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A balanced approach?
For many people, their fitness regime does not take into account agility, mobility, relaxed spontaneous movement, balance, ambidextrous body use, joint health, coordination, emotional wellbeing or psychological flexibility.
Often, injuries arise and bodies are pushed too hard. Tai chi is not like this.
Well meaning people seeking to get fit wear themselves out by exerting unnecessarily. Avoid using muscular tension.
In tai chi we use only the minimal amount of strength; only what is necessary to hold your limb in place. Anything more is wasted.
When in contact with another person, 4 ounces of pressure must be maintained. This is not accomplished through effort. Relax. Let gravity do the work for you.
Qigong is intended to condition your body, to develop stamina and endurance. But be wary of trying too hard.
If you find that your body is aching considerably and you feel really tired, you are doing the exercise incorrectly. Let-go of your tension and relax into the posture.
Imagine that your arms are on strings or resting on something.
If you are sweating, you are exerting. Why? This is tai chi, and tai chi does not involve exertion of any kind.
It is intended to improve health and wellbeing through frequent, regular practice using low effort.
The Way and Its Power
Tao Te Ching (verse 55) counsels you to be like a child that can cry all day without getting hoarse. It also speaks against aggression.
Aggression is a tool of 'pushing', of forcing - and force is not the way of tai chi.
Once you realise that conscious thought can affect tension, you can begin to let-go of it and relax. Feel where your body is holding, and soften the muscles by thinking them longer, looser and heavier.
Impatient people push for results. Yet, who are they really pushing, who is suffering the pressure of their impatience? They are. Pushing is a form of exertion.
Tai chi is not dance, gymnastics or boxing. Do not treat it like weight-lifting, either, and try to build muscles. Over-training can harm your body and will reduce your enjoyment of the art.
Do less rather than more.
Little & often
Stagger your training across the week and do a little every day. If your training exceeds an hour a day and you are not an experienced student then you are potentially doing too much.
Even a skilled student should constantly trim off unnecessary exercises and keep their daily practice time down.
When you do tai chi, you shouldn't sweat.
Sweating is a sign that energy is being dissipated.
It comes from tension and it's as if you are depleting your bank account.
Doing tai chi, you want to accumulate energy, not spend it.
So, if you sweat, you should stop and rest.
(Cheng Man Ching)
created 17 April 1996
Last updated 16 June 2023