Written by Telana Simpson
Tai Chi is an integral part of my life- but it hasn’t always been that way. I had to make it part of my lifestyle. From developing that routine and tweaking my attitude to how I practice this martial art, I have come to experience not only it’s benefits in health and chi, but also in a sense of balance in my life.
I am also a Courage Coach, and feel privileged to share time with my clients, and facilitate them to create courage and a life that they love.
Often, a key part of a life we love, is to have cornerstone practices which we routinely get to enjoy, as this brings moments of joy and peace into our lives. It also helps us ease between the hectic work pace and busy family life, to time for ourselves to fill up too.
From a coaching perspective then, I share here some pointers to keep in mind, as you start to incorporate the practice of tai chi into your lifestyle. These ideas come from my professional experience related to learning how to create habits that are useful and set us up for success, and also from my personal experience with tai chi.
Ten Tips to practicing Tai Chi
1. Be clear on your purpose
What is your reason for doing tai chi? A good intention to have is one that is bigger than just learning tai chi.
- What benefits of the practice of tai chi are you looking forward to experiencing?
- Where do you see yourself in 5 years time with having tai chi as part of your lifestyle?
- Is it the calm that comes from doing a moving meditation regularly that you seek?
- Or do you want to develop your chi to experience more inner strength?
- Do you just want to focus on being moving, with friends, in nice environments to keep flexible and healthy?
When we get in touch with our bigger Why for practicing tai chi, this will bring more meaning to our practice and keep us motivated.
2. Make a commitment
Plan your life around your class times, otherwise there will always be something else to do than attend class. Make it a priority and life will have a way of happening around your tai chi.
Remember, they say it takes 21 days to create a habit, and 90 days to create a lifestyle!
So in the beginning, make a firm commitment to yourself to attend for 3 months at least. The benefits of tai chi are experienced the more regularly you practice it, and so you can only truly grasp the movements and gain the benefits by giving it a good chance and showing up regularly and often.
Also, once you have this as part of your routine for 1 to 2 months, it is much easier to keep it up. It just takes a bit of extra effort in the early stages to stick to something you are learning, and also to create the routine and space to fit it into your life.
3. Embrace the beginners mind
We all start somewhere. A key part of tai chi is the beginners mind, Sho Shin as Sifu Leo explains – to be open to learning and not knowing.
And tai chi is a lifestyle practice, not a class you take once or twice and then you can tick it off. To gain the full benefits, and the long-term benefits, stick to it and remember that anything takes time and practice to develop. So embrace the beginning stages, remembering there is not one perfect way. The more open and “empty” we are, and willing to show up and learn, the more we will enjoy ourselves and ultimately gain.
4. Don’t compare yourself to others
If we bring to the dojo a mindset around growth, we come ready to focus on our own development. Instead of comparing ourselves to others, we place emphasis rather on if we have improved since last week, or last month.
It’s an unfair comparison to look to others, as we are all unique and at different places on our own paths of learning. Your fellow students are just examples to observe to learn from, and it doesn’t motivate or help much if we compare ourselves to them and degrade ourselves for not measuring up. So develop more of a growth mindset, and enjoy it’s many benefits.
5. Be open to ask for help
Another benefit of the growth mindset is we become more open to ask for help. You’ve just started, and others can share what works for them to assist you on your journey.
Also, it helps others with their own learning when they get a chance to explain or show you a move. And Sifu Leo is always there too to answer any questions.
One day you’ll get to help someone else, and then gain the learning one gets from such a teaching opportunity. So ask for guidance and others will help, and one day you’ll get to pass it on.
6. Count what counts
Focus on the small improvements, on the peace you gain from being present, on the co-ordination that is growing, on the small moments of recalling the next movement.
Noticing your own growth and the development of your chi, this is what counts. It’s not useful to have a competitive attitude or a striving to know all the forms as quickly as possible. And if we don’t count the small improvements, and rather tend to discount them because we don’t know the bigger things (like the whole form), then we miss out on the beauty of tai chi, and on our most valuable learning moments.
7. Match, look for sameness
A good strategy to learning something new is to look first for what is similar to what you already know– not for what is missing or different. There are patterns in tai chi and its basic moves, and these patterns are repeated often. Notice them, and you will find the rhythm of tai chi, and you’ll notice your improvements more.
When we focus on what we are getting, rather than on what we are missing, we enjoy the process more and this adds to our motivation to keep with it.
8. Be gentle and lighthearted with yourself
When we get serious, we get silly – and we miss the purpose of what brought us to tai chi in the first place. When we are flexible and gentle – yet strong – we can laugh more easily at ourselves, and enjoy the process of learning and growing.
Because tai chi is a journey more than a destination, each milestone should be just a mark along the way, and we can have fun while we grow on this never-ending journey.
9. Practice practicing
I have mentioned a few times now about practicing tai chi. This concept of ‘practice’ is often misinterpreted, as it is seen as something is wrong with us if we need to ‘practice’ a skill. We don’t have the skill, or are not ‘good enough’ or doing it well enough, and so we need to practice. This is not a useful way of using the word.
If you look up the word in a dictionary, practice refers to the actual applying of a method or idea, and is about habit and routine. So it is more useful to see tai chi as this kind of practice which you do often, because then the focus is not on getting the moves right, but on moving the moves.
The thing with tai chi, is there are endless levels to learn and develop, and you can only learn the next level once you have experienced fully the current level you are on.
10. Keep your self-worth out the dojo
The level you are at for a specific skill is not a measure of your self-worth – it is only the level you are with that skill.
So to develop confidence in tai chi, and to get to the stages of feeling more graceful with the moves, you need to practice and develop the muscle memory of those moves.
Our self-worth or esteem is a very different aspect of ourselves to confidence, even though these concepts get mixed up and are not well understood.
When you make them distinct though, it is easier then to not link your worth to if you get the moves right or wrong, and to know that confidence only comes from active practice. From this flows the growth mindset, where we are in the dojo to learn and develop, and not to prove anything
May these ideas help you to gain the many benefits of tai chi, and be steps towards creating a life you love!
About the Author:
Telana is a dynamic, transformational Courage Coach who helps talented people have no regrets in life by having the conversations that count.