T’ai Chi

Long River T’ai Chi Circle (Stirling & Falkirk)

“T’ai Chi is an exercise which promotes relaxation and wellbeing for the body, mind and spirit. The focus on relaxation develops a greater awareness and understanding of the ch’i – our internal energy. It is not about acquiring more – it is about fully realising what we already have, by allowing it to flow , without hindrance throughout the body. Ch’i can be thought of as natural energy or breath. It can be experienced in a variety of ways, such as a feeling of warmth, a tingling, an increased sense of energy or a general feeling of wellbeing.

Relaxation is a letting go of all unnecessary tensions of the body and the mind. Through studying T’ai Chi, we can learn how body and mind affect each other. It is not possible for the body to let go of excessive tension when the mind is anxious and racing and the thoughts scattered. Nor is it possible when the mind is set hard, with determination, to achieve a certain outcome, no matter what. The Chinese phrase “wu wei” roughly translates as “doing without doing”. This is the state of mind or approach to learning that listens more than it talks.

One of the ways to begin “listening” is to soften the body, the gaze and the mind. In the Western world, which mostly equates strength with rigid force and hardness, softness is often misunderstood. In studying T’ai Chi we learn to recognise the truth of Lao Tzu’s observation that –

“the softest in the world overcomes the hardest”.

In nature, water provides a good example of the energy and power of the soft. By remaining soft and pliable, water can find it’s way around most obstacles and erode the hardest surfaces.

Softness requires a structure and this is provided by the postures of the form. With these postures alignment and balance can be studied and an understanding of their relationship to relaxation be found. As alignment and balance improve, there is an increased sense of stability and connection. This connection is both within the self and with the ground beneath our feet. The form is usually performed slowly, as this encourages relaxation and makes it easier to study alignment and balance.

Once the sequence is learned, the principles of natural movement can be studied in greater depth, T’ai Chi is an internal art and understanding gradually deepens from the external shape to an internal feeling. this encourages greater reliance on intuition and instinct and less on the rational mind.

The form is the Simplified or 37 posture form, which was created by Cheng Man Ching from the original Yang family form. He reduced the many repetitions of the original form to allow it to be performed in 10, rather than 20 minutes. It takes about about one year to learn the sequence of postures and the rest of your life to enjoy studying it. Progress in T’ai Chi happens gradually, but benefits can be experienced and enjoyed from the start.

The school is part of Long River T’ai Chi Circle, which was founded by Wolfe Lowenthal, a student of Cheng Man Ching.”

© Margaret Russell, March 2005

Long River T’ai Chi Circle (USA)