Category Archives: T’ai Chi Principles

Everything’s Connected

The leg bone’s connected to the knee bone, The knee bone’s connected to the thigh bone…” as the song goes – it’s all connected. And if we maximise what’s going on at the “whole body” level, it will improve our T’ai Chi practice, and bolster the benefits we get from T’ai Chi.

Benefits of moving your body as a whole

T'ai Chi: moving the body as a whole

T’ai Chi: moving the body as a whole

  • improved co-ordination
  • improved balance
  • shifts any energy blockages
  • helps the body know where to move next in the T’ai Chi sequence
  • improved mobility
  • boosts feelings of relaxation and letting go
  • increased sense of wellbeing and sense of calm

Some practice points

Just as the body is connected, so are all the T’ai Chi principles. Here’s how those interconnect with the “everything’s connected” concept.

Connect/ co-ordinate with the breath

In a natural way, the T’ai Chi moves need to follow the breath. In the reminders at the beginning of our warm-up, students are asked to take deep belly breaths, however it is important these are still natural breaths and not sharp gulps of air. Sometimes during the Form, you may find that a particular movement takes one cycle of breath, but another week you may be feeling more relaxed and can take two cycles. It’s an interesting one to watch (and think about jotting some notes in a T’ai Chi diary!!)

Yin/Yang and opposites

Yin & Yang in T'ai Chi: constant movement / moving the body as a whole / opposites interconnect

Yin & Yang in T’ai Chi: constant movement / moving the body as a whole / opposites interconnect

Once you tune into this idea of “wholeness in movement” you can start to appreciate – in the periphery – how opposites are at work in T’ai Chi. For example, expansive/ contracting postures; movements in which your energy rises and falls; connections between left arm and right leg, and vice versa; and the rolling of weight between right and left as we develop the full and empty leg.

Letting go

There are a few key points I want to make here, each showing T’ai Chi on different levels. First, letting go frees you up. You let go of your chattering mind as you enter class, which gives you the capacity to tap into T’ai Chis amazing benefits. You let go of any tension in the body and relax into the joints. You aim to let go of the idea that you “should” nail every single movement in T’ai Chi – instead try and go with the flow on that, and the whole process becomes much more pleasureable (not forgetting the fact that you’ll “get there quicker” via the scenic route). Letting go gets you out of your headspace, and instead you can live in the moment/ movement.

Let go of your drive for Perfection Photo by Pablo Heimplatz on Unsplash

Let go of your drive for Perfection
Photo by Pablo Heimplatz on Unsplash

State of mind: T’ai Chi is a meditative movement. Completely zoning out, however, is not the aim. So whilst you’re looking to let go, don’t let that impact your presence.

Preparing the body for T’ai Chi

Use the warm-up to connect everything. You can re-check how your doing at the end of our meditative walking section, when you are invited to “rest into the stillness.”

Some exercises

Circle everything

Exercise: circling the arms

Exercise: circling the arms

Bring your fingertips together and start with small circling of the wrists. Gradually increase the circles until they are at their biggest (don’t overstretch). Then cup the hands at the bottom and revers the movement, bringing down the arms in smaller circles. For the legs, bring your weight into the left so you have a full left leg. Lift the empty right and circle the lower leg slowly. Beneath the knee only. Reverse the movement and then swap legs.

Meditative walking

Again slowly and with full and empty leg. As the right leg is full, lift the right arm in front, then draw the right arm down slowly as the left leg takes a small step, rolling the weight gradually into the left leg.

Windows / Fair Lady Weaves the Shuttle

For Intermediates, practice the Windows sequence without paying too much attention to any one bit. Just go for it, by which I mean move everything together as a whole without focussing on which arm circles. If you circle the wrong arm and you’re concentrating on everything moving as a whole, chances are it will feel wrong and you’ll know.

A final thought

Your T’ai Chi practice is connected to your willingness to let go… to your ability to realise that you might not have the perfect gym-sized living room but that a little bit of practice is better than none… to your reading around T’ai Chi and its principles.

Enjoy your practice, no matter how imperfect ;)

T'ai chi practice: enjoy your practice, no matter how imperfect ;)

T’ai chi practice: enjoy your practice, no matter how imperfect ;)

Mindfulness & T’ai Chi for Good Mental Health

Today I’ve been watching this short video on mindfulness for mental health by psychologist
Mark Epstein – bit.ly/1NYGFeO.

