Part 1 - RELAX
Relaxation is the key principle to a successful Tai Chi/Qigong practice. Without it, aligning your body into the required postures is nothing short of impossible. In his book "The Way of Qigong" Ken Cohen tells us that "relaxation is a matter of effortlessness with intent" and that "trying to relax is counterproductive". According to Mr. Cohen "to relax you must be tranquil". Roger Janke tells us in his book "The healing promise of Qi" "Relax. There is nothing to do. Qi will naturally gather into your system and circulate if you relax." This however, is deceptively difficult to do!
In the video below, Ian Sinclair of Taichicentral.com explains why "Relaxation is not for wimps."
Ian tells us that relaxation is so difficult to achieve because "thought, emotion and posture merge when working with subtle levels of aligning the body". Tai Chi, by it's very nature, brings this challenge front and centre. As we practice and improve our postures, thoughts and emotions bubble to the surface.
How to include relaxation in your daily life:
Pause for a minute and note your state of mind. Are you frustrated? Bored? Happy? Now do a mental body scan. Start at your head and scan right down to your toes, noting any tension you feel in your body. As you find each area of tension allow it to relax, letting it go fully before scanning for the next area. You may want to scan from head to toe more than once to be sure you've found all of your tension. Once you're fully relaxed note your state of mind. Has it changed in any way?
If you're not yet convinced that your thoughts and emotions affect your body, try this: Once you're fully relaxed, think about something that requires action on your part. Don't move your body in any way - just think about the pending task for a minute or two. Again, without moving, do a mental body scan noting the areas of tension. Trust me - they'll be back! Are they in the same places? Has the intensity changed?
Obviously you'll be most relaxed if you can do this exercise lying down, but it works just about anywhere. Try it when your standing in a line or sitting in a waiting room.
Part 2 - BODY AWARENESS