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How Yoga and Tai Chi Complement Each Other

Yoga and tai chi have several elements in common, but they also provide distinct benefits. This is how they are alike and different:

Alike

Both are mind-body arts that work by regulating and integrating body, breath, and mind, and are suitable for people of all ages and physical conditions. Practice is meditative, and benefits include reduced stress, improved balance and posture, elevated awareness, and enhanced healing and immune function.

Distinct

Yoga emphasizes range of motion, tai chi emphasizes fluidity of motion. Yoga focuses on opening the joints as much as possible, tai chi focuses on freeing the joints as much as possible. Yoga tends to make the joints exposed, tai chi tends to keep the joints protected. Yoga is practiced solo, tai chi can only be practiced fully with a partner. Balance in yoga is mostly static, balance in tai chi is mostly dynamic.  Yoga develops more external strength, tai chi develops more sensitivity.  Yoga inverts the body, tai chi does not.  Yoga evolved from devotional practices, tai chi evolved from healing practices.

How Yoga Can Benefit Your Tai Chi Practice

If you already practice tai chi, yoga will reinforce the benefits, as well as provide an extra degree of external strength, range of motion, and breathing capacity to complement your internal energy development, all of which will make your tai chi more powerful and effective.

How Tai Chi Can Benefit Your Yoga Practice

If you already practice yoga, tai chi will reinforce the benefits.  It will also help to develop fluidity of motion and active relaxation in addition to stability of structure.  It will help you to maintain your balance and poise in the face of interference, such as while moving and being pushed around by another person.  It will teach you to avoid joint posture vulnerability, as well as how to issue and absorb large amounts of force.

 
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Posted by on December 15, 2013 in Exercise, Health, Tai Chi

 

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Practicing Tai Chi When You’re Sick

The general rule for tai chi practice is to work at 70% of your maximum capacity.  This applies to intensity, exertion, duration, and range of motion.  If you exhaust yourself your coordination will suffer, and you will also tax your body’s compensatory mechanisms, which is counterproductive from the perspective of tai chi.  The 70% rule allows for a gradual but continuous and sustainable trajectory of development.  We have all heard of “no pain no gain”, but by exercising consistently at 70% of your body’s capacity, you will see incremental improvement without the regression that inevitably follows over-exertion.

If you are recovering from injury or illness, however, the 70% rule changes to the 40% rule.  Working at this level of intensity is comfortable, and will stimulate your vital processes without taxing your body’s energy reserves, thereby giving you the maximum healing benefit.  This rule applies whenever your body or any part of it is in a weakened state, either from acute injury or overall illness.

 

 
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Posted by on October 13, 2013 in Health, Tai Chi Practice

 

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Benefits Of Push Hands

Form calls for two legs, function requires four. Push hands in tai chi is both a training ground and an experimental lab for the experiential development of the principles. This is a short list of some of the benefits that come from regular practice.

Adaptive Balance

Balance is one type of skill when you are stationary and free standing, and a whole different type when movement and external forces are involved. There is the type of balance required to be still when you are standing stationary on one leg, and then there’s the type of balance required to stand up without holding on while riding a moving bus. Adaptive balance is the ability to maintain structure and central equilibrium in the face of disruptive forces.

Sensitivity

Push hands develops the ability to engage and to feel with the whole body. This kind of sensitivity means that when something changes in the wrist, the ankle changes to accommodate, and likewise throughout the whole body. It is the ability to maintain steady contact and pressure, to sense subtle changes in tension and alignment, and to feel impulses before they manifest as action.

Fluidity

Fluidity is a quality of connected suppleness throughout the body, a way of moving without excess friction or tension. It is the free flow of momentum throughout the body’s tissues and structures, allowing forces to pass through without being absorbed. It is allowing cause and effect to have free reign in an uninterrupted sequence. Fluidity is what allows us to move without stress and strain, increasing the efficiency of force we can exert and extending the mechanical durability of the body.

