Health Tai Chi in Devon

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Why do I do tai chi ?

Recently, I was reading the article “Why do you practice tai chi” in Patience tai chi. And it got me to start asking myself questions. I am prone to self-enquiry as it is, so a new door was opening for me: what was the reason for my tai chi practice? Believe me, the moment I started to ask myself that question, I had no idea. And I bet you I still have no idea. But my mind looks for certainty, so it’s telling me a few stories about the reasons for my tai chi practice, and they seem to be quite reasonable and convincing. Here is what my mind says:

It is good for your health. Your lower back pains are over.

It is cheaper than a GP visit every second month.

You take responsibility for your health, so you are the boss.

You meet beautiful & relaxed people.

You are becoming a beautiful and relaxed person.

Your skin feels softer than ever.

Your brain functions better and your concentration has improved.

You have more energy for the numberless things you are interested in.

Your mood has improved so you always feel like doing all of those things.

You don’t get as angry as you used to, and laugh more often.

The chi feels better that a surge of adrenaline.

It actually feels so good that you don’t want to stop practising.

You feel more grounded, as if you had roots, and that gives you a sense of belonging.

You feel spiritually connected to the world.

Obviously, if my heart was to speak, only one line would be enough to answer what reasons I have for my tai chi practice:

I practice tai chi because I love it!


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Staying or leaving revisited

Last August, I was talking to one of my students in the annual tai chi in the park and picnic that we organized in Shaldon (Devon), and he made a comment about my previous post “Staying or leaving“. He said that he would like to hear about what happened after I left Ireland. My last words in the previous post were that I found happiness in Ireland and it had been with me ever since. I arrived to Devon in 2014, so he was wondering what happened those years. I will explain why I didn’t need to mention Devon.

Happiness is not a place: What I meant by happiness is also called “inner joy”. I happened to find inner joy in Ireland, but it could have happened in Spain, or in the UK. Inner joy has no place, but in your heart/body/gut. It means that you can be anywhere in the world and feel it. How? By staying present to what you are really feeling. By tuning into your body awareness and realise that deep inside you are and feel okay. I learnt how to do this in Ireland through my counselling journey and my tai chi and qigong practice.

self-hug-love

Happiness is not a feeling: Inner joy is not a feeling, but it comes from staying present to your feelings. It means that you can be sad and still feel inner joy. How? By staying present to what you are really feeling. If you accept whatever it is that you are feeling, you will feel inner joy. I am not talking about changing your moods so that you are laughing even though you are feeling really down. I am talking about feeling really down if that is what you are feeling. I am talking about minding yourself when you have sad feelings and love who you are in those feelings. That brings instant inner joy.

So what I found in Ireland is inner joy, what I called “happiness” in my previous post. In Devon, I had sad moments, happy moments, fearful and anxious moments, and angry moments, but all in all, inner joy has never left me.

 

 


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Classes in 2017

Devon Tai Chi Centre has a new website with all the classes taught by Alda Gomez of House of Movement and Nick Taylor of Devon Tai Chi Centre. You will also find a lot of information about tai chi and useful videos and interesting links. Click on the links that interest you to find more information about the classes.

Tai Chi

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Health Tai chi in Devon

Laugh lots, live longer, do tai chi! 

Call 07437 332032

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Grandmaster Liming Yue’s teachings during his 2016 visit

A few lessons were learnt during Grandmaster Liming Yue visit to Devon, but here are some of them:

1) Do more standing and get strong legs: Grandmaster Liming encouraged us to do more standing to get stronger legs and being able to feel the energy flowing through our meridians and channels. After a lot of detailed postural work on Saturday, he explained the different hand positions for standing corresponding to the three main Dantians in the body.

masterliming

 

2) Relax as much as you can: Another point emphasized during the weekend was relaxing. In order to get strong legs and a correct posture, our bodies need to relax more and more. GM Liming showed different tips to improve our posture while gently encouraging us to relax all the time. 

Wall standing

3) Laughter is the best medicine: From the moment he arrived til he left, the whole group shared many laughs. We laughed over food, we laughed over simple explanations and jokes during our training, we laughed while we had our last cup of tea before going to bed. It was a laughter-full weekend. GM Liming showed us that being childlike brings health and laughter to our lives.

