The most common question asked by people is “What is Taichi”.
The art of Taichi has been around for thousands of years, and is one of the few complete systems of moving meditation in existence today. Through repeated movements, you learn how to flow your Chi or Life Energy to improve your health and well-being. As you clean and restore your Life Energy, you can again connect with your True Self. This can only be accomplished by reestablishing an unrestricted flow of your Life Energy and moving meditation is the key.
The best way to achieve this end is through Single Form Practice. What this means is that, instead of learning a long sequence of movements, each form is practiced one at a time repetitively. Training in this manner the energy begins to flow properly, each form training a different energy flow. This strengthens the flow and allows the energy to grow, returning your Life Energy to the way it was when you were born.
As the student advances the practice evolves from being strictly physical level practice, to what is described as mental level practice. At this stage, energy flow plays the main role in the movements. Now the student feels the energy move the body, rather than the mind sending messages to the muscles to move. This is where the true flow comes into the Taichi movements and the density and frequency of the energy increase.
Taichi then, is an internal art. It is not strictly a Martial Art, or healing art, but rather, these are ways you can choose to use the internal energy that you develop. More important is to connect with your True Self, your original Life Energy, and that is what each of the different practices you learn are really designed to do. This is not accomplished through physical motions, but through learning to flow your internal energy, your Chi. Moving meditation is the key to accomplishing this.
As the New Year starts, let’s begin with Preparation Form, the first of the Single Forms. All of your practices are contained within Preparation Form, once you get to a level that you can practice it properly. In the beginning, you mainly want to use this form for two things.
First, you do Preparation at the beginning of your practice in order to go from being a “regular person” to being a “Taichi person”. What exactly does this mean? At first you must learn to clear the mind of all of the routine thoughts that distract you and keep you from having a calm, concentrated and clear mind. This is very difficult for everyone and takes a lot of practice in order to be able to achieve this, so do not be discouraged if it takes a while.
You also need to do the same for your body. Mentally, you need to start at the top and check that the crown-point is suspended. Relax the eyes, make sure the tongue is curled up, lightly touching the roof of the mouth. The teeth should be very lightly touching together, mouth also relaxed. Let go of any tension in the neck and make sure the shoulders are dropped and relaxed. Let go of any tension in the chest, release the muscles in your stomach and totally relax the spine. Relax and open the pelvic area, make sure that the knees are slightly bent. Relax the ankles and feel the soles of the feet connect to the Earth.
Once you can get to a relaxed state, then you can begin to inhale and rise and exhale and sink. Feel as if you are riding on a Taichi Ball, letting it lift you as you inhale, and lower you as you exhale. Keep it relaxed and light so that you are not putting any stress on your hips, knees, ankles or feet. In other words, float on the energy rather than physically lifting yourself up and down. When you get here you are a “Taichi person” and ready to begin practice.
Second, you use the form to take you out of the Taichi state. When you finish your practice, you again return to Preparation Form. Now, you want to focus on the Dan Tian** area. During your practice, you will have generated energy, much like an electrical generator generates electricity. If you just stop practice, you will let all of that energy just dissipate. Like the electricity from a generator that gets stored in a battery, you want to focus on the Dan Tian and bring all of the energy back here to store in your “battery”.
To do this, imagine that you have a Taichi Ball that is centered on your Dan Tian area. Close your eyes and try and feel this ball and then begin to shrink it into the Dan Tian area. Keep letting the ball shrink, until it is the smallest point that you can imagine. Go very slowly and carefully, taking your time. Continue to relax and then disconnect your tongue and open your eyes to finish.
As you can see, Preparation is extremely import to a successful start and end to your practice. The better you can get at this form, the more you will be prepared to practice properly and have the maximum results from your efforts. Ending you practice you will keep all the energy you have generated and carry it with you. Over time you will then be able to increase both the density and vibration of your Chi.
In a future article we will talk about more advanced ways to practice this form so that you can see how all that you need is really contained in this one form when practiced properly at a higher level.
Editor’s note: George Bolger is a Taichi Instructor, teaching classes at the Taichi Tao Center in Oak Park, Illinois, and private and semi-private classes in the Lake in the Hills, Crystal Lake area. He is also available for group or private instruction in home, at your Spa, Holistic Center or other location. This section of the site is dedicated to the Art of Taichi and George’s Taichi classes. Also featured is George’s music for Taichi practice, meditation, or relaxation. Each month there will be an article in the Taichi Notes section discussing topics related to the study of Taichi as well as practice pointers to help you advance your Taichi practice. He has kindly offered to share his wisdom with Medhavis on The Medha Journal. One can read the articles on his personal website http://www.gbolarts.com as well, besides listening to samples of his fantastic music. This particular article is an older one, published on George’s website.
** Taichi theory states that there are 3 major energy distribution centers in the human body. They are called “[[Dantian]]” in Chinese (meaning “The Elixir Field”, where Elixir stands for Prana or Qi as it is called in Chinese). The Dan Tians are named Lower, Middle and Upper and correspond to points below the navel (inside the body), at the heart region and near the third-eye region respectively. In Yogic terms, they correspond to the Swadhisthana, Anahata and Ajna Chakras, respectively)