Yiu Style Tai Chi
Body, Mind and Spirit
When we are awake our senses are open. We get involved with our activities and our minds are distracted. … our words flow like arrows … and yet our opinions have no permanence; like autumn and winter they gradually pass away
Chuang Tsu, Inner Chapters (2, The Equality of All Things)
Human beings are spiritual, mental and emotional beings and are ultimately looking for happiness and love. We do however tend to be governed by our emotions and feelings, which are based on the mind. Therefore one cannot find happiness unless the mind is content. A happy person always has a clear head. Tai Chi trains the body, the mind and the spirit and helps to soothe and dissolve emotions by leading the mind to a higher level of consciousness, making you more in touch with yourself, relaxed and easy going. Tai Chi makes the chemistry in the brain more balanced. When you are in a state of higher consciousness you have beautiful thoughts and are able to enjoy life more despite the situation. That is, our thoughts are less likely to be effected by the different situations that present themselves in our every day lives. Tai Chi tames the mind making you more loving, caring and compassionate rather than selfish and greedy which tends to be the cause of our own suffering. The technique of mindfulness is when the mind is with the body. “Wild Horse” is a reminder of the untamed human mind.
Tai Chi gives us wisdom and insight. The action of the moves make you feel better in consciousness, calming the mind which in turn gives you insight. Wisdom can be seen as not reacting to the external and not allowing a situation to be effected by our emotions and the way we feel. It is best to look and attempt to deal with problems when you are peaceful and relaxed. Never attack problems when the spirit is low, do Tai Chi first to raise the spirit and then deal with the situation. By not accepting change we suffer. Tai Chi teaches us to flow with the ever changing world and that everything we experience has a quality of change. What then is the point of getting angry if that emotion will pass anyway? Tai Chi builds character making you more patient, calm, tolerant and virtuous. By going inwards and becoming more in touch with yourself, you find the answers you are looking for in life. The more we train on this spiritual level the more permanent our happiness is and the more stable we are.
Tai Chi cultivates the mind and the body but this requires patience and persistence as change and progress for the Tai Chi practitioner is gradual. If you are patient everything develops and works out. The mind is also related to energy . That is, when the mind is happy energy is abundant when the mind is negative or unhappy energy is low. Energy in the body has three levels. The stored energy in the body is said to be thick and includes such things as nutrition, hormones and essential fluid. When this thick energy is lacking in the body you feel tired. Deep breathing has the ability to warm this stored energy, mobilising the thick energy, making it thinner and able to circulate. Once this thin energy starts to travel it is called “chi “flow, which has a healing effect.
It is difficult to appreciate the physical health benefits of regular Tai Chi training. When you are young the body is fit, everything works as it should, the organs function well. As you get older though the body deteriorates. Many people after about the age of 50 years start to forget things more regularly, the body has the potential to start getting weaker, including the legs, bladder, spine and neck.
- People suffer from arthritis because of poor energy flow and blood not circulating as it should. The blood circulates less with colder weather.
- Poor circulation through the lungs makes fluid get trapped there (mucus). The body tries to free up the constricted lung by coughing up phlegm.
- When the energy flow isn’t good in the liver you get tired. Also, because the liver nourishes the tendons as we get older we can’t stretch as much as the tendons shrink.
We are all vulnerable to these problems and so we need a discipline that can overcome them. Tai Chi is such a discipline but to keep the mind and body strong you must train them now. The founder of the school Sun Lu Tang understood that life is indeed precious and used to go to the tombs and just sit there reminding himself that life is short.
The mind of a perfect man is like a mirror. It grasps nothing. It expects nothing. It reflects but does not hold. Therefore the perfect man can act without effort
Chuang Tsu, Inner Chapters (7, The Sage King)
Tai Chi is good for you from the inside out, creating new pathways and networks to the brain making the mind feel calmer and calmer until ultimately you feel serene. It teaches us to relax and go inwards. When you are serene things seem to stand still and you can see what is happening around you and that things are forever changing. Through Tai Chi you gain wisdom and learn to understand and foresee the consequences of your actions. Ultimately your mind is free of habitual prejudices and is no longer controlled by the external. With such inner strength you can respond to the external with wisdom.
