April 28 2018 is World Tai Chi Day, a day to celebrate the amazing art of tai chi around the world.
The theme of this year’s event is One World… One Breath, so I thought it an ideal time to ponder the breathing in our tai chi practice and give a very simple, yet powerful breathing exercise, which can be done anywhere.
Tai chi can be seen as a vehicle to unify the mind, the body and the breath in order to elevate the spirit, or increase our vital energy, to unify us beyond the boundaries of our physical bodies.
Or… it can just be a nice way to breathe deeply and calm ourselves down a little bit.
That’s the beauty of this amazing Chinese art form – whatever you are trying to gain from it, tai chi can make it happen.
If you want to get stronger, more flexible, recover from illness, prevent injury, increase lung capacity, relax muscles, boost mood enhancing endorphins, lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol, improve sleep… tai chi will help with all of this. I love the simplicity of the idea, which is very true, that tai chi adds years to your life – and life to your years.
Tai chi breathing
Breathing in tai chi is important, helping to regulate the speed of the form that you practice. However, many people coming to tai chi for the first time find that the breathing hard to master. In fact, long after the movements and techniques have been learnt, some students still find it a challenge to breathe fluidly, with equal lengths of inhalation and exhalation all the way through the form.
This isn’t a cause for concern, though, it is just another element of the tai chi form – along with the movements, martial art content, and mindfulness — to slowly learn and practice. This can’t be rushed and takes time, but eventually you will find that all these elements come together and feel very natural. So, rather than putting pressure on yourself, it’s important to relax and enjoy the journey!
When you do feel comfortable with the breathing aspect of tai chi, and you are able to establish a calm, steady flow of breath in and out, you will experience a sense of deep relaxation. You will find that your tai chi practice helps you enormously to relieve stress and create a greater sense of wellbeing and contentment.
A simple technique to calm the breath and bring peaceful clarity
Try this exercise now:
Straighten your back in a relaxed way and breathe in slowly through your nose for a count of between 5 and 10 seconds
Allow the breath naturally to expand your chest and abdominal area (but don’t force it), open the mouth slightly and slowly breathe out for the same amount of seconds.
Do this for 3 or 4 (or more) repetitions and at the same time just let any thoughts drift away, keeping your attention on the breath – starting right at the beginning of the in breath, all the way to the exhalation.
This is a very simple and effective way to bring a little calm into a busy and stressful day!
Wherever you are, I wish you a Happy Tai Chi Day – enjoy your practice and focus on the breath. If you are new to tai chi and would like a little taster, you can try out our FREE video tutorials as a Bronze member of White Crane Online.
If you are keen to establish regular practice, subscribe as a Silver member and start learning the entire White Crane Tai Chi form, “Frost and Sun White Crane Gentle Art’. We are offering 50% off your first month of membership until May 16 2018 with code taichi50.