Traditional Tai Chi is an ancient meditative practice that nourishes the body and relaxes the mind. One of its main purposes is cultivation of the internal life force called “Chi.” Modern traditions organize exercises into forms of various lengths and levels of difficulty.
The aspect of Tai Chi that interests me the most is the impact of practice on mood and well being. This impact can be temporary, for example immediate improvement of feeling caused by deepening of the breath which happens right after practice. It could be of medium length, for example having a clear goal for next few weeks to learn and study a Tai Chi form. The impact may be of long term, may happen over years and certainly vary from practitioner to practitioner. It is my life time hobby to meet with my Tai Chi friends and observe how they and their practice change over years.
Today in class a student reported that after attending one Tai Chi class and one meditation class she found herself comfortable and focused while doing the homework.
It made me reflect about the impact of Tai Chi practice on learning.
What is the mind doing during Tai Chi practice?
Let us begin with the opening movement. As we inhale the arms are lifted up and as we exhale the hands are dropped down.
We can ask for a purpose of this exercise and discuss it intellectually but before doing so it may be wise to do the exercise few times and observe the results. Most students report feeling calm and peaceful after as few as five repetitions. Amazingly this simple exercise has a capacity of calming the mind within less than a minute.
It is important to let the breath flow according to its natural rhythm and let the movement of the hands simply follow the flow of the breath. If the exercise is done with a focus on the breath and the hands mimic it then the mind is doing the work of visualizing the breath with the use of hands. This is not merely a geometrical visualization but a little of a theatrical presentation that allows one part of the mind to communicate with another part of the mind through new neural connections.
After recalling hours of anger or anxious feelings one minute feels like a very short time to redirect the energy.