Tai Chi, the ancient internal martial art originating from China, is now days mostly practiced for its health benefits. Many of those benefits are also known to main stream medical community: its slow movement can contribute to lower blood pressure; tai chi calms down the nervous system, and that way reduces stress; it strengthens the bones and muscles, easing symptoms of arthritis; it can help lower blood sugar; simply said, it brings the whole system into balance. It improves the coordination and focus.
Now, tai chi is not merely physical exercise. Much more benefits one can have from practicing tai chi when bringing mind into practice. And we all know how that can be a difficult task.
On same days when this happens, tai chi can take you over to another dimension. It is the dimension of center (or hara, according to Barbara Brennan). That is a place with no anxiety, pain, boredom or any other state of being our busy mind can put us. External environment ceases to exist the way we are familiar with it in our everyday lives. Center, instead of just one thin line going through the vertical middle of our bodies, expands throughout the whole torso.
All movement then originates from our torso, not from the extremities, as it might seem. The torso, like a trunk of a tree is the source of life. All vital organs are in it, so having good energy flow around and in internal organs will contribute to ones wellbeing.
Energy from the center of our body can then spread to the periphery, to the legs, arms and neck. The imaginary line, with correct breathing, rather expands like a tube and goes all the way down to earth and its molten core.
And how on earth can we get so deep into the ground bellow us, and so high to the heavens above? Believe it or not, simply by breathing.
Like in many ancient, internal practices, in tai chi as well, the breathing is very important. In my humble opinion, when we are mindful about it, it can bring us more into the body and help us become more aware of our own energy-consciousness system. It helps mind calm down from its wondering and spacing out, and align with the body and the present moment.
It is also said that when we breathe, the kidneys should move couple of centimeters up and down. This movement charges and nourishes, increasing the circulation of blood and oxygen (the kidneys are considered very important organs in Chinese medicine, right next to the heart).
When breathing tai chi way, also known as reverse breathing, we expand the lower abdomen and experience opening and closing of the area of the kidneys and below (this is also beneficial for lower back pain). Soon after starting to breathe this way we will experience heat in the abdominal area and movement of the energy in the intestines (beneficial for removing the waste and helpful in cases of constipation). Following the breath, we go all the way down through our legs, to the earth. On the other side, the rising energy will soon reach the heart and fortify its contractions and expansions. Circling of the energy behind the heart opens it for other dimensions.
Having chin lower, opens the back of the neck that often gets jammed by the sedentary life style. And the head is suspended, hanging on the imaginary thread that comes from heaves.
As you can see, we are having kind of the massage of our internal organs while consciously and purposefully breathing, pulling in and pulling out.
In this way we do not invest lots of effort and force in the movement. We are held by earth bellow us and heavens above, with all movements originating from the inside, from limitless fountain of our core. The movements are then not beginning or end in itself, but just a result of intention of the soul to move, explore and experience.
I wonder, if we were able to maintain this center for most of the time, how our lives would look like. Probably with much more preserved energy, less effort and more stability and harmony.
Until we get there, practicing tai chi on a daily bases will keep reminding us on who we really are: infinite beings whose existence goes beyond time and space. And it is really a wonder to experience it all while gently moving your physical body. Tai chi is a tool that helps us bring body, mind and soul in alignment.
And if the movement doesn’t come right away, we wait for it…until the core moves from inside.