I thought I’d capture some key points and bring in some T’ai Chi context.

Mindfulness: not reacting to emotional stimulus

Mindfulness: not reacting to emotional stimulus

What is mindfulness: outcomes

Mindfulness helps us not to cling to everything which is pleasant and not to condemn everything which is unpleasant. Mark Epstein explains that mindfulness allows us to distinguish an unpleasant stimulus from your emotional reaction to that stimulus.

We have a choice!

I say this all the time to my children in fact – “you can choose to be happy!!” I say. I hope one day in the fullness of time, they will embrace this gem ;) It’s a great starting point, and I find a very useful coping mechanism for overwhelm and for those days which just aren’t going my way. So, by choosing to not react to that unpleasant stimulus and instead just noticing its passing, the moment is over. And it’s unlikely that reacting to it would have given any meaningful benefit. To bring in the T’ai Chi context now – in classes, I often remind ourselves that if after attempts to stop our minds from chattering thoughts do come into our heads – we should acknowledge those and then dismiss them for another time. In practising T’ai Chi, we are learning to let go; we don’t meet force with force; we deflect aggression.

 

What is mindfulness: two distinct types

It’s interesting to note that Mark Epstein put mindfulness into two distinct types: for beginners, there is concentration practice where you keep your focus on something neutral, like your breath. If the mind wanders, you simply return your attentions to the breath, – and this without judgement(!)

A second more advanced practice allows the attention to go with the mind. You thereby become aware of your thoughts, feelings, memories, emotions, worries, joy, anger etc. In conclusion, Mark Epstein explains that in this way, mindfulness allows you to appreciate that everything is changing (think the T’ai Chi symbol and concept of Yin & Yang), and that you become more aware of that as a process rather than paying attention to the content. (Bear this in mind for the “hello you” comment coming up!)

Where does T’ai Chi fit?

T’ai Chi is sometimes referred to as “meditation in movement.” Mindful practice encourages the inner voice to quieten, and rather than emptying the mind of all thoughts and entering a trance-like state, T’ai Chi practitioners are looking to bring their mind into their movements (i.e. away from their heads), and to acknowledge thoughts which do come to mind – but then to dismiss those for another time. So, an awareness of feelings which come and go, and a concentration on being in the moment – i.e. focus on the T’ai Chi practice.

The brain is plastic: it's possible to make changes to the brain's architecture

The brain is plastic: it’s possible to make changes to the brain’s architecture

Mindfulness for good mental heath

Mark Epstein explains in this film that the brain is “plastic” and capable of being reconditioned. He talks about mindfulness helping to make changes to the brain’s architecture and developing certain areas of the brain, e.g. altruism.

At this point, I’d like to refer to a wonderful blogpost I read and tweeted about a while ago. Here’s my tweet – and note my reference to the “hello you” comment – I’ll come back to that shortly – http://bit.ly/1ToL5aR

In her blogpost, author Barbara Graham, reveals quite a personal story of her lifelong struggle with anxiety, and how she went in search of ways to manage the condition.

On her journey, Barbara Graham was excited about research relating to the prefrontal cortex down-regulating the amygdala [i.e., it’s less aroused] – thereby causing any anxiety to be reduced. Barbara goes on to ask herself –

‘How do we form those new neural pathways we hear so much about?’

In answer to that, Barbara lists: Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) has shown great promise in regulating mood states. So has Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT). She also includes positive impacts from psychotherapy, medication, aerobic exercise, as well as changes in diet and behavior.

On Barbara’s journey to find some relief from her anxiety, and search for some peace of mind, she attended a workshop by Lee Lipp, Ph. D. and David Zimmerman. Their commentary on the benefits of meditation and mindfulness included this, which Barbara quotes –

‘[With mindfulness practice] we see that our thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations come and go like bubbles in a pot of boiling water.’

So as represented in the T’ai Chi symbol – everything is in a constant state of flux – feelings & negative thoughts come and go. And since we are learning through mindfulness that this is the case, we can tune ourselves into that coming and going as a process (as per Mark Epstein’s short film), rather than engaging with every piece of content (i.e. the negative thoughts and emotions).

Mindfulness encourages appreciation that everything is in a constant state of flux

Mindfulness encourages appreciation that everything is in a constant state of flux

I thought Barbara’s piece concluded brilliantly – she talks about her anxiety manifesting itself as “uninvited companions” – one of whom she describes as a “sleeping tiger”

‘My uninvited but faithful companions who demand to be seen and heard. “Oh, it’s you again,” I say now more often than not when they start banging at my door. “It’s only you.”’

