10 Days (50 Hours) of Tai Chi Instruction
Meditation in Movement
To continue our quest for mindful activities and exploration of all things intrinsic, we signed up for a 10 day Tai Chi Chuan (“Tai Chi” for short) class while in Chiang Mai, Thailand. We were so fortunate to find this class (www.taichithailand.com). We had been researching for months and were having a very hard time finding a Tai Chi program that wouldn’t take months to complete, or on the other end of the spectrum, wasn’t a two day just-learn-the-moves-but-not-the-principles-behind-it type of class. Plus, we were already planning to come to Chiang Mai, so this was perfect!
Tai Chi Background
- Originally created as a form of martial art known as the “ultimate fighting form”.
- Also described as meditation in movement, connecting mind, body and spirit. Just like with the Vipassana meditation we learned during our 10 day retreat in Japan (click here for our blog post), during our Tai Chi practice we focused on relaxing and feeling our body at each moment.
- Symbolized by the Yin and Yang circle relating to two forces which balance each other out, Tai Chi is a form of exercise which strives to attain a balanced relationship between mind and body.
- Among countless other things, some examples of what Yin can represent are feminine polarity, energy (Chi), passiveness, emptying and water, while Yang can represent masculine polarity, the physical body, activeness, filling and fire.
- Yin means deficits, while Yang means excess. “Neither part can survive by itself. They must balance and coordinate with each other so that life can exist.” (The Essence of Tai Chi Chi Kung)
- In Tai Chi, this balance comes from filling and emptying (weight shifting/energy change) with each movement.
We coordinated housing though our instructor right in the same building that our class would take place. This was terrific and allowed us access to the rooftop area (which is where the classes took place) to practice or simply hang out whenever we wanted. Another great thing was that we ended up being the only students! There was one other woman joining the class, but she was a return student who was being mentored by our instructor so she could become an instructor. As a result, we essentially had private Tai Chi instruction.
New Year’s Eve Sidebar
The night before our classes began on January 1, we spent New Year’s Eve with our instructor and several of his former students. It was a nice, relaxing evening and we had the opportunity to launch a sky lantern.
The Top Exercise for Slowing Progress of Dementia
- “In a meta-analysis of 20 studies on tai chi and cognition, tai chi appears to improve executive function — the ability to multitask, manage time and make decisions in people without any cognitive decline. In people with mild cognitive decline, tai chi slowed the progression of dementia more than any other type of exercise and improved cognitive function as well as other forms of exercise or cognitive training.”
- “In 82 percent of studies, tai chi greatly improved mood and lowered anxiety. It’s also an effective treatment for depression. According to a recent article in Stanford Medicine, during an activity like tai chi neurons pick up on your controlled breathing, signaling the body to enter a state of tranquility.”
Our schedule each day consisted of instruction from 8:00 to 10:30 am, break time, then resuming class from 3:00 to 5:30 pm. That meant a total of 5 hours each day, plus assigned reading, video viewing, and practice between sessions. Each session consisted of a warm-up, general Chi Kung (energy practice) movements (this is also known as Qigong), either sitting or walking Tai Chi meditation, Tai Chi movement instruction and practice, and the 5 elements or 5 organ Chi Kung movements.
Our instructor also incorporated talks regarding theory and philosopthy related to Tai Chi and Chi Kung. The goal was that by the end of the ten days we would learn the “Original 13 Postures” of Tai Chi, as well as have a good understanding of the theory and philosophies which are the foundation of Tai Chi.
Tai Chi Sequence
Here is a short time-lapse of the Original 13 Postures (also known as the Essential Posture Sequence in the Yang style). The goal is for the form to take 28 to 40 minutes to complete…the slower and more meditative the better.
A Comprehensive Review of Health Benefits of Qigong and Tai Chi
“This review has identified numerous outcomes with varying levels of evidence for the efficacy for Qigong and Tai Chi, including bone health, cardiopulmonary fitness and related biomarkers, physical function, falls prevention and balance, general quality of life and patient reported outcomes, immunity, and psychological factors such as anxiety, depression and self-efficacy.”
“Results showed that interventions utilizing Tai Chi and Qigong may help older adults improve physical function and reduce blood pressure, fall risk, and depression and anxiety.”
Full Brains & Tired Bodies
We learned one to two movements each day, so in just five days we were able to perform the entire Original 13 Postures sequence. Needless to say, our brains were feeling pretty full by day five and our bodies a bit clumsy still. However, as the days went on the movements and routine began to flow and require less thought. But then our instructor informed us that we would now be learning how to change directions and go counter-clockwise. What?! Ok, it wasn’t as bad as we first thought, but definitely put a new “spin on things.”
What do we think about Tai Chi?
Both of us are really glad we decided to do this, particularly so soon after attending the meditation retreat. Since Tai Chi is comprised of very slow, fluid movements we really did find it relaxing. As the movements became more natural and required less conscious thought we both experienced an increase in mind-body connection. For these reasons it has been a great complement to our sitting meditation.
Another benefit we noticed is that since Tai Chi incorporates twisting, squatting and weight shifting, you really do feel more physically balanced and lighter on your feet afterwards.
So do we plan to continue our Tai Chi practice? Absolutely!