Photo by Ashley Batz on Unsplash
"Tai Chi does not mean oriental wisdom or something exotic. It is the wisdom of your own senses, your own mind and body together as one process." - Chungliang Al Huang
Tai Chi and Qigong instructor, Rebecca Brooks,
recounts her own experience with discovering
the ages old practice of Tai Chi and offers
insights into the many and varied benefits of
developing a personal practice regardless of age or physicality.
Ram Das, a gifted spiritual advisor and teacher, once said “A feeling of aversion or attachment toward something is your clue that there is work to be done.”
Once, I devoted my time and energy to having my life be just so; successful, organized, purposeful, productive and on and on. I was good at it. I was also never content. The person I needed to be and the person I was did not always play well together. I knew that “just so” was an attachment, and I had work to do, but I never had the urge to do anything about it. Until I did. I needed to go to a place that would allow me to let go of the attachments that did not serve me well, to find my honesty, open my heart and be content. I needed a path. Ram Das always talked about your path, and I needed to find mine. A place that was in me not outside of me.
With no thought, plan, or sense of purpose I went to a Tai Chi class with a friend. I wasn’t exactly sure what Tai Chi was, but it seemed like a good idea. When the class was over, I still didn’t understand Tai Chi, but I thought, ‘I really want to know about this. This is something I want to do.’ Ram Das also said, “Be patient. You will know when it is time to wake up and move ahead.” It was my time. It took a while to find my rhythm. It took a while to recognize and attempt to let go of attachments that held me back and discouraged new directions. Like yoga, Tai Chi, and Qigong, letting go is a practice. It is never finished. You just keep at it.
As I have explored yoga, Tai Chi, and Qigong, I move through my life much as I have always done but with a different heart. I have a path. Yoga, I practice in class with my near and dear yoga troop. I will never be a yoga teacher, but I will always treasure the practice. The need to enhance and deepen my Tai Chi practice led me to teach. I’m a teacher by nature and teaching Tai Chi is the heart of my path. Tai Chi led me to Qigong. Qigong led me to Daoism. It’s curious now that I worried that letting go of attachments would leave space that I wouldn’t know how to fill.
Tai Chi is an old, beautiful practice of continuous, slow, meditative movement and controlled breathing. It has roots in Chinese healing and is widely recognized for its health and wellness benefits. It stems from martial arts and improves strength, flexibility, and balance. Tai Chi is a memory practice as well as a physical practice. The movements, or forms, follow a pre-determined pattern. Each class builds on the previous class. Tai Chi has been recognized by the Center for Disease Control, the National Council on Aging and the Arthritis Foundation for its health and wellness benefits. Tai Chi is easily adapted for varying levels of fitness and is becoming increasingly popular among aging adults, although it is a fulfilling and beneficial practice at any age.
There are many layers to Tai Chi practice. Initially you learn the external form; where you put your foot, how you move your hand, how you step, weight transfer. With experience the external form becomes automatic and you can focus on breathing and relaxing, or settling, into the flow of the movement. As you become increasingly familiar with the forms, you add layers to your practice until one day you realize the movement is coming from within you. It is no longer an external practice. Your body knows where to go and what to do. Your heart is open and the energy flows leaving you strong with a vibrant sense of wellness and calmness. It is one of life’s lovely moments.
Rebecca Brooks grew up in East Tennessee on the edge of the Smoky Mountains. The meditative effect of the mountains and respect for nature and the environment were engrained at an early age. She moved her family to Tuscaloosa to take a position as an audiologist in the Department of Communicative Disorders at the University of Alabama. She began practicing Tai Chi and Qigong in 2015 receiving training through the Tai Chi for Health Institute. Since spending her professional career teaching and training students, extending her practice to teach Tai Chi and Qigong was second nature. Her goal is to increase awareness of Tai Chi and Qigong in the Tuscaloosa community.
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