In this simple analogy, Barbara’s taken control back brilliantly!

And as for the tiger – my T’ai Chi predecessor, the late Gerda Geddes wrote about the symbolism of the tiger* -

‘[I]t can be either yin or yang. When it is yang the tiger depicts authority, courage, bodily strength and military prowess. […] When the tiger is in conflict with the yang celestial dragon it becomes Yin, the quality of earth. To the T’ai Chi performer, the tiger represents all forms of energy.’

And Gerda advises –

‘[I]t is with these energies that we have to learn to deal. We have to direct our energy in such a way that the natural healing process of the body can be enhanced. We have to use it with intelligence, not allowing it to become totally depleted but always retaining a reserve.’

Managing our energy: we have a few choices

Managing our energy: we have a few choices

8 choices for improved mental health

So, as I see it – we have a few choices:
• to use mindfulness to bring our experience of life back into the present moment
• to embrace feelings, emotions, thoughts etc. – but to view those as something which is in a constant state of flux (we often refer to feelings coming in “waves”) – they come AND they go
• to understand more about the process of feelings coming and going – thereby liberating us from anxieties
• to not cling to all pleasant emotions
• to not condemn all unpleasant emotions as negative
• to choose not to react to unpleasant stimuli
• to learn to deal with our energies (not depleting; always maintaining a reserve)
• to choose to be happy!

Mindfulness for a sense of balance, perspective & wellbeing

Mindfulness for a sense of balance, perspective & wellbeing

Full acknowledgements

Mark Epstein’s film can be viewed at http://bit.ly/1NYGFeO

My tweets on Mark Epstein’s film at http://bit.ly/24tm7T9

Barbara Graham’s blogpost at http://bit.ly/1PTXwjj

Gerda Geddes excerpt from: chapter “Discovery of the symbols” from Looking for The Golden Needle

Yin & Yang in T’ai Chi practice

Often called the “T’ai Chi symbol,” the Yin/Yang symbol is made up of two fish-like shapes; one in black, the other in white. Each contains a small circle of the opposing colour.  This represents the two opposing, yet complementary forces. Together, these two fish-like shapes make up a circle, representing the balanced whole.

The Yin & Yang symbol: also called the T'ai Chi symbol

The Yin & Yang symbol: also called the T’ai Chi symbol

Simply, in T’ai Chi terms, it is the interface between Yin and Yang which underlies T’ai Chi practice. Given that the lines in the Yin/Yang circle are “never ending’ – so in T’ai Chi movement, students are looking to flow one posture seamlessly into the next. With this in mind, students should aim for their T’ai Chi practice to be performed as one slow, continuous movement. It is easy for beginners to move in a staccato fashion as they grapple with co-ordination, as they try to remember arm and leg movements. This gives way to a kind of “bouncing” from one posture to the next, particularly as students feel “I know this bit!” The trick is to use warm-up time to generate a calmer sense of purpose; slow down; and the during the T’ai Chi Form, to experiment with “flow” at the cusp of one movement and its development into the next.

There are no straight lines in the T’ai Chi symbol; the symbol flows in curved lines. During practice this means that we need to ensure that we maintain soft curves to the arms; not locking into either elbows or knees – in T’ai Chi we don’t “lock” into any joints.

Soft curve into the elbows

Soft curve into the elbows

If we take the interface between Yin and Yang (visually, this is the black against white); opposing forces enable movement, flow and change to happen, as each “becomes” the other. As weight creeps slowly into the right leg, there is a point at which the right leg becomes “full.”  In T’ai Chi it is only with the full leg that we can lift the “empty” left leg, and at the point of fullness, according the the Yin/Yang symbol, it already contains in it the seed of its opposite. As in the symbol, in T’ai Chi the movement between left and right; open and closed postures; the in- and the out-breath – all of these are in a state of constant change. This concept also includes the changes of the seasons; night follows day; the cycle of Life.

Full & empty legs; each contains the seed of its opposite

Full & empty legs; each contains the seed of its opposite

Yin & Yang qualities

YIN                              YANG

Female                        Male

Passive                       Active

Dark                            Light

Earth                          Sky

Wet                             Dry

Stillness                      Movement

Soft                             Hard

Cold                            Heat

Inward                       Outward

Smooth                       Rough

Receiving                    Giving

Yielding                      Solid

Descending                Rising

Listening                    Speaking

Slow                            Rapid

It is worth clarifying that all Yin and Yang qualities are defined by their relation to their opposing force;  and neither is able to exist on its own in isolation.

