The growing number of studies researching the effects of tai chi and qigong all testify to the health benefits that these arts can offer. From reducing heart conditions and stress levels to performing better on a mental and physical level, tai chi, qigong and all the internal martial arts are practiced worldwide for these very reasons.
However, there are numerous other benefits that go beyond the physical aspects. Through continuous training, practitioners also improve their co-ordination and focus, as well as learn self-discipline, increase their self-confidence and train the ability to get things done. When you take what you learn from these arts and start applying them to your life, the benefits can be profound.
As the internal martial arts are a system based on subtle body mechanics and principles such as yin yang, one must first remember the energetic nature of the world to understand how the internal arts apply to different aspects in our daily lives. Everything is energy. From the rocks to the plants, to the animals on this planet, we all vibrate energetically on different levels and at different rates. Your physical body is still just energy, but at a more dense level.
When we train energywork like qigong and neigong, we become more sensitized to the energies that circulate throughout our bodies and more aware of when our energies are blocked or not flowing properly. The more this is embodied, the more we begin to see life around us as it is – interactions of energies.
Whether it is your work life, family life, creative life or whatnot, have a look at what is flowing and what is not. If something is not flowing and manifests as stress of some sort, you can try to keep going at it the way you are or try something else. If you keep going at it and this causes even more mental or emotional discomfort, it is probably better to just yield and try something else that hopefully flows better. That is a way of releasing what is stuck in real life – go with what works. It is the flow of yin and yang.
Another example of the life benefits of internal martial arts comes from how they relate to habits. As we now know, because everything is energy, the internal practices that you do on a microcosmic level (your body) can be applied to the macrocosmic level (your life). When you move slowly and become aware of certain unwanted habits that your body has, you can fix them by reprogramming how your body behaves when encountering these habits. With