According to the NIH’s National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine over 2.3 million Americans currently practice T’ai Chi. (Source) Yet not everyone has the same skill level. Research in China is finding that skill level in Tai Chi may have considerable impact on metabolic and cardiorespiratory responses in T’ai Chi performance.
In this study, physiological measures were investigated and compared in 10 young high-level (HL) male TCC athletes and 10 ordinary-level (OL) male TCC practitioners with similar age and body size.
Significantly higher energy expenditure, heart rate, oxygen uptake and tidal volume were found in HL group than OL group during TCC performance. These results suggested that skill level may have considerable impact on metabolic and cardiorespiratory responses to TCC performance.
TCC practitioners with different skill levels may practice TCC in different ways, which was supposed to lead to distinguishable response between the two groups.
So how do you improve your skill level in Tai Chi?
Pushing the Envelope
Every time you practice your form you should be striving to improve at least one of the five elements in T’ai Chi.
The Earth Element – Balance and Agility
Challenge your balance a little bit each time. Slow down your stepping and try to hold the balance a little by hesitating before you set the foot down. This will make each step in your form a little balance exercise of it’s own.
The Wood Element – Strength, flexibility, coordination and aerobic power
Hunker down a little. By lowering your stance a little you can greatly increase the physical activity requirements of your form. The trick is to hunker down enough to feel like you a doing some work but not so much as to be uncomfortable.
The Water Element – The relaxation response in motion
Paradoxically the more you relax the more efficient and skillful your movements become. Even with hunkering down a little and challenging your balance a little can you still perform your movements fluidly and relaxed?
The Metal Element – Breathing
Synchronizing your movement to your breathing try using a full breath on each movement. A 10 second inhale and a 10 second exhale is a pretty good 20-25 minute pace for your form. It’ll slow down your movements and increase the challenge level on all the elements of your performance.
The Fire Element – mastery of awareness itself
Pushing the envelope each time you practice forces you to concentrate your full attention on each movement. By getting the mind fully engaged in the task of improving some aspect of your skills you ensure that each form you do becomes a 20 minute mindfulness meditation providing the stress relief we all need these days.
Tags: Exercise is Medicine, Tai Chi