Balancing Yin & Yang: Chinese medicine

From traditional Chinese medicine, we learn that where the balance between Yin and Yang become out of kilter (excess of Yang / excess of Yin / deficiency of Yang/ deficiency of Yin), the body becomes compromised, giving rise to illness or disease.

T'ai chi practice: boost to wellbeing

T’ai chi practice: boost to wellbeing

T’ai Chi practice supports Yin & Yang balance; it aims to bring a sense of balance, harmony and wellbeing.

Top tips for stress busting your life… the T’ai Chi way: Tip #1

Here’s how the conversation goes –

“So, how was your summer break? Did you get away anywhere nice?”

“Yes, thanks – we spent two glorious weeks doing X,Y & Z and enjoying the break from A, B & C… seems like a LIFETIME ago now, though. Everything has overwhelmed me now we’re back at the daily grind. It’s like we’ve never been away!”

Recognise this? Well, read on and I’ll arm you with the first in my series of top tips for stress busting your life the T’ai Chi way.

Allow yourself to let it go

Allow yourself to let it go

#1 Just “let it go!”

We all hold onto stresses which we can quite easily do without. I’ve in fact had this discussion with a number of good friends over the summer. It’s easy I guess to tell people not to worry about something – but what I’m encouraging, is to really weigh up whether the worrying and associated stress are in fact helpful. Isn’t it better that you find an appropriate time and method for working through your problems (mindfully, constructively etc.) – and then to allow yourself to let go of those worries. By doing this, we are separating the source of the problem from the stresses and anxieties which they create. This stress-busting tip won’t make the problem go away; but it will equip you with the resilience, strength, energy, clarity of thinking and fresh perspectives which will allow you to reduce and manage the stress. It’s also helpful to give your subconscious mind a chance to work things through “offline” for a bit.

In T’ai Chi everything is in a state of constant flux; nothing stays the same. Your energy needs to flow. We embrace this. It’s healthy to move on and not to dwell so much on things which may not be possible to change.

In my T’ai Chi classes, I encourage students to bring their mind into what they are doing in the present moment; to acknowledge any thoughts which come to them in class – and then to dismiss those for another time. The very act of practising T’ai Chi for that hour or so means that you give your mind a “holiday” from its constant re-running of what I call “same-loop thinking.”

That’s how T’ai Chi is so relaxing, and refreshing.

In previous posts I have explained that T’ai Chi doesn’t meet force with force. Instead, we build energy/ confidence from within and simply deflect any aggression without engaging with it. We can tell ourselves that an aggression doesn’t need to be our reality. We don’t need to accept it. We can smile and let that aggression go :)

Let any aggression pass you by: you don't need to own that

Let any aggression pass you by: you don’t need to own that

Exercise

Choose a quiet moment (it need only be one minute, and can even be at your desk). Say to yourself that you “give up” some of your thoughts for a while. Label those; be specific. Allow yourself to operate completely free from the thoughts which have been particularly bothering you. You can set the timeframe – but make it a longer timeframe than you’re used to in terms of that same-loop thinking coming back to you for its next repetition. Having labelled the thoughts you are about to give up, also make a committment to plan in a short time to run through your worries in a mindful, engaged fashion (e.g. plan a call with a friend, or designate a section of your dog walk in which you can “thrash it out.”)

Find the serenity you deserve

Find the serenity you deserve

I’m aware that this is much easier said than done. It’s only talking to friends on this, that I have come to realise quite how much I bring T’ai Chi principles into my own life every day – and how beneficial these are in managing my stresses. It has taken years of practice – but the baby steps have been very worthwhile.

T’ai Chi – is it really something for everyone?

I love week 5. New beginners are really start to “find their feet” both literally and metaphorically, relaxing into their new-found Groove. And those who have perhaps kept a brief T’ai Chi diary can start to see the progress they have already made since their first class.

So what does progress look like? What have students learned in just 4 weeks? What have been the tangible benefits of learning from scratch this ancient Chinese form of exercise?

What is T’ai Chi and how will it benefit me?

