good hearted.

If you want to have a mind expanding experience you may want to also consider having a group of your friends or family members buy t-shirts or tank tops that identify their Chinese zodiac animal year. You can find a good selection of these by going to www.zodiacals.com and looking at the t-shirt or tank-top collections.  If people are not sure of what Chinese zodiac animal sign they are they can go to the same online store and then click “Zodiac Year” on the menu.  After they have purchased their t-shirts I suggest you hold a gathering where everyone wears their Chinese zodiac t-shirts.  If you watch closely you will probably be as amazed as I was that the personality descriptions on the shirts often match the personality of the wearer.

Photo by NASA/GSFC/Jinghong Janice Chen- http://tinyurl.com/z5zntt9 

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Can Tai Chi Actually Reduce Stress?

Tai Chi II

I practice tai chi two or three times a week and on most Sunday mornings get together with a group of friends to do about an hour of tai chi out in the fresh air. We found a great little quiet spot with a water view that is all ours for our morning get-togethers.  Afterwards we typically head over to a local coffee shop to catch up on each other’s current adventures.  It makes for a fun morning and I also believe it is doing something productive for my mental well-being.

What keeps me interested in tai chi is that there are lots of movements. In the beginning I found this difficult because I had to learn these movements a little at a time.  Over time, however, I found the mental exercise stimulating and I did finally learn amazingly long tai chi forms.  I really think tai chi helps in keeping the brain active because of the many movements involved.

I have also found that my life is less stressful when I am practicing tai chi. The breathing, movement and mental concentration required when practicing tai chi is a great distraction from a hectic lifestyle. I believe that breathing coordinated with body movement and eye-hand coordination promotes calmness.  I know that when I practice tai chi I get an inner sense of peace and calm.  If you are looking for a creative and physically active way to improve how you mentally and physically respond to stress I suggest that you give tai chi a try.