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Tai Chi Tips

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February 2012
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Here are some tips that could be useful-

If you are new to Tai  Chi, try working on a comfortable stance that's not too low.  This lets you relax more, and takes pressure off the knees.  Over time its easier to lower the stance, or lengthen it if you wish. 

Also, try adjusting the width of the stance to about shoulder or hip width.  This also reduces knee stress, and makes shifting and turning easier.

Generally, the knee doesn't have to extend past the big toe.

Shifting and turning guides the hands.  If you focus mostly on the hands then the shoulders can relax as the hands follow the body motion.


SOME HEALTHY IDEAS FROM TAI CHI CHUAN 

Even if you don't have the time to practice Tai Chi Chuan, or Tai Chi Chi Gung, here are some simple exercises that can make a difference in your life. 

ABDOMINAL BREATHING: Relax. Stand or sit in a fairly straight chair. To shift your breathing from upper chest to lower abdomen, place the hands a few inches below the navel. Breathe slowly so that the area under the hands expands against a slight pressure exerted by the hands on the lower abdomen. Relax, and the air slowly exhales. Repeat with inhalation, etc. Do this for five minutes to start with. This basic awareness and development of abdominal breathing is central to many meditative and martial arts. Reader's Digest for December 2000 featured an article about "belly breathing" and its benefits. 


RELAX THE KNEES, HIPS, AND SHOULDERS: this releases a lot of stored tension, and allows you to focus on deep breathing, especially when standing.

 
ROCK THE FEET: This is an excellent exercise if you sit for more than 30 minutes, especially in confined spaces, airplane seats, waiting rooms, etc.
Stretch-out the legs, and stretch the toes down to the ground. Next, flex the toes upward creating a rolling motion over the heel. Breathe in as the toes go up; exhale as the toes go down. Repeat for several minutes.
The AARP Bulletin for June 2004 has an artical about deep-vein thrombosis (DVT), and recommends exercising similarly to this toe stretch, heel-rock exercise. If you sit for half an hour, or longer, this could be a very beneficial practice.

Point of View:   A nice example of how a frame of mind in a situation can affect an inner state of relaxation is related by Chuang Tzu in the story of The Empty Boat:  If someone is rowing and bumps into a log, he pushes it aside, and continues on his way.  If he bumps into an empty boat, he pushes it aside, or perhaps ties it securely somewhere out of the way. But if its a boat with people in it, he gets angry.
 
Creativity:  Research by Dr Gene Cohen at George Washington University, and by others elsewhere, has been showing a relationship with creativity and thought to physical well-being and health. The site (this is a  clickable link):
www.dispatch.co.za/2004/05/13/features  has a nice summary report about this kind of research.   Make Tai Chi Chuan one of your creative activities!
 
TAKE A BREAK...Sometimes you can feel that you're not where you would expect to be after practicing for a year or longer...take a break and let the mind relax.  The story of looking for a fugitive while beating a drum (in Chuang Tzu)  exemplifies the need to relax, and change perspective;  or, as someone once said, "If things don't go right, take them left..." (Boy Kanahe, cited in The Hearts's Code, by Paul Pearsall).
 
 

Elizabeth Blackburn has been in the news recently for her research into telomeres, telomerase, and cellular longevity.  Telomeres keep the chromosomes from fraying with repeated replication.  As cells age, the telomeres become shorter.

Her team found that individuals with higher actual or perceived stress had shorter telomeres, and lower telomerase activity, which resulted in increased vulnerability to illness. Later studies by Epel found that in all six major known categories of risk factors for cardiovascular disease, a high correlation was found with low telomerase levels. Their research opens to view a process that brings emotional stress to the internal responses in the cellular nucleus...pretty fantastic! 

A fascinating book to read is - 
Elizabeth Blackburn and the Story of Telomeres, by Catherine Brady, 2007.

Also, telomeres and Elizabeth Blackburn were featured on a National Geographic PBS Special, "Killer Stress" seen on tv Sept 2008.