Health Tai Chi in Devon

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5 ways of easily practising #tai chi

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  • Queueing at the bank/supermarket/airport – Bend your knees and Pay Attention: Isn’t it boring to queue at the bank/supermarket/airport or many other places? An interesting and healthy way to use that time is by gently bending your knees (no one will notice) to help increase your blood circulation. Second, you can bring your attention inside. Notice areas of #tension in your body (shoulders, abdomen, back?) and try to release that tension. You don’t need to close your eyes. It might take a little bit of practise at first to notice what is going on inside while keeping your eyes open, but it is an amazing tool you can use at any time. Enjoy your holidays.

 

  • Walking – Pay attention to Your Feet: Again, it is all about paying attention. This time, bring your attention to your feet and how they connect to the ground. Notice how you shift the weight from one foot to the other. Notice whether you tense your legs as you do this, or any other muscle in your body. Notice the quality of the connection to the ground. Are you floating? Are you grabbing the ground? This is called #mindfulness. Try different postures and see how they feel, raise your body, release unnecessary tension, try to walk as comfortably as you can. Enjoy your walk!

 

  • Driving – #Relax Your Shoulders: If you drive long distances and, like me, you don’t particularly like the speed in the motorways, your shoulders might be tightening with the effort and concentration. You don’t really need to tighten your shoulders to concentrate on the road, but we often do it automatically. Lower backs are often also clenched while driving. Pay attention to your shoulders and try to release unnecessary tension, especially when the M5 is really clogged with traffic and you wish you had stayed at home for the weekend. Calm your shoulders, your lower back and you will feel better straight away. If you keep an eye on #relaxing your shoulders while driving, and practise it daily, you will notice that you don’t get those awful #headaches after a long drive. Enjoy the ride!

 

  • While making some tea – Standing/Cloud Hands/Silk Reeling: If you normally have a flavourless cup of tea because you haven’t got the patience to wait for it to brew for a few minutes, try to approach tea making from a tai chi perspective. 1) Put the kettle on. Practise some standing until water boils. 2) Pour the water over your tea cup with tea bag. During those 3-7 minutes that you need to wait, practise cloud hands or silk reeling. 3) Bring your cup of tea to your armchair. Enjoy your soap opera!

 

  • Showering – Sing your Heart Out: This is not a way to practise tai chi, but I bet you it will put you in the right mood for the day, right? Ok, there were only 4 ways of practising tai chi, but hey, singing and dancing should always be in your repertoire, wouldn’t you agree? You are the star. Enjoy the show!


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The Tai Chi Journey or the Silk Reeling Journey

When I first started my tai chi journey back in 2006, I just wanted to relax, but I was very eager to learn a full tai chi form. This may sound familiar to you. I was learning wu style tai chi and then yang style tai chi long forms. I spent 4 years doing these tai chi forms and despairing at not finishing any of them. My teacher was going too slowly for me, I used to think. 10 years have passed since then. Now, I do chen style tai chi, the most traditional one, and I train regularly with my husband Sifu Nick Taylor from Devon Tai Chi Centre and Grandmaster Liming Yue. I haven’t finished the long form (Laojia) and I am okay with it. What has changed? Tai chi has become a journey, not a destination.

I know that I am learning with every movement that I do, and how fast or how much I am learning has become irrelevant. I have learnt to follow my body, my female cycle, my personal desires. I rest when I need to rest, I train when I need to train, but most of all I repeat what I know once and again and again. Each time I move, my movements have a different feeling. Each time I move, I learn until I reach a plateau. This plateau is very annoying, and I get stuck and I am not sure what I need to learn next. I get bored. I decide to continue going to classes and workshops. This will happen to you too. At this stage, many of you leave or start a new endeavour. One day, in a class, you will see a new nuance, same words will have a different meaning, like it happens to me. You will finally understand what was hidden years ago. Your body understands and moves and relaxes in a different way. That has happened to me a few times. My soul starts soaring again. I smile. I take pleasure in my new learnt detail. And I go back to the basics, applying my new learning to the most basic movement: silk reeling.

Silk reeling has so much to teach me that I need to go back to it again and again. Silk reeling exercises prepare your body for the tai chi forms. Silk reeling helps you to experiment with the new details that you learn. As I go back to silk reeling, I practice the new details that I have learnt: relaxing my shoulders, my hips, my wrists; keeping my body straight, or my head; becoming more aware of my breath or my back muscles, or my lower back position; checking whether I am too focused on my front, or my back, my left or my right side; following my qi, feeling it, becoming a good friend to it.

 

So many things I need to learn from silk reeling exercises that my tai chi journey often feels like a silk reeling journey.


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5 tips to make 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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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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Teaching tai chi in Devon (UK) from September 2014

When I started to teach tai chi and qi gong, I wanted to share my passion for these ancient health systems. When I chose my “business name” I wanted to find something that would define my dream. I chose house of movement because my dream was to create a community of like-minded people (around a house/studio) who would share a passion for movement. When I talk about movement, I mean external / physical movement, but also internal /psychological movement and spiritual movement. With the practice of tai chi and qi gong, you start a journey with physical, psychological and spiritual dimensions. My own journey brought me to leave my previous career as a translator and interpreter and start a new path into accompanying others into their own journeys, through teaching tai chi and qi gong and as a counsellor and psychotherapist.

 

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Now, my journey is bringing me to the UK, where I will teach tai chi in Devon. I will bring my dream with me, hoping that I will be able to build on the successes that my students and I have enjoyed in Dublin, with lots of enthusiastic faces in my classes. I hope that one day I will be able to create a real house of movement with my tai chi friends in Devon. I will be affiliated to Master Nick Taylor of the Devon Tai Chi Centre. Master Taylor, disciple of Grandmaster Liming Yue, has been teaching tai chi in Devon for over 12 years. Click his website link if you’re interested in going to a drop-in class in Torbay, Exmouth, Shaldon and other towns (check schedule in website).

 

From September I will discontinue my regular tai chi and qi gong classes in Dublin, and I will only come to teach workshops every now and then. From September I will be running tai chi courses in different areas of Devon. I am in the process of arranging venues and I will publish more information about my September tai chi courses in Devon soon. I am also planning to continue running qi gong classes, so my tai chi courses in Devon will be complemented by my qi gong and meditation classes.