Having fun is an important part of learning T’ai Chi. Indeed, many T’ai Chi practitioners refer to T’ai Chi practice as “playing T’ai Chi” and T’ai Chi participants as “players.”
When students learn to take away one or two specific exercises and postures to work on at home, at work, while running errands, etc., progress will happen much more quickly and learning new postures and refinements of postures will come more easily.
Examples of such practice can be:
Shifting the weight back and forth from one leg to the other with feet shoulder width apart while standing at the kitchen counter or in line at the grocery store;
Opening and relaxing the shoulders and holding the head “as if suspended from a string” while walking;
Keeping the wrists in a “fair lady’s” position while typing;
Standing in “Bow Posture” and turning from the waist when sweeping the kitchen, shoveling snow, or hoeing the garden.
Not only will such practice accelerate progress in class, it will also improve the awareness of self.
And through it all, SMILE! Be aware of yourself smiling, Smiling is an important part of T’ai Chi!
T’ai Chi for Kids Move Like the Animals by Stuart Alve Olson is an enchanting book for children, grandchildren, and all ages. The images illustrate the names of eight common T’ai Chi poses and help in learning the form. On the cover is “White Crane Cools its Wings.”
From the author:
“I probably should have titled the book, Tai Chi for Kids (of All Ages), as many older Tai Chi adherents have made similar comments as yours. I think why that is, is because the book is about “play,” most Tai Ji Quan books (my other books included) have a more serious approach by exploring the deeper aspects of Tai Ji Quan, but Tai Chi for Kids was written and approached purely from a playful standpoint. Kids play, it is how they learn to interact with others and use their imagination, which if you think about it, is the core of Tai Ji Quan practice. ”
Below is a link to the “8 Brocades” Qigong practice demonstrated by Mimi Kuo-Deemer. When beginning to learn Tai Chi, this is a wonderful exercise sequence to do on the days between lessons. It will help you to learn to focus your Qi and develop strength in your legs and arms.
Sequence of the 8 Brocades:
1 – Two Hands Support the Heavens: Push the hands, with fingers loosely entwined, over the head and stretch toward the sky.
2 – Separating Heaven and Earth: Press one hand with palm upwards to the sky and the other hand with palm downwards towards the earth. In a smooth motion, switch the position of the hands so that the one that was pressing upwards is now low and pushing downwards while the downward facing hand is now over the head pressing upwards.
3 – Drawing the Bow to Shoot the Golden Eagle: While in a horse stance (feet wide apart, knees bent, tailbone tucked under, back vertical and straight) imitate the action of drawing a bow to either side. Turn the head to look in the direction the bow is pointing.
4 – Wise Owl Gazes and Looks Backwards: Stand in resting position, arms relaxed and slightly in front with palms facing the body. In a smooth motion, sink the tailbone, open the palms outwards, and turn the head (from the neck only) to one side. Return to resting position with eyes facing front and palms turned back towards the body. Repeat to the other side.
5 – Swing the Head and Tail: Squat in a low horse stance, place the hands on thighs with the elbows facing out and twist from the waist to look backwards on each side.
6 – Two Hands Climb the Legs: Stretch arms upwards to the sky and then bend forwards and hold the calves/ankles/toes. Tuck the tailbone under and roll the spine upwards until body is once again vertical and at rest.
7 – Punching with an Fierce Gaze: Stand in horse stance (feet wide apart, back straight and vertical, tailbone tucked under) and punch with loosely clenched fist to the front. Alternate arms.
8 – Shake the Back 7 Times: Roll feet forward and push upward from the toes to stand briefly on the toes. Relax feet/legs and drop onto heels, creating an impact vibration that spreads up the legs and spine.
We can help each other’s t’ai chi practice with imagination. We can stretch our spirits with images, metaphors and partnering exercises that involve listening and following the energy coming from your fellow participants.
For example, indulge your imagination and engage your breathing, body and center. Imagine your whole body suspended as if from a string from the top of your head. Try and actually feel gravity embracing your body weight down through your feet. Think in terms of emptying your mind of chattering voices and daily anxieties that clutter your life and thoughts. Focus on your center, your dan tien, and find reservoirs of calm and attentiveness that result.
Thus the imagination allows us to stretch our possibilities in movement and meditation and facilitates the ‘letting go’ so essential to t’ai chi and Daoism, a Chinese philosophy/religion based on accepting change. When we learn we control nothing, we unleash new potential to manage our attitudes and responses to daily “obstacles,” exercise our imaginations, and live the consequences of our actions and behaviors. Our classes strive to cultivate our minds and imaginations in the t’ai chi journey in a safe and nurturing environment.