Ideally Tai Chi should be practised for a minimum of 45 minutes daily (an advanced practitioner would take approximately 45 minutes to complete the six sets of Yiu Style twice in a row). After that sit down quietly for 10 to 15 minutes and enjoy the relaxation, peace of mind and serenity (it is said that one in four days the mind truly opens and you will feel tranquillity). After continuous daily practise for about seven years you will discover and understand that life is not permanent, and that all things in life are interdependent. That is, for every cause there is an effect (positive actions have a positive effect, doing things that are bad for you have a negative effect). The law of nature is change, nothing stays the same all of the time, to know this is wisdom (we are born, we live and we die). Wisdom means not reacting to situations as they arise. Emptiness means no thoughts, freedom of the mind. Spend time now doing Tai Chi to save time later! Enjoy life now!
Heaven’s creatures abound, but each returns to its roots,which is called stillness. This is termed renewal of fate. Renewal of fate is perpetual – to know the perpetual is to be enlightened. Not to know the perpetual is to be reckless – recklessness breeds evil.
Lao Tsu, Tao Te Ching (16)
What is brittle is easily split
Lao Tsu, Tao Te Ching (64)
Tai Chi keeps the body supple.
The myriad creatures bear yin on their backs and embrace yang in their bosoms. They neutralise these vapors and thereby achieve harmony.
Lao Tsu, Tao Te Ching (42)
Yiu Style Tai Chi is extremely good for you because it allows you time to breathe deeply and concentrate on the lower abdomen. It is focussed on meditation (a walking meditation). That is seeking the Yin in the Yang (relative inaction, in action). This is reflected through the breathing of Yiu Style, that is breathing in gently but deep, holding the breath (pause) and then breathing out. Expanding and contracting the lower abdomen, naturally. Breathe in and expand the lower abdomen. Hold the breath. Breathe out and contract the lower abdomen. Therefore one respiration in Tai Chi has three parts (beginning – breathe in), (middle – hold/pause), (end – breathe out). Holding the breath is most important as it helps to automatically send energy up the spine, which, in turn nourishes the head, relaxes the subcortex, calms the mind and assists the nervous system in working better. Holding the breath and waiting for the energy to come up is called “energy integration”. It is important to keep the knees bent as this helps the breathing to be deeper more naturally.
The abdomen is the centre of energy flow. Deep breathing to the lower abdomen keeps the oxygen in the bloodstream longer, improving blood flow through the body and exercising your internal organs.
Basically breathing in Tai Chi warms the body, making the blood circulate better, circulating heat around the organs and the limbs. It is this heat and circulation through the body that nourishes and lifts the organs, unblocks the rubbish inside, burning the cholesterol in the blood vessels. As we get older the body tends to feel colder, Tai Chi however makes your insides warmer, the long term implication of this being that you will probably live longer. Our stored energy is also dependent, on the food that we eat. Ideally drink plenty of water and eat lots of fresh fruit, vegetables and seafood.
Focus your vital breath until it is supremely soft, can you be like a baby?
Lao Tsu, Tao Te Ching (10)
When our breathing is deep we are calmer and more relaxed.
Breathing in Tai Chi is also related to the Buddhist philosophy of impermanence that all things arise, stay and pass away/disappear. In Tai Chi when we breathe in, we expand the lower abdomen (the abdomen arises), we hold the breath (the abdomen stays expanded) then we breathe out and contract the lower abdomen (it disappears). The same applies to our thoughts and emotions, they come, they stay and then they go.
The key to both the breathing techniques and the movements in Tai Chi is to be able to keep the mind totally focussed on them and so the mind directs the breathing and the energy flow. The mind creates a thought, which then mobilises the energy flow, and then the body will move. In Tai Chi thoughts are beautiful and connected with nature. If you are aware of nature you will flow with nature and the more you are with nature the happier you are. When the mind creates a thought and there is stored energy in the lower abdomen the energy will flow as directed by the thought. Tai Chi is not about how fast you go but rather how relaxed you are so that your mind is in control and still. Persistent practice will allow the flow of your breathing and movement to become more and more natural as each day passes as well as greatly improving your health and internal strength.