Tai Chi & Yoga
Tai chi is a series of slow moving postures woven together into a sequence or ‘form’. These postures are designed to integrate body and mind while introducing martial art techniques. Considered a ‘soft’ martial art, where one is encouraged to yield to one’s opponent, the premise behind Tai Chi is that if one can master these movements while moving slowly, should the need arise moving quickly will not be an issue. There are different styles of tai chi, with the style named after the family of origin. Traditionally, there were four family lineages: Chen, Yang, Wu, and Sun. Besides the name, another distinguishing aspect would be the length of the form – how many postures make up the form. Those with a large number of movements are known as the long form, those with less the short form. The term Tai Chi is the anglicized version of the Chinese phrase ’T’ai chi ch’uan” which translates as “great polarity” or “supreme ultimate” boxing. The ‘great polarity’ is referring to the energetic principles of yin and yang, two antagonistic and complementary forces emanating from the Earth as Yin and from the Heavens as Yang. A practitioner of Tai Chi is said to be actively joining Heaven and Earth.
The Tai Chi form I am most familiar with is the Cheng Man-Ching Yang style short form. Master Cheng, born in 1901, was an innovative and perceptive teacher, recognized as a master of the ‘Five excellences’. Not only was he accomplished in Tai Chi, he also excelled in painting, calligraphy, poetry and medicine. In 1964 he left Taiwan and moved to New York and began to teach Tai Chi, one of the first to do so in North America. From there his school and his students flourished. Master Cheng passed away in 1975.
The short form has approximately 37 movements or postures and takes a generous ten minutes to complete. Tai chi is a slow motion workout. In addition to the physical benefits of improved balance, flexibility and strengthened muscles and coordination, Tai Chi cultivates a calm and relaxed mind. Consider it a moving meditation. My experience with Tai Chi is that I feel more grounded, focused and definitely more present in my body.
Feel free to peruse the video link demonstrating the form I have learned which can be found under Resources.
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