By laughing more, standing more and relaxing more, we can improve our tai chi skill. What a wonderful weekend, full of fantastic learning opportunities for all levels. It was also lovely to catch up with other instructors from Tai Chi Nation, Exeter School of Tai Chi Chuan, and other schools all over the country. I can’t wait for next year to experience more of it.


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Staying or leaving

I learnt one important lesson in my journey. Staying or leaving is not going to solve anything. But searching for the root of the unhappiness will. I found happiness in Ireland, and it has been with me ever since.

On different occasions, staying or leaving has been the question I had to ask myself. “Should I stay or should I go?” like in The Clash song. I am going to share the song here and some thoughts I have about this important question.

When I was 20, my heart made me stay in France for 3 years, while many of my foreign friends left after one year. It was an enriching experience that allow me to be integrated in a different culture and become a little bit French. I welcomed my French self, and by doing so, I became more loving and caring towards my soul. Going beyond one’s nationality has sometimes that potential of bringing you closer to who you truly are inside.

My heart brought me then to Portugal where I had a decent job for a few months, but I got bored so I left it all and move to Ireland. After nearly three years there, I had a stable job at a bank. My position forced me to do things that went against my values and I was constantly suffering in that environment. My soul could not breathe. Once again, my heart asked me to leave my job and left my financial security in order to be at ease. I left with nothing.

Five weeks later, I started to work as a freelance translator for a company that would sustain me for many years after that. Because I could work remotely and my private life was in chaos, I decided to move back to Spain. Life was good. My finances could not be better. I was saving to buy a house, and I knew I could afford it. I was dressed in the latest fashion. I was travelling around and having fun. I was apparently successful and happy, but deep down, I was miserable. Once again, the question came. The Irish man in my life at that time wished to go back to Ireland, so I followed him.

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One day, I decided that it was time to stay put and not go anywhere. It was time to embark on an inner journey and eliminate the root of my distress. It was time to make the changes that would make me happy no matter where. Staying or leaving was no longer important. Solving my life became my priority. So many countries. So many faces. So many lives. One important lesson learnt. Staying or leaving is not going to solve anything. But searching for the root of the unhappiness will. I found happiness in Ireland, and it has been with me ever since.

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5 tips to take the most of your tai chi classes

I tend to shoot from my hip as I write, and I may leave some important themes behind (hope not), but here are some tips to fully enjoy your tai chi classes.

  • Leave your problems at the door: When you enter in a tai chi class, think of it as a sacred space for your body. Leave your problems at home, your health issues at the door, travel to class with no baggage.
  • Land into your body: Let yourself be guided by your body. Free your mind from other contemplations and focus your attention on your body movements. This will align you with the tai chi movements, creating a mindful state of mind which is highly beneficial for you.
  • Relax: There are two levels of relaxation: relaxing your body and relaxing your mind. Relaxing your body means that you try to let go of any physical tension or rigidity in your muscles. This will make your tai chi more fluid and enjoyable. Relaxing your mind means that you let go of the need to be perfect in the movements, relaxing the rigidity of your aspirations.

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  • Stay with your body: Pay attention to your instructor, but do not try to imitate him or her. Try to figure out the movements in your own body. Try to adapt them to your own unique characteristics. You might stand higher than your teacher, as he or she may have too low postures for your body. You might decide that you pass some of the warm-ups because they do not feel good to you, or you might sit on a chair at some point during the tai chi class if you feel that your body needs a rest. Everything is permitted, as long as you become more aware of what your body needs. In this way, you will slowly discover that tai chi will teach you as much as your teacher is teaching you.
  • Learn step by step with no goal in mind: A lot of students come to class with a goal of learning a particular form or set of movements. Do not get stuck in this frame of mind. Be open to learning more than that. The most important thing you will learn in a tai chi class is to stay in the moment, and learn what the moment brings. This is called mindfulness. You will also learn body awareness, relaxation skills and self-soothing techniques for times of stress or conflict. All of that can take the shape of a particular form or a set of independent exercises. Go with the flow and enjoy moving along.

If you feel better after your leave class than when you arrived, you have started your tai chi journey and you will achieve unimaginable things. Just keep on showing up in class.


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Do you listen to your heart or your mind?