T’ai Chi is many things – it has been described as a form of meditation, a martial art, a means of relaxation for body and spirit, as well as a system for developing good posture, physical balance and co-ordination. This means that each student’s experience will be unique to them.

T’ai Chi: an ancient exercise form

If taken as a “pure” exercise form, T’ai Chi helps to strengthen legs and arms. The easy postures, when practised correctly, help to build strength and tone muscles. When coupled with being mindful of supporting full and empty legs, this also improves balance. In some, the improvements to balance are remarkable.

T’ai Chi: develops good posture

As a posture-corrector, T’ai Chi first starts with encouraging an awareness of the body, and concentrates on the body’s alignment. In class, students are now used to running through their posture mentally, and making small corrections throughout the warm-up and meditative walking sections of the class. In T’ai Chi, we tune into the position of our weight, and then progress into concentrating on flow of our weight between right and left, (full and empty) legs. It’s this flow which directs next moves; and focussing on weight and flow of weight provides the meditative element to T’ai Chi practice.

T’ai Chi: getting the body to move as a whole

As a whole-body movement, students start to match movements with their breath. Deeper belly breaths mean that the body is well oxygenated, which leaves students feeling revived, relaxed and rejuvenated. The range of movements is particularly good for improving flexibility in older people, and since in T’ai Chi we only ever move/ stretch within the limits of our own bodies, this doesn’t cause the body any undue stress; T’ai Chi is a gentle exercise system which can be practised well into our senior years. I have even practised (and taught) T’ai Chi throughout my three pregnancies.

T’ai Chi energises and revives
In terms of energy, over the weeks, students are able to generate good energy flow for optimum wellbeing. This starts in the early weeks as a warming sensation, particularly through the palms. Co-ordinating the breath contributes to this feeling of being energised.  Students will also benefit from improved circulation.

T’ai Chi relaxer

In terms of relaxation, T’ai Chi is an amazing stress-buster. So often in the early days, beginners arrive “ruffled” by their day, especially those suffering from stress at work, or those caring for relatives. It takes a few weeks to really “get” the point that we are in the class to really switch off and slow down. Slowing down in fact feels quite unnatural at first, especially when we are learning the meditative walking. (I do smile to myself when I remember a previous beginners’ class in which I was actually overtaken by a student. I can’t remember who it was, and I’m pleased I’ve not “stored” that piece of information – instead – and in a very T’ai Chi fashion, I have simply let that go…)

T’ai Chi: learning how to really let go & unwind

Relaxation also comes from the fact that, concentrating on the class, we leave any preoccupations at the door as we arrive. Any thoughts which do come to the fore during the class we learn to acknowledge and then dismiss for another time. This takes practice and discipline; but it’s worth persevering; it’s such a beautiful sanctuary to know that there is a time in your week when all problems and life’s little challenges are simply suspended. But it’s up to us to allow ourselves to really let go. And in fully letting go, we will find our T’ai Chi practice comes to us much more easily.

This is why T’ai Chi is such a good stress buster and mood enhancer. Students always leave the class smiling.

T’ai Chi: different benefits for each; but something for everyone

So, there’s something in T’ai Chi for everyone. It’s rich in symbolism, which is something I encourage students to explore for themselves – it definitely benefits their T’ai Chi practice to see this ancient exercise form in fresh contexts. In class we cover the principles of T’ai Chi, which are the areas I feel benefit me above and beyond just the exercise. I tap into these principles in both my personal and business life on a daily basis and will be sharing those experiences in this blog… Watch this space!

Emptiness: reconnecting with the inner you

Fabulous discussion at last night’s class around the impact of “emptiness” on T’ai Chi practice. I’m touched that students shared so much of themselves on this – so a warm “thank you” to all.

Emptiness is uplifting: reaching the inner you

Emptiness is uplifting: reaching the inner you

 

I wanted to distil a few key points – there are some quite profound lessons in life to be drawn from looking at emptiness and T’ai Chi practice. (I’m always drawing lessons from T’ai Chi!)

The concept of emptiness and inner stillness has its roots in Chinese philosophy. I’d like to refer to Buddhism and Taoism, which both have close links with T’ai Chi. Lau Tzu (possibly an older contemporary of Confucius) also talked about emptying your mind of all things in the old T’ai Chi classic The Tao te Ching. I need just to say that there are many idiosyncracies of the Buddhist and Taoist views of emptiness, which go way beyond this post(!) – but I have pulled out a few points which resonate with T’ai Chi practice.

