Tai Chi Wu & Yang Style
"The Most Popular Self-healing Exercise System on the Planet!" - Paul Cavel
Tai Chi for Beginners
Sussex Health Arts teach the Tai Chi Wu-Style Short Form, which is practiced for fitness, health, well being and healing.
The gentle, low-impact movements of Tai Chi can be practiced by essentially anyone, regardless of age or ability.
Tai Chi begins with learning the choreography which includes the steps, turning, weight shifts and arm motions. The beginner will also learn how to relax through movement and improve their biomechanical alignments. In time and with enough practice, the practitioner will arrive at a point where most of what they have learned becomes embodied which leaves the mind free to focus on stretching out the body. This includes both the outer muscular frame as well as the skeletal frame, allowing the release of generalised stress and tension. As this gentle, stretching, pumping action takes place, blood flow increases and the nervous system is lulled into a state of relaxation, which thereby stimulates the flow of Qi.
After a tuning in period, many Tai Chi students report that they experience old aches and pains vanishing, dead or numb areas waking up, and most commonly that their overall sense of well-being and energy levels begin to increase. Some students have major breakthroughs, such as the disappearance of sciatica or carpel tunnel syndrome. Although the clearing out process is highly individual and is dependent upon the students state of health, all of these benefits are made possible by practising the Tai Chi form consistently and accurately.
The Benefits of Practising Tai Chi
Tai Chi practice starts with learning and maintaining proper postural alignments which will initiate the process of correcting the misalignments that may have created wear and tear on the joints and spine and caused contraction of the soft tissue.
The slow movements of Tai-Chi will gently stretch and release the tension in your soft tissue and fascia and gently stretch your ligaments thereby increasing flexibility and balance. With regular practice the repetitive Tai-Chi movements will strengthen both the lower and upper extremities and also the core muscles of the back and abdomen.
Sussex Health Arts classes include sessions on diaphragm breathing and sinking your Chi in order to relax and release tension that has built up in your body.
The smooth and circular movements of Tai Chi work on soothing the nervous system which further reduces and gently releases stress and allows you to rewire your nervous system in order to counter the stress response with relaxation. With regular practice, Tai Chi can increase your sense of well-being in all of your regular activities.
Tai Chi develops energetic fitness, this can be defined as your ability to feel, move and store Qi, known in Chinese Medicine as the vital life-force, which powers your physical body. Energetic fitness is the key to motivation, health and vitality. When you feel energetic you feel more alive.
Recent medical research and studies are increasingly discovering that Tai Chi is helpful to many medical conditions including;- Arthritis, Hypertension, Low Bone Density, Sleep Disorders, Fibromyalgia and Musculo-Skeletal Disorders.
Tai Chi for Existing Practitioners
Copyright permitted by Paul Cavel
Tai chi offers all the potential health benefits of Qi Gong and Nei Gong, but amplifies them to greater effect. Tai Chi also adds the dimension of martial applications and Taoist meditation, developing the unique characteristics of softness and yielding.
There are three primary layers to focus on when learning Tai Chi:
Formwork — the choreography of the form.
Nei Gong — the internal content that is, initially, derived from form movements.
Circularity — that which allows the full potential of nei gong to come into play within the form.
Regular and accurate practice of the form creates a shell or containment field for the internal Nei Gong content to come to life by allowing the basic movements to become embedded in the cellular memory of the body. This process frees the mind to focus on ever-more refined levels of detail. One way to think about embodying your form is putting your body on autopilot, leaving your mind free to focus on very specific threads of internal Nei Gong content. Until you reach the point where you can go on autopilot — i.e. you don’t have to think about the movements — there’s little to gain from advancing to more complex considerations in your form because your foundation will not hold.
Nei Gong Content: How Tai Chi Becomes Internal
Although Nei Gong training is not set in stone and there is no best hierarchy for learning and developing your skill in the Nei Gong system, two streams that commonly come into play are:
1. Opening-Closing techniques (Also known as pulsing techniques)
2. Yin-Yang tissue stretches
Opening and closing is the alternating rhythm of expansion and condensing between two counterparts. In early Nei Gong training, opening-and-closing techniques focus on the space between the joints (e.g. hands, wrists and elbows) and cavities (e.g. armpits, kwa and backs of the knees), which facilitate relaxation in the body and mind.
Yin and yang tissue stretches allow you to divide the body so that either the yin (front,inside) or yang (back, outside) surfaces can be stretched while the other remains completely relaxed and inactive. This creates a looping of energy at the level of wei chi (in the fascia located between the skin and muscles), which thereby boosts the body’s natural defence mechanisms.
Activating and engaging the pulse or yin-yang tissue stretches requires fine motor control through hyper focus on very specific parts of the body. This cannot be achieved if the mind must devote attention to where to step, turn, shift, or move the arms. The hyper focus on very specific areas of the body is absolutely critical at this stage because it is precisely what allows the deeper kinks and blocks to be uncovered and eventually released.
The deep relaxation gained from the pulse, along with the increase of the flow of wei qi, begins to open up the body at a more profound depth. This in turn allows you to penetrate the shell (muscular and skeletal frames), which thereby provides access to the deeply rooted condensed energy inside the body. If you have to stop and think about formwork in this process, you will severe your ability to maintain the stream of consciousness necessary to unlock that which is hiding under the level of your awareness.
Once you contact these deeper blockages, you can then tune your form, and the weave of internal Nei Gong content that derives it, towards that which will be most helpful in releasing them. When you do, the health and healing benefits naturally arise. There isn’t any specific outcome you can expect, but whatever restraints you become in tune with and aware of can be melted and vanished for good.
The condition and vitality of your internal organs is ultimately what makes you more or less healthy. It’s not surprising that the deeper tensions affect your organ base in some way or another. Releasing these tensions can therefore have a profound effect on your well-being. If someone uses their fingers to apply pressure on your windpipe, when they finally let go, how good is it going to feel? To start, you’ll be able to breathe more easily! The freedom many students experience internally as they let go of these bound and restricted areas in their organs is similar, and possibly even more profound.
Circularity in Tai Chi
Achieving circularity is a major goal of all movement arts because it’s an efficient method for supercharging the circulation of blood and other fluids (e.g. lymph and interstitial) and energy by creating momentum. This moves you along the continuum towards greater and stronger energy flow that in turn further stimulates production and circulation of all the other bodily fluids — that which creates incredibly efficient body function and, equally, deep and long-lasting relaxation.
This deep relaxation and cleansing the body of harmful toxins and waste by-products go hand in hand. As your nerves release and maintain a calm state, your body can operate more efficiently and thereby disperse stagnant energy. All you are left to do is feel better.