Apart from the obvious physical improvements – improvements in balance, stability and leg strength – I have experienced numerous benefits:
- I am more acutely aware of how I move my body and how I’m standing.
- I take notice of how I interact with objects
- I notice how I interact with people
- I eat more slowly, savouring each mouthful, enjoying the different tastes and textures
- I haven’t ever used my car’s horn (I live in SW London so there is plenty of traffic and clearly plenty of opportunity to express anger at someone for making a stupid or dangerous move)
- I notice my emotions and can choose to let them continue, grow or subside
Why do I behave like this? In tai chi, we learn to move in a certain way, concentrating on our limbs, our breathing, how we move our hips, the angles of our elbows and knees, how we step and how much weight we put on each foot. It teaches us to focus on the “now” and concentrate on the movements as we are performing them rather than walking and being able to think of something else.
This approach to movement in turn means we stop thinking about other things – worries in our life, arguments we’ve had with loved ones etc. We achieve an inner calm and become less stressed.
And so the “basic” act of practising tai chi is mindfulness meditation in action.