 

Meditative aspects of T'ai Chi encourage a state of "emptiness"

Meditative aspects of T’ai Chi encourage a state of “emptiness”

T’ai Chi, meditation & emptiness

T’ai Chi is a meditative exercise and it’s the meditative state of mind which “emptiness” brings. Emptiness is a state of mind in T’ai Chi. Last night we each shared some examples of how we can use this relaxed state of mind in our everyday lives – when tricky situations arise which we find stressful, it is possible to condition ourselves to respond to a trigger – and tap into this “empty” state of mind – even without the movements. It’s like finding from within a cosy, safe place where there are no worries. We are protected from outside negative forces.

Enjoying the absence of wanting etc.

Within this space we’re calling emptiness, we feel without attachment, without desire, without dissatisfaction, greed, stress, anxiety or frustration… even if this is just for a short period.  T’ai Chi practice is a great opportunity just to let go.  With some time away from this collection of “wants” – through “emptiness” in T’ai Chi practice, we can gain a certain clarity of thought.

 

T'ai Chi symbol

T’ai Chi symbol

T’ai Chi symbol: what’s it telling us about our practice?

The T’ai chi symbol represents the constant flux of change. From this you can infer that everything is impermanent, and the argument, when played out in full, goes that problems come and go; feelings come and go; perceptions come and go. It becomes futile to worry about something which will change. One example from a student last night was that often she will be worrying about something – and without action (i.e. emptiness) – it somehow rights itself on its own. Inaction isn’t always a good idea – but it does have its place in our toolbox of “alternative perspectives.”

So the T’ai Chi symbol with its continuous curved lines, shows constant change. For T’ai Chi practitioners, we should note that the T’ai Chi Form (sequence of slow, graceful movements which lasts around 20 minutes from start to finish) needs to be practised as one continuous movement. We should think about there being no beginning and no end to the moves; one posture flows directly into the next, just like the curved lines in the symbol. More advanced students will start to “remember” the sequence by their continual flow of weight – something of a “Eureka” moment when you can predict what comes next just by the fact that, for instance, you have your weight fully in the right leg.

Enjoying emptiness in practice

Emptiness in T’ai Chi provides a quiet stillness. For me, I’m not taking this as an exercise to fully “check in” with how I’m feeling – I don’t converse in that way – it’s more of an awareness. In T’ai Chi we are encouraged to empty our minds of all thoughts; if a thought does crop up, we are to acknowledge it, and dismiss it… for the present moment at least.

After the end of the walking exercise in class, I will always invite students to “rest into the stillness” – that’s your stillness, whatever it means to you.

Last night students kindly shared with the group what they felt stillness meant to them in practice.  Here are the many benefits it brings:

  • A general awareness of our bodies & breathing
  • A calming influence (both in practice and as a “space” we can learn to tap into without even requiring the movements)
  • A state of mind where nothing matters (for that moment; we are in constant flux, remember)
  • A place to reconnect with yourself
  • Tuning into a general sense of who we are, and our interface with the world
  • An awareness of our inner strength & resources
  • A place in which to build confidence
  • An understanding of what we offer to the world

For me, the idea of connecting not only with myself; but also viewing my T’ai Chi practice as my interface with the world was an important one.  Not everyone felt the same about this, although one student came up with exactly the same example of this as me: there is a movement in which we collect energy in our palms and then turn the palms to release the energy. At this precise point, we both have the feeling of sharing what we have to offer with the room (in my student’s case) – and with the world in my case.

I use T’ai Chi’s principles to help tackle life’s little obstacles. Understanding this place we’re calling “emptiness” somehow strengthens those skills.

Ironically for me, it’s through this meditative movement that I am able finally to learn how to stop!

 

Retreat Day: Let your inner self blossom

Retreat Day: Let your inner self blossom

Retreat Days: reconnect to the inner you & feel nourished with time just to “be”

Retreat Days cater well for those just wanting to “stop” for a while – to empty your mind and tap into the inner you. It’s a great opportunity to have a proper break away from whatever is keeping you on the move all the time – away from your busyness.

Kind to body, mind & spirit – the Retreat Day allows you to “zone out” for a while; breathe deeply; stretch; relax & rejuvenate.

