Tag Archives: Tao

World Tai Chi & Qigong Day

World Tai Chi & Qigong Day in Welles Park - ChicagoAfter reflecting upon last weekend’s World Tai Chi and Qigong Day, I would like to share why I believe it to be a event worthy of celebration (and perhaps some extra practice).

A long time ago, people left the wilds and their natural surroundings for the benefits of communal living. As the size of these communities grew into kingdoms, the walls that were designed to provide security and convenience also became a haven for stress and conflict. The citizens were becoming afflicted with disease, internal strife, and greed.

Some of the wiser people noticed that communities had strayed too far from the balancing forces of nature, and presented remedies to those who would listen. They called attention to the flowing rivers, which were teeming with more life than stagnant waters. They pointed out that it was the more pliable trees that could weather heavy winds and snow much better than the stronger ones. It was the creatures that lived simply and within their means, they said, that made it through the harshness of winter and enjoyed the next spring.

The place was ancient China, and these wise folk were Taoists, who looked to the elements of nature and the concepts of yin and yang to help them enjoy healthier lives.

Over the years, continued observation and refinement led to the development of systems that helped people live in harmony with the Tao. Tai Chi and Qigong of modern times are direct ancestors of those systems, powerful internal arts that are practiced to balance and maintain the body. It should come as no surprise, then, that the remedies proposed to restore order and harmony to kingdoms of old (flow, softness and sustainability) can just as effectively be applied to our practice:

What adjustments can I make to my alignment that will help with balance and flow? Where are there restrictions in my movement, and how can these be softened? Are there places where I am overextending?

For me, the annual celebration of World Tai Chi & Qigong Day begins with a reminder to look back and consider the roots of these internal systems. I finish the day with the encouragement to continue listening for ways to soften and refine for another year.

The Importance of Alignment

My investigation of Tai Chi Chuan really took off when I began approaching my practice with alignment in mind. Whether you come to this study for its health benefits, martial properties, or as a form of personal expression, working toward proper alignment on a regular basis will bring great returns with respect to flow, balance and internal strength.

Take the simple analogy of a water hose: if this conduit is left open the water continues to flow along the path; if the hose is bent, however, the output is hindered or completely blocked.

“Well,” you might say, “I’m a wee bit more complex than a tube… how does this apply to me?”

Tai Chi Chuan means “Supreme Ultimate Fist” or “Supreme Ultimate Form.” This is not a declaration of ego (quite the opposite), but rather a reference to the relationship between the Taoist principles of yin and yang. For a moment, think of the joints of your body as gates that allow energy to flow. When these gates are working in unison, energy flows freely in the direction of your intent. However, if a gate is closing (yin) when it should be opening (yang), the flow is compromised. Likewise, if a gate is opening when it should be closing, energy is lost.

As we listen to and work on alignment, our practice can’t help but improve. From a health standpoint, we become more efficient on many levels and relieve excessive body strain. From a martial perspective, we learn more about the transfer of energy and the dangers of over-commitment. Artistically, we will find ways to be more expressive and communicate with more clarity.

Over the coming weeks we’ll look at ways to get a better understanding of alignment and methods to improve it. Stay tuned.

Welcome to Great Lakes Tai Chi

The mission of this site is to help practitioners of Tai Chi Chuan get the greatest benefit from their investment of time and energy.

It is important to understand that the study of Tai Chi is not an end in itself. Indeed, how could a lesson on the ever-changing Tao really be complete? Whether you have been practicing for five weeks or fifty years, there will always be room for refinement. Being mindful of this during one’s practice will reveal Tai Chi Chuan as an invaluable method of investigation, leading one to continued growth and transformation.

Principles will be presented on the blog here to aid you in that investigation. Most of these relate to the alignment and mechanics of the body and are therefore applicable to any Tai Chi form. So explore and experiment with what you find here.

Study with patience; enjoy your practice.

Sunrise Over North Avenue Beach, Chicago