I have been studying and practicing Tai Chi on and off for years but I am clearly no expert. I do have enough personal experience to share how Tai Chi helps me heal in a variety of ways. In Tai Chi, perfection is not necessary or required for benefit. That is one of the most astounding things about practicing this traditional Chinese martial art. I learn forms and tai chi exercises, how to breathe and relax the body, where to focus thoughts, and how to allow my mind to comfortably settle as I learn, grow, and practice.
Not too long ago, I fell off a curb that I did not see while walking rapidly. As much as I wished at the time that I only sprained my ankle, the urgent care x-rays showed a broken 5th metatarsal (pinky toe bone) half way up my foot. It is a common fracture if you twist your foot a certain way. Common or not, I was not happy and I was also in pain.
As an avid kicker, or a person who enjoys pushing flexibility boundaries when doing kicks, I realized that my kicking and kickboxing practice was on hold for at least five to six weeks. I dutifully put on “the boot” the urgent care facility provided and followed up with an orthopedic surgeon. Luckily, the boot is the only treatment required so far. Still, I felt a bit deflated about not being able to practice martial arts.
That is, until I remembered that Tai Chi offers many options depending on your capabilities. Suddenly I was renewed. All I had to do was take my standing Tai Chi practice to the chair for a period of time to continue practicing this martial art that I love. Through my practice in the last few weeks, I realized the benefits of Tai Chi for my personal healing.
Here are my reasons why Tai Chi helps me heal:
- Options: Honestly, I love to watch groups of people practice Tai Chi. This group rhythm reminds me of a small wave rippling across a serene body of water and inspires me to want to learn more. When I broke my foot, I was disappointed that I could not be a part of the “wave” any longer. I felt that if I wanted to practice Tai Chi I was basically condemned to the seated/chair version of Tai Chi! Who wants that? Well, I soon realized that doing the upper body movements from a chair required as much thought and intention as standing Tai Chi (maybe even more) and provided the same amazing benefits. I felt the same mentally while practicing seated Tai Chi as I did practicing standing Tai Chi. And, my foot just rested. No pain. No discomfort. Still Tai Chi practice.
- Breathing: The breathing benefits of Tai Chi for me, whether standing or seated, are simple and true. First, Tai Chi breathing relaxes and empowers me at the same time. Learning to breathe in while pushing your stomach out allows you to fill your breathing chamber more fully. Try to breathe in deeply while pushing your stomach out and then breathe out slowly and you will see what I mean. To be able to relax through pain or an injury with breath is difficult for many, but you find relief with this simple technique.
- Slow Movements: There is no need to rush through Tai Chi. The slow movements allow you to take things at your own pace. Every movement is thoughtful and has purpose and you learn this whether seated or standing. You can practice the upper body skills while seated, and then when you are healthy again, you have a strong base to which you add the lower body back in. The ability to practice slowly gives your mind a space where it is not focused on aches or pains. I love kickboxing and other martial arts, but only Tai Chi gives me the feeling of accomplishment when I need to heal.
- Hybrid: My foot injury is hopefully almost resolved after five weeks in the boot. I know that my ankle will be stiff when all is said and done. If your ailment requires you to practice Tai Chi seated, then know that you will be able to return to standing Tai Chi at your own pace. Even now, I stand more as my foot continues to heal, but at times, I still sit and practice. Until I get the word from the orthopedic doctor that my foot is healed, I continue to wear the boot and practice a hybrid seated/standing Tai Chi to my own comfort level.
- Continuity: Continuity in martial art training and practice is important. The worst thing when coping with an injury or illness is when you think you cannot do the things you love to do. If you break continuity, or the habit of practicing and training, you may never return to it and thus, lose all the immense benefits Tai Chi offers both in health and while healing. Don’t give up. Don’t just stop training. Continue in your martial art journey to the best of your ability.
I share my personal account of how Tai Chi helps me heal. Healing is different for every person and in different situations. I use Tai Chi breathing when dealing with other injuries, when I feel anxious or worried, and I used it as a way to cope when I had trouble breathing with Covid. While some may argue that Tai Chi does not have “healing powers,” I know the opposite to be true. Tai Chi provides me with the skills and techniques to improve whether I am already healthy or struggling with an ailment or injury. That is healing power, in my book.
Give Tai Chi a try. It is a great accompaniment to other martial art styles but of course stands on its own as an effective martial art. Along with the benefits that I mentioned here, the martial application of Tai Chi is effective. Behind every beautiful flowing move is a defense technique that works in real life applications. Tai Chi improves not only your health, but your personal safety. That’s a win-win.
I hope you are well. If not, practice some Tai Chi during your recovery or to help you cope with chronic illness. Remember, perfection is not required for benefit. Over time, you will have your own reasons for how Tai Chi helps you heal.
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