Tai Chi (also Taiji, or Taijiquan), is an “internal” Chinese martial art that over the last century has become known for its ability to improve the health and well being of regular practitioners. Tai Chi can be viewed to create a great balance between strength and grace, beauty and power, ebb and flow. That said, understanding that tai chi is a martial art is imperative to truly gain its benefits and deeper appreciation of the practice.
Several major styles, or families, of Tai Chi are taught throughout the world, such as Yang, Wu and Chen. At The Yoga Center, the primary form taught is the Classical Northern Wu Taijiquan long form. Northern Wu style taijiquan is characterized by a medium frame and forward oriented stances. It emphasizes large “internal” movements over large frame external movements in order to generate power.
Regardless of tai chi style learned, the principles of tai chi are consistent: relaxation (“song”), interplay of yin and yang, diaphragmatic breathing, unity of movement or whole body coordination, structural alignment, and, overall, a “be here now” mind-set. This “be here now” mindset is at the core of enabling the practitioner to calm the “monkey mind”. Only then can the body truly relax, be wholly coordinated and the practitioner gain awareness of every movement happening within the body and outside of it.
Classes usually begin with a standing meditation and series of warm up exercises which may include loosening of the joints and spine, compression and expansion exercises, qigong or static posture circle walking. All are designed to re-enforce tai chi principles and prepare the student for practice. The form is then taught in detail and practiced according to each student’s experience level. Classes may also include push hands and martial applications, and, as students advance, additional forms and weapons.
The benefits of Tai Chi are too numerous to list here and a simple internet search on this topic will yield thousands of results. It cannot be emphasized enough that the benefits can only be realized with regular, diligent practice. Commitment to regular class attendance and practice at home is required of all students.
Important considerations before beginning Tai Chi: Despite outward appearance or common view of tai chi, the practice of Tai Chi as taught in regular classes at The Yoga Center can be rigorous and demanding to some. If you have any medical or physical condition that may effect your ability to participate in these classes, you should bring that condition or conditions to the attention of the Yoga Center and/or the instructor prior to taking any class. If you are considering taking Tai Chi you should also be aware that part of the curriculum may include two person exercises which require physical contact such as push hands and, tai chi being a martial art, martial applications are sometimes be practiced by students and/or demonstrated. Any questions or concerns in this regard may be directed to the instructor or Yoga Center staff.
Please check the schedule page for current date and times of classes and the events page for any upcoming workshops.
Teresa A. White is a certified instructor of Classical Northern Wu Style Taijiquan, having earned her teaching certification from Masters Frank Allen and Tina Zhang of the Wu Tang Physical Culture Association in New York City (www.northernwutaijiquan.com). Teresa has studied Chinese martial arts on Long Island since 1993 and earned the title of Shifu and rank of black sash in Shaolin Kung Fu under Shifu Lawrence Sweeney and Shifu Frank Mattera. Since 1998 Teresa’s training has included the internal arts of Chen and Wu style Taijiquan, Baguazhang and various styles of Qigong. Teresa’s background also includes studies and practices in Taoist Nei Gong, Zen meditation, pilates, bellydancing and yoga. Teresa is also a full time practicing attorney in Hauppauge, New York.