Benefits Of Tai Chi
Value To Health
Tai Chi Chuan is predicated on the idea that mind, body, and emotion are inseparable. The exercise, which takes about 20 minutes to complete, is designed to facilitate physical, mental and emotional development.
Consisting of 124 movements, the exercise is performed in a slow, smooth, and continuous manner to relax the body and promote the circulation of the blood; to strengthen the muscles and lubricate the joints; to develop concentration and stimulate awareness; to invigorate the heart and lungs; and to enable one to relieve fatigue, tension, and stress.
Softening exercises, introduced by Grandmaster Yeung Ma Lee, further help students to understand how to internalize the Yeung Family Tai Chi Chuan exercise by softening connecting tissues to all bone joints to increase the range of motion.
Movements in tai chi chuan are modeled on the movements of animals: the crane, monkey, tiger, horse, etc. However, in order to be able to utilize the skills necessary to propel the "Jin" (strength and energy) in fighting, one must understand human physiology, namely, the idea of parking the coccyx and hollowing the chest.
These are two of the essential rules for practicing true Yeung Family Tai Chi Chuan. First, be careful of misinterpreting. Parking the coccyx is NOT tilting your pelvis under (pelvic tilt), and hollowing the chest is NOT rolling the shoulders forward.
Parking the coccyx is to lock the shinbone crowns in their proper place and to hollow the chest in different degrees as required so the chest can rest on the C curve of the thoracic vertebrae to support the small back and spine. This proper alignment gives strength to the navel psychic center. Careful and knowledgeable instruction must be provided in both of these concepts.
With such instruction, using the parked coccyx to lock the shinbone properly will help to prevent knee injury in all people, and by correctly hollowing the chest, the shoulders will be moved forward passively (so as not to create congestion) allowing the energy to sink, creating a sense of tranquility. These two concepts are taught and emphasized clearly under the exacting instruction of Grandmaster Yeung Ma Lee.
Grandmaster Yeung Ma Lee created "softening exercises" in which she embedded the very essence of the tai chi principles. When she instructs the softening exercises, she starts from the neck and goes to the feet to help make it easier for students to understand the tai chi principles, and later, to apply them to the tai chi form.
The softening exercises are therapeutic movements and are also helpful to martial movements since their principles are all connected to the tai chi chuan form. They start at the neck and work downward towards the feet with the idea of teaching one how to separate and manipulate the body's various parts: the cervical, thoracic, lumbar, sacrum and coccyx. In so doing, one is able to utilize integral force. The exercises also teach one how to use internal force governed by the navel psychic center (navel psychic center here refers to the conglomeration of nerve endings in the upper, lower and middle dan tien for the purpose of body movement memory). Thus, by using integral and internal forces, one cultivates energy force (chi).
Through these exercises, one softens the connecting tissues to all the bone joints, beginning with the spinal column, for the purpose of increasing the range of motion, promoting the unimpaired circulation of nutrient-rich oxygenated blood, developing unhindered movement of energy, and permitting unimpaired messages from the nervous systems.
Consequently, the health of the mind, the body and the nervous systems can improve. The exercises are also valuable because they function as a personal tool box to address particular, individual problem areas so that overall health can be brought back into balance.
Instructor Steve Mello continues to learn these softening exercises from John Conroy at the Rhode Island School of Tai Chi in Warwick, RI. They have allowed Steve to understand tai chi's principles and to improve the way he stands, correctly aligning his skeletal muscles in order to use his mind to direct the movement of energy. Steve also understands how to employ that energy to move his body.
This is the fundamental concept of tai chi — the use of yin / yang or positive / negative forces.
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