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Feel the “Qi” (Energy)

An interview with a tai-chi teacher to talk about the benefits of tai-chi

Photo of Hsiang-Ju Anna Chen
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“Qi” is the Chinese term for life energy, or life spirit, a vital force that flows through all living things. Annie, a tai-chi teacher, said she really can feel the “qi” when she does tai-chi.


I had an interview with a tai-chi teacher - Annie. We talk about her experience of tai-chi and basic principle of tai-chi.

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When did you start practicing tai-chi?

I learned tai-chi about 35 years ago. I was first teaching Karate. Then, somebody was teaching tai-chi and it looks like good to balance. I mean, Karate is very fast but tai-chi is very slow. Also, Karate I do is called “gozo” which means heart and soft. So, I need to be able to relax and without tension. Thus, tai-chi is a very good practice for that.


Anything that has changed with your practice and life?

I become much more passion after I practiced tai-chi. Tai-chi movement is slow and I can’t rush it. And I also feel more calm.


How you think tai-chi is helping you with the aging process?

I stay very flexible. There are a lot of movements in tai-chi when you go up and down. You can build your “qi”(energy). You can keep building “qi” as you grow older. Things like Karate base on more muscular strength. It’s just naturally weaken as you get older. But the “qi” (energy) doesn’t have to get weaker. You can stay very full. And, also there is energy that tai-chi keeps you supple and soft which means you don’t get hard and brittle. When you are brittle, your bones can break. Tai-chi helps build bones to get stronger and your organs in the body get massage. All those things are happening in tai-chi. I fell last winter but I felt I didn’t hurt anything. And I can only think that is because of tai-chi.  Tai-chi strengthen your feet. A lot of older people have trouble in their feet. It keeps your feet have more angle, joint, and more flexible.


Is there any age limitation to practice tai-chi? When to start is better?

There is no age limitation. I actually have a 92-year-old man in my class. He just started tai-chi a year ago. People can start it any time.


You talk a lot of “Qi”. So, "Qi" comes from the internal body or the external environment?

Both. When people watch a tai-chi class, they will feel that the whole space is very calm. It feels like the classroom is field of the “qi”. When I do tai-chi, I really feel a lot of energy (qi), and tingle in my hands and in my finger. I can feel “qi” in my both hand. I even can feel the flow of “qi”.


Tai-chi might be a good practice for older adults?


Tai-chi helps to develop confidence. People get focus and get stronger. In their body, they learn to be relax. They don’t get stiff. I also heard that people have strokes. Tai-chi can help people to come back after a stroke.  


What are the major principles?

The major principle of tai-chi is “yin” (inwards) and “yang” (outwards). The energy moves into the opposite, staying relax, and shifting a weight from the one leg to the other. We have a lot circular moves that all the movements come from shifting a weight in the leg or turning the weights.   


Any benefits of tai-chi?


  • Rooting

Tai-chi strengthens the core and it also helps people feel grounded and rooted. The grounded and rootedness helps people if they are feeling like they may be off-balance.

In tai-chi, almost every time we move, we are shifting a weight from one foot to another. That process of we called is “mind-body one foot” or “shifting a weight.” We have full weight on both feet, so we have to put weight on one foot and the other. Thus, we can step forward. It is very strengthening to move so slow. And, it helps build balance because your every move is happened to re-balance over one foot and then switch to the other foot.


  • Mindfulness                                       

The other thing tai-chi does it helps people bring their mind, your body, and your breath to the same place. I really believe a lot people fall because their mind is wondering. The mind is scattered they are thinking so many thing. People needed to be able to practice tai-chi which helps one be more focus and keeping their body align with how you are thinking and your breath.


  • Confidence

I think people feel more confidence because they feel stronger in their bodies. They feel connected to their bodies. They feel like they can “direct” their bodies to do what they want to do. The word “directive” is like if I want to do this move and do it well, I practice and I get better result. That makes me feel more confident.


Photo: a series basic movements of tai-chi (from left to right and above to below)

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I love Annie's smile and confidence in this picture. 

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What is a provocation or insight that might inspire others during this challenge?

Tai-chi is not just an exercise to train your body. It also provides mindfulness and confidence. Maybe the most important thing for old adults is to increase their confidence, mindfulness and less afraid of falling.

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Photo of Anne-Laure Fayard

Hsiang-Ju Anna Chen great interview and photos. I have never practiced tai chi but I can see how it relates to yoga (check Andrea's post: https://challenges.openideo.com/challenge/fall-prevention/research/yoga-power )
It's great to hear that you can start tai chi at any age as often as people get older they think "it's too late". The mind and body balance is importance for confidence but more generally for a healthy life. See for example:
https://challenges.openideo.com/challenge/fall-prevention/research/falls-and-mental-health
I was wondering if Annie has classes only for older adults or classes open to all.

Spam
Photo of Hsiang-Ju Anna Chen

Hi, Her classes are open to all. :)

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