4 Easy Steps and 1 Great Reason to Practice Tai Chi

I recently received this feedback below from a long time practitioner about the content of this website.

“…knowing everything about T’ai Chi is a lot different than making Tai Chi practice a part of our life… This is something I rarely see in any of the educational media.  It is just assumed that the student will develop a practice but the reality is most students do most of their T’ai Chi in class.

The most important thing is to do it, to make it your own.  An elementary practice will affect our lives profoundly.  Erudition will leave us looking for more.”

Well said.

No one would argue with the fact that adding physical activity or meditation would improve your life.  The problem comes with the execution.  Here are four easy steps taken from research and positive-change gurus.  Additionally, tai chi has one thing up on many of the positive changes that you would make to your life:  The improvements are cumulative, and you receive benefits back in a ratio that is greater than the efforts it takes to perform the form.

1. Don’t Add, Replace

tai chi practiceDo you have time to add something new to your schedule?  Who does?  But you have to be interested in change or improvement or you wouldn’t be reading this post.   Get twice the bang for your buck by reducing a less-than-positive activity with tai chi practice.

Darren Hardy says it best in his book: The Compound Effect.

“The sum total of all the actions that you take each day lead to greater success.”   Life  is a big calculator and at the end of the day your sum total of actions either moves you in the direction you want to go, you stay neutral, or you move backwards.

Hardy has a beautiful Habit Assessment  that helps us quantify how much time we are actually putting towards activities like accessing news, watching TV, or shooting the bull.  It is a good wake-up call and way to see where 15 minutes can be culled away from.

2.  Wake up 15 Minutes Earlier

tai chi practiceYou have heard this one before but I am going to put some eastern knowledge behind it.  The Daoists divide the day into tal. Each tal is 20 minutes so each hour has three tal.  They then assign an animal to each 2 hour segment and describe which activity is most suited for each segment.  The Rabbit time falls roughly between 5 a.m. and 7 a.m. and is considered sacred due to your clarity of thought, acuteness, and relaxed state.  They talk in terms of “protecting” this time and not wasting it.

Too fluffy you say?  Let’s hit the science.  The brain produces 5 wave frequencies (Alpha, Beta, Theta, Delta, and Gamma) that are measured in cycles per seconds (Hz).  Alpha waves are present during deep relaxation and allows your mind to be successful at heightened concentration.  They are present during light sleep but can be accessed through meditation (see Silva Method).  Guess when it is easiest to access and experience an Alpha state?  You got it! When you wake and are transitioning between deep sleep (delta) and waking hours (beta).
tai chi practice

3.  Lean on the Power of Habit

Research suggests that if you can do something for 21 -40 days (higher number of days needed for motor tasks) then you are more likely to sustain it for a longer period.  I love this suggestion and you see it cropping up in all sorts of positive changes.   Why?  Three weeks seems do-able.

4.  Get a buddy

tai chi practiceWe have all started something new with a friend or spouse and found tremendous excitement or commitment at the onset.  Accountability is motivating.  If you are fortunate enough to know someone who is also interested in tai chi, practice with them and agree to meet regularly.  What if you are attending class alone?  Something else I have seen to be successful is to make a friend at class and commit to showing up 15 minutes early to review the tai chi form or material.  You want to show up with a clear conscious and not a clear mind.  And what if you didn’t practice?  Who cares?  That 15 minutes will make your absorption of that class’s material even easier.

It all adds up.

the ompound effect book
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Tai chi Practice is Cumulative

You just need a little structure in place to get you practicing so you can benefit from your efforts.  Then the novel, pleasant experiences begin.  No amount of words (or essays!) can explain the hair-raising sense that overcomes you when chi starts to independently move through your body.  No amount of surprise can describe the first time you don’t react with anger or irritation when a child or coworker frustrates you.  A reaction that would have been typical.   The word gratitude is too small of a word to describe the first time you are thankful for rush hour because otherwise you would have missed that song/news story / sunset.

 “Success is built by taking small consistent steps over time. While these steps in the moment don’t feel significant, the results over time are massive.”  Darren Hardy


Scott Prath

Scott has been practicing and teaching tai chi and qigong since 2000. He is a lead instructor for the Austin Chen Tai Chi Association. His interest in the internal martial arts began after traveling in India and Nepal, and he has since traveled to China to train. Scott has published over 100 articles on tai chi with a focus on research showing the benefits of practicing.

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