A few days ago, I was walking by the seaside in Teignmouth after finishing a very good read: The Hearts’ Code, and my mind wandered towards the realms of the body and mind, heart and mind dichotomies. Although my brain has always been an important part of my life, I have also made very good decisions based on my heart. In The Hearts’ Code, Dr. Paul Pearsall literally leads us into a world of new discoveries.

heart's code

He explains the new research on the cellular memories installed in the heart, and the relationship between heart and mind. The book highlights the importance of listening to one’s heart. The heart stores important memories, including ancient collective memories that could be essential for our survival. The author tells us that he found healing by listening to his heart. But he is not naïve. He knows that the heart needs to “think” in combination with the mind. The mind can distort our reality, but it can also help us make sense of it. Both need to go hand in hand in the process of healing, discovering and asserting ourselves, expressing who we are.

 

I have seen many people following their infatuations and shallow desires and calling it “following my heart”. So it is satisfying to read a book that focuses on the heart from a scientific perspective without getting into the “happy-go-lucky” of some heart-oriented lovers.

 

The book is an interesting read for a spring or a summer holiday. It will help you connect to your heart, at least while you’re reading the book.

 

I wonder where the “gut” instinct fits in all the interesting research presented by the author though. I have come across authors who separate mind and gut instead of mind and heart. Whatever the dichotomy chosen, it is clear to me, and increasingly clear to the scientific world that body and mind are intrinsically connected. There is not one without the other. When you look after your body, you are also looking after your mind and vice versa.


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Mental health and tai chi

Today, one of my first students ever sent me a lovely email from Canada, where she is now based. She shared a video with me in which the link between martial arts and mental health is discussed. I have been wanting to write a post about this link for a long time. This video has inspired me. Here are my reflections and the youtube video.

 

  • Tai chi helps reconnecting mind and body: The link between body and mind seems to have been lost after centuries of scientific discoveries. Nowadays, research is starting to make this link and scientists all over the world are embracing the fact that mind and body are connected. If you treat the body, the mind will improve. If you treat the mind, the body will improve.
  • Flowing energy with tai chi: In Chinese medicine such separation does not exist. Doctors talk about yin and yang balance or qi flow in the body. If the energies in the body are flowing normally and there are no blockages, a person is considered to be healthy. If there are blockages in the energy flow, a doctor will treat the patient to prevent illnesses, mental or physical. Tai chi can help unblock and balance a person’s energy, benefiting one’s physical and mental health.
  • Mindfulness and tai chi: Mindfulness seems to have become a very fashionable word that many mental health practitioners are adopting to treat depression and other mental conditions. Focusing on the now, being present. A full range of exercises has been adopted to help a person with mental health issues. Mindfulness and tai chi have a lot in common. Tai chi is a mindfulness practice because a tai chi teacher will help the student to focus on the present moment.
  • Learning from experience: A good tai chi teacher is able to stay present while teaching so that students can experience for themselves what this means, as opposed to learning it in a book or through exercises. Mindfulness doing tai chi is felt by the students, who leave the classes feeling much better, not knowing exactly how. If mindfulness can be beneficial in the treatment of mental health conditions, and I believe so, then tai chi can also be useful to improve one’s mental health. And also physical health. Remember there is no separation.

Now, I leave you with the video so that you can listen to it for yourselves.

“Martial art is not a sport. Martial art is a way of life.” Sia Alipour, Taekwondo Practitioner

“It is a lifelong practice of self-development.” Dr. Tamara Russell, Institute of Psychiatry, Kings College London

“What it helped me do is actually be present.” Athos Antoniades, Kenpo Taiji Association.


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Healing others Vs Being present to others

I just watched this video with Mooji. I have listened to him before and I always find inspiration in his words. This video is about healers and healing. Being a tai chi instructor and psychotherapist, I found it extremely inspiring. It reminded me why I started my career as a psychotherapist. I was working as an interpreter with survivors of torture and I realized that at times my presence was more healing that the words being used. I found a precious gem in those therapy sessions to the point of deciding to leave a very successful career as a translator and interpreter and start working as a teacher and a psychotherapist. The video talks about being fully present in our work, whatever that may be. He reckons that being present is more healing than trying to heal others. And I agree with him.

