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Using Tai Chi for Relaxation in Daily Life
William C. Phillips

Most of us who practice Tai Chi are well-aware of how relaxing it can be - WHILE we are practicing it! What does it take to bring that relaxation into our everyday lives?

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Keith from an undisclosed location asks:
"Can Tai Chi help to relax you, and relieve stress in your life?"

Dear Keith,

Yes, Tai Chi is relaxing. I like to call it a "somatic-psycho" relaxation technique. To explain that we can preface it with the explanation that we get most of our tension psychosomatically. Just about everyone is familiar with that term, psychosomatic. The process is that tension goes from an event that happens into the mind or consciousness (the "psychological" part) and then on into the body (the "somatic" part). So your boss calls you in for a review, you get tense and your shoulders rise two inches, and that is psychosomatic tension.

Tai Chi works the process the other way. You lower your shoulders in the practice of Tai Chi and eventually you do not feel the tension that you were feeling when they were up. You move slowly and calmly through your exercises and you are calm in the practice of Tai Chi. So it can be said that, if you do Tai Chi with the proper attitude, one of peace and serenity, which is how it should be done, it is stress releasing.

However, when you go back to your life, if you continue to live a "type-A" life, it will cease its benefits at the end of your practice. To use Tai Chi to change your life, you need, first, to practice every day, morning and night. Once you've done that, you need to use the Tai Chi to change your life. What do I mean? I mean to do the "heavy lifting" that is required to keep calm in other situations. Take the feeling of serenity that you got from your practice, and carry it with you into the rest of your life (I said it was heavy lifting) and then, as you gradually succeed in doing that, it will change your life .

Calmness, like balance is an "every time is a first time" deal. Experience with it helps us to reproduce it, but we have to fight the temptation to get upset or angry or worried every time these emotions arise. And while our calm may get deeper every time, our temptation is just as real and difficult every time, until we have gotten deep into relaxation. At that point it may take more to get you tense, but it is still a matter of temptation. Give in and you "lose", in the sense that you won't be making progress. As you get deeper into relaxation and as you get more comfortable fighting the temptation, it will happen less and you will begin to experience success. In Tai Chi, Bill

In Tai Chi,

Have a question for me? Ask it at Ask Sifu.

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William C. Phillips began his study of the martial arts in 1965. He currently holds a 7th degree black belt in Karate, and a 5th degree black belt in Ju Jitsu. He began his studies of Tai Chi in l967, studying with Prof. Cheng Man-Ch'ing from '70-'75. He became the most junior student ever to become a teacher in Cheng Man Ch'ing's New York school, the Shr Jung. Sifu Phillips became interested in the field of holistic health in the early 1970's, when a lifelong allergy problem was alleviated with Chinese herbal medicine. Since then, he has studied widely in that field as well. Sifu Phillips is available for seminars, lectures and demonstrations. He has produced two very successful Tai Chi DVDs, and is currently working on a book on Tai Chi form and a third DVD.For more information...

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·  Avoiding Back Bends in Tai Chi
·  The Stress of Learning Tai Chi
·  What Does It Really Mean to "Relax" in Tai Chi?
·  What are the Benefits of Practicing Tai Chi at Differing Speeds and Heights?