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Why We Practice Chinese Internal Arts

We were introduced to Taiji Chuan in 2001. As I was already practicing Hatha Yoga I was aware of the benefits of a more meditative practice to compliment the aerobic exercise I also enjoyed. Mike was training aerobically and with weights but gave little time to extending flexibility. Initially we each went to please the other! It wasn’t long, however, until we discovered the great benefits to be gained from the practice of these arts. The class we attended was on a Sunday night and it also helped to banish the “Sunday Night Blues” we used to suffer at the end of the weekend.

We live rather busy lives and live in the Thames Valley so are surrounded by other people doing as much, and more, than us. The whole atmosphere we exist in is hustle and bustle which can be very invasive. The arts can help to create the internal space one needs to function effectively and sustain ably.

Over the past 6 years we have tried a wide variety of the Chinese martial and health arts offered by the UKTQF. We have found parts of all the disciplines interesting and useful. We tend to take a little from here and a little from there to give our own practice variety and balance. Overall we have found great benefit from the balancing of mind, body and spirit these arts can bring.

Relationships in general are enriched through perception of energy levels in oneself and others. Understanding better how others are and what effect they have on one improves interactions. Both enhancing the positive aspects and avoiding the negative. It also helps to know what to do in difficult or emotional situations.

One’s health can be benefited by having body awareness – How am I today? And if all is not well – Why might I be feeling this way? Cultivation of some detachment and acceptance through the arts helps me to identify what isn’t right but not become too worried about it. Then I can move on and try an exercise to create more internal balance. A feeling of wellbeing can then follow.

It is our habit to train in the early morning; outside whenever possible. We cannot always train together but wherever we are we make that appointment with ourselves. It is reliable and essential “me time” and gives one the opportunity to ask “how am I feeling today?” Often it is also the only chance to take in some fresh air and daylight in an otherwise indoor lifestyle. It is best to create a habit or routine of rising and then exercising – if one thinks about it for too long it may not happen! If we are not going to train then we try and decide the night before. The alarm clock can be forwarded for some guilt free extra sleep!

When I train in the morning I feel warmer and more alert all day. Without training to start my day I feel sluggish and can have difficulty concentrating. I also love the pre-dawn or early hours of the day as it feels like a secret time. Just nature and I (or us) at one together and we can feel this even living in a large town in a heavily populated area.

I work in healthcare at a high level of responsibility and in a role with great demands. I have come to value highly the help that the arts have brought to my work. My practice helps me to be centred and grounded which has benefited my patients, colleagues and myself. Others have commented on an aura of calm they observe and feel around me. Mike works in engineering also in a very demanding role.

Specifically it helps with patient consultations where a calm professional gives confidence to the patient and develops trust; this can help the patient to cope with the situation better. Colleague interactions are also improved through clearer communication and a reduced chance of being “hooked” by another’s provocative behaviour (whether that is intentional or not). I also find it improves my performance in technical challenges – aiding clarity of thought, execution of tasks and improving the quality of care I can provide.

So how do the arts do all these things! Mainly by helping us to be our own personal life coach… We have developed insight and body awareness so we can spot when we’re under pressure and we have a repertoire of techniques to alleviate any adverse sequelae from that. If we feel our shoulders tensing or other muscles we relax that area and then imagine the spine elongating – lifting up with the top and sinking down at the same time. Creating an aligned and relaxed posture in the same way that Yoga, Pilates and Alexander Technique aims to. I make sure my feet are planted firmly on the floor and I aim to feel really rooted into the earth through them. We both use breathing exercises to balance the energy throughout the body.

In short we have learnt how to identify when we are in balance and when we’re out of balance within ourselves. Combined with simple exercises to maintain or rectify that state of affairs makes for happier individuals. What better way to start trying to improve our ability to cope with life where there are always things to throw us off our path.

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