Similarly, if you teach to heal others, you will find yourself trying to fix postures, explain the movements once and again, etc. instead of being fully present for your students. I often find students or colleagues who look for a teacher or master who gives all the details, explains everything to the max and points out to all of their mistakes. I used to be one of them. Grandmaster Liming Yue taught me that I need to learn by myself. I need to take responsibility for my own learning and practice the forms, experience the flow of energy, feel my tai chi as it appears in a shape that has my name on it. I know that many other instructors will teach me to be like them. I know Grandmaster Liming Yue is teaching me to find my own tai chi forms. In a similar fashion, I endeavour to help you find your own tai chi forms and acquire an attention for detail in the process. You will see and learn what you need to see and learn because each one of us has a different journey. If you are being told every single detail, you will only find your teachers’ tai chi, but never your own. It can be useful to train with other instructors, but never forget that learning is your responsibility.

Here is the video who inspired these words:


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Spirituality – Connection to a group and nature

In my last post, I reflected on my spirituality, mainly in relationship to oneself and another, but I believe that our spirituality is also present in our relationship in a group and with nature. I thought I would share some of my views around this topic with you.

As I said in my last post, in my opinion, spirituality is a connection to the divine and that is a connection to love in its pure essence as I believe the divine is love. Below, you will find what I believe means to connect to the divine essence as part of a group.

Relationships in a group / community – Obviously they include spiritual groups, such as meditation, yoga, tai chi or religious groups that make us connect to the divine essence within, but in my view it is not limited to that. Examples:

  • Musical concerts
  • Dance, drama, creative groups
  • Group chores, such as cleaning a park or refurbishing a house, when done with love
  • Political demonstrations when love is present

 Meditation

Relationship to nature / world – At some point in one’s life, who hasn’t felt a connection to the divine in nature? Animals, plants, oceans, skies, every element of nature seems to follow a magic cycle of birth, growth, death, and rebirth which marvels ourselves and connects us to the divine love within. Examples:

  • Walking in nature
  • Listening to the ocean
  • Looking after a pet, a tree, a plant
  • Letting the rain wash all your worries as you get wet and curse at your fate

I ended the list with a funny, controversial one. You may disagree with some of the examples that I gave you. However, I believe that each of the examples given, if they come from love, mindfulness and good intentions, they are part of our spirituality. We only need to dare to connect to the divine anywhere we go, in anything we do at all times.


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Spirituality – Connection to myself and another

Last week, my partner’s daughter was around for lunch and we went for a beautiful walk by the Teignmouth back beach. It turned out that we started to talk about spirituality. The rich conversation made me reflect on how I view my own spirituality, what type of meaning I construe when I talk about being spiritual. I thought I would share it with you, in case you may find it of interest.

In my opinion, spirituality is a connection to the divine and that is a connection to love in its pure essence as I believe the divine is love. Many religions agree that the divine is love.

Every time we connect to the divine within us, in other words, to the love within us, we have a spiritual experience. There are many different ways in which we can experience this connection, but all of them happen in relationship. Here are two different relationships that, in my opinion, we can develop in our spiritual path.

Relationship to oneself – I believe that each one of us is a spiritual being. Every time we connect to that divine essence in ourselves, every time we truly connect to ourselves, we are engaged in our spiritual life. Examples:

  • Meditation, prayer, yoga, tai chi, qigong done alone
  • Everyday life chores done with love/ mindfulness/ being present, such as cooking, washing up, shopping
  • Painting, writing, entertain ourselves while connecting to our inner self
  • Accepting our faults, being in that intimate connection to our divine essence even when we don’t like what we do.

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One to one relationships – When we dare to love another as a divine being, looking for the beauty in them instead of their faults, when we dare to show our pure essence, including our vulnerability to another, when we open our eyes to truly receive and being received by another, we are engaged in our spirituality. Examples:

  • Loving love-making
  • Caring, loving words and acts for a loved one
  • Staying connected to love despite another’s angry words and acts against themselves, us or the world.
  • Games, fun, discussion done with respect and love with another person.

Our physical life starts in connection to another (mother). Our spiritual life starts when we become aware of the link between our divine essence and our body and are able to connect both, when we can connect to our true love inside while relating to self and another.