Copyright © 2012-Present Alison Chandler
Starting a new class
In many ways this is the most difficult transition for any student. If you have been using a DVD or book or have not studied Tai Chi for a few years then it can seem to be difficult to find a class suitable for you. My classes are designed for all levels of ability. The first time you go to a class you will find it different to your preconcieved notions of what Tai Chi is.
Find a teacher in your local area and stick with them at least to learn the basics. I find I still learn something new about Tai Chi, myself and others every single class or workshop, whether I am the teacher or the student. Even having practiced a move a thousand times over there is always more to learn be it a new rhythm, a new thought to integrate or a different martial emphasis. Each teacher is unique in the way they show you tai chi.
Questions to ask yourself and your teacher?
> Look at the way your teacher moves. Is the movement smooth and does it emanate from their (belly) dantien?
> Moving from form to form without learning the reasons behind the moves will make your form blury and without purpose.
> Ask why the moves are done in a particular way.
> Does your teacher adjust your position?
> Do you only practice solo forms, never getting closer than an arms length to the people around you?
> How often does your teacher have lessons with their teacher?
After practice you should feel as if you have worked your body and mind but be relaxed and alert.
Tai Chi is natural and also unique in that it combines gentle physical movement along with mental focus allowing you to integrate both into a whole. The moves you carry out for Qigong or Tai Chi are natural movements that you practiced as a child without realising. As a baby you breathed naturally from your belly, do you now? Think about what you did as a child or maybe still do without realising when you get out of bed in the morning. You may stretch and arch your back, extend your arms over your head or to the side and maybe rise up onto your ball of foot. This is Qigong! Gentle stretching and then relaxing of tendons and muscles are part of Qigong and Qigong is contained within the Tai Chi forms, in the mental focus, soft breathing and gentle slow movements.
Practice with a small smile and you will find your Tai Chi improves.
Bring the smile into everyday life and find your life improves.
I use a short 10 minute meditation to help with stress reduction and longer sessions for those wanting deeper relaxation. I keep all meditations simple.
All professional teachers offering meditation should have no other motive than allowing you the choice of style you need to assist you in your development. Ask if their meditations are based upon the breath or visualisations or are mantra based. I predominantly use breath based meditation as I have found this is the most effective for releiving stress.
Experiences and expectations
Your emotions may rise and fall until they find a natural balance. The emotional mind needs time to adjust. Be committed. No one gets the movements right the first or even the hundredth time. No good teacher will gossip or judge you for any emotion you may experience or any perceived embarrassment during a class. Persist in your practice. It may take minutes or months to learn a move, each of us is different. There is no perfection. The creators of these forms were not perfect beings but humans with human flaws. They simply practiced and studied and learned as much as they could. In ancient history this was because it meant the difference between living and dying. If you truly want to learn you must let go of your judgements of others and examine yourself and your actions. Simply try to do better each time. It is a process that takes time after all you have spent your life building up emotional barriers and expectations. You do what you do because you have always done it?
As you progress with your Tai Chi you will find that you experience many physical sensations as well as emotions. You may find memories of old events you thought you had forgotten suddenly pop to the surface of your mind at inopportune moments. This is completely normal. Be aware of your mental state but don’t allow it to dominate you. Physical sensations such as tingling, heat and cold are normal. Your mind is striving to adjust as it becomes more connected to the physical. Many teachers use imagery to assist with the learning process. Do not become lost in the imagery believing it to be what Tai Chi is. It is an assistant to help you focus and to distract your mind from its circling thoughts. Focus just on just the next move.
You may not notice the changes in yourself at first but others will. They may ask if you have done something different with your hair or dress, or state that you just seem different. They are not going through the same process as you and some may not like the changes because you no longer fit into the neat pigeon hole they put you in. This can be upsetting for them but don’t judge them for their reactions, they simply need time to adjust to the new you. Their emotions are not yours.
Copyright © 2012-Present Alison Chandler
I have put here a few of my own thoughts which may aid you as a beginner to Tai Chi.
I currently practice Tai Chi, Qigong, Chanquan, Dao Shu, Jian Shu, Meditation and a few more!
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