Places still available for the Retreat Day, featuring T’ai Chi, Yoga & Pilates:

  • Saturday 22 June 2013
  • Full day of relaxation & gentle exercises
  • Including meditation, breathing, stretching
  • Health & wellbeing talks
  • Nutritious two-course light lunch
  • Relaxing holistic massage/ beauty treatment
  • www.thetaichiroom.co.uk/Retreat_Days.aspx
  • Or call me on 01993 822725
  • Works well with a few close friends (the day is programmed so you will see each other!)
  • Takes place at Middle Aston House, Bicester, Oxfordshire (accommodation available)

Now I have some questions for you. Please share:

1. What’s keeping you busy just now?

2. How do you nurture your inner self?

3. What are your techniques for achieving some stillness in your daily/weekly routine?

4. How do you find clarity of mind – when you really need to take a step back and “see the wood for the trees”…?

Looking forward to hearing your strategies…

Warm wishes,

Helen, T’ai Chi Instructor and Organiser of Retreat Days, featuring T’ai Chi, Yoga & Pilates.

www.thetaichiroom.co.uk/Retreat_Days.aspx

 

Give up the quest for Perfectionism – “Go with the flow” instead

 

On Saturday I sponsored Tina Sederholm’s stunningly brilliant performance – “Evie and the Perfect Cupcake” at the Chipping Norton Literary Festival. To deliver such wit; and insightful content all in a seamless 53-minute piece of poetry was breathtaking!

 

Helen Blantz (sponsor) meets Tina Sederholm (poet) at Chiplitfest, April 2013

Helen Blantz (sponsor) meets Tina Sederholm (poet) at Chiplitfest, April 2013

Tina very kindly thanked the festival team for hooking her up with the “perfect” sponsor(!); our messages do resonate extremely well. Here’s how I explained that in my guest blog post on the Chiplitfest blog (www.chiplitfest.com/blog/page/2/)

Evie and the Perfect Cupcake – sponsored by The T’ai Chi Room

“Perfectionism” – now there’s a can of worms to feast on (but maybe not literally; I think I’ll stick with cake!) I’m excited about the reviews I have read on the key messages in Tina Sederholm’s “Evie and the Perfect Cupcake.“ I’m delighted to have been asked to sponsor this performance because so much resonates with me:

I organise alternative spa days where I teach T’ai Chi. I am particularly interested in the idea of “letting go.” I am often looking to get the message across to busy, stressed students that not giving 110% effort in everything we do can actually be a whole lot more beneficial…

I feel a strong connection with the notion that striving to reach perfection is a goal of “empty calories,” if you’ll excuse the pun. There’s no “nutritional” value in this constant drive to get on the fast track. Striving all the time to reach perfection first of all burns us out. Secondly and somewhat ironically maybe, it reflects so many missed opportunities through such blinkered vision…

The alternative is to “ease off at the edges” and to “go with the flow” in life. Together with opening up your senses to what’s going on around you at any one time (mindfulness) – I call this winning combination “taking the scenic route.” It’s so liberating!

My final point can quite succinctly be expressed in a T’ai Chi movement called “Step back to repulse the monkey.” As you may or may not already know, T’ai Chi can have multiple benefits (it improves strength, balance, flexibility, general sense of wellbeing etc.) It can also have amazing impacts on stress, anxiety, depression and insecurities around self esteem. “You said you’d be succinct!” I hear you cry – so here’s the movement:

Stepping backwards slowly and mindfully, students deflect outside pressures/ problems/ external aggression/ self-criticisms with graceful “warding off” arm movements (dare I say “wax on/ wax off,” or am I now showing my age…?!)

The key point here is that the student remains low in the legs and strong from within. The student has not met force with force – he is much more open-hearted and generous-spirited than that… This is what builds confidence in who you are – so it doesn’t matter what life throws at you – you’re strong. Maybe not perfect – but beautiful and confident in who you are!

Poetry & performance: Chiplitfest, April 2013

Poetry & performance: Chiplitfest, April 2013

Looking forward to having cake with Tina Sederholm – I’m Helen Blantz, T’ai Chi Instructor at The T’ai Chi Room, and Organiser of Retreat Days, featuring T’ai Chi, Yoga & Pilates (www.thetaichiroom.co.uk/Retreat_Days.aspx).
Proud sponsor of “Evie and the Perfect Cupcakewww.chiplitfest.com

Not forgetting a shot of the cupcakes!

Sponsor provides some "not so perfect" (!) cupcakes for the audience to relax & enjoy!!

Sponsor provides some “not so perfect” (!) cupcakes for the audience to relax & enjoy!!