Patience

Push hands shows us that much greater effect comes from pushing at the right time, rather than from pushing harder at the wrong time. Rather than exerting a forceful effort of will, one only has to stay present and aware, and poised to fill the gap of opportunity.

Structure

Structure is the alignment of the bones that maintains a uniform distribution of force throughout the body. Stresses and strains that build up at a single point are indicative of structural deficiency. Good structure is completely egalitarian; when good structure is in place no joint or muscle bears more or less than its fair share of the burden.

Spontaneity

Each action arises in the moment and is a response to momentary conditions. Spontaneity is action without expectation, continually holding open the full range of possibility. Spontaneous action is not necessarily original or unpredictable, it is simply unpremeditated.

Push hands teaches the resolution of conflict and the dissolution of paradox. It is a way to experiment with the reconciliation of apparent contradictions, such as how to yield without compromising, or surrender without capitulating. It allows us to perceive the reality that conflicts that appear external always originate internally. Its lessons adapt the way we move, think, and breathe, and spill over into every aspect of life.

 
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Posted by on October 5, 2013 in Tai Chi Practice

 

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My Kung Fu Is Better Than Yours

…is a sentiment that is very much alive in real life, not just in old B movies.

An old joke goes, “How many tai chi players does it take to screw in a light bulb? Only one, but it takes 99 others to stand around and lament, ‘That’s not how we do it.'”

Maybe it’s because of its martial background, maybe it’s due to cultural influences, but for whatever reason, something about tai chi seems to lend itself to judgmental comparisons. There is something of a fixation with which styles, techniques, or teachers are most “correct”, “authentic”, or “effective”.

The thing is, the art of tai chi is self-correcting. The best teachers will develop the most influence, regardless of any judgments anybody makes about anybody else.

Another thing is, tai chi is different things to different people, and that’s okay. If tai chi spreads, it will be because of the benefits it provides, which is something that we all should support and encourage. More people practicing and teaching tai chi, even if it is not up to some particular standards of purity or rigor, makes the world a better place. Worrying about the dilution of the art is about as silly as worrying about gay marriage undermining the “traditional” family.

There will always be purists and dedicated experts who will preserve the ancient wisdom, which is as it should be. And the greatest benefit will come not from elite orders training secretly behind closed doors, but from passionate evangelists spreading the practice as widely as possible and bringing its benefits to the greatest possible numbers of people. And, as always, the art will continue to evolve.

One of the most notable modern tai chi evangelists, Bill Douglas, founder of World Tai Chi & Qigong Day, wrote about this in a recent newsletter:

“The more we can work together, the more we will expand Tai Chi and Qigong, which is why it is so important not to aggrandize these arts for ego, but for the betterment of global society at a time when stress is rattling people apart.”

 
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Posted by on August 29, 2013 in Tai Chi

 

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Monkey Sensei

True story.  One day I was in a park doing tai chi with a friend and a fellow approached.  After watching for a while he said, in a British accent, “Hello Mr. Guru”.  I said hi back, and asked him his name.  He said “Philip Michael.  You don’t need to tell me your name, though, because it doesn’t matter.  You remind me of a big monkey.  I’m going to call you Monkey Sensei.  Will you be my mentor?”

What could I say?  Naturally I accepted.

I swear to god this actually happened.

 
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Posted by on July 30, 2013 in Teaching

 

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What Is Tai Chi For?

Is tai chi for combat? Longevity? Spirituality? Mastery?

Or is it more appropriate to ask, what are you using it for?

 
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Posted by on July 6, 2013 in Combat, Health, Spirituality

 

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Preserve Or Adapt?

Which is the mark of a good teacher? To teach exactly the way he was taught? Or to adapt his teaching to this day, to this student or group of students before him?

Which is the mark of perfection? Stasis, or evolution?

 
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Posted by on July 5, 2013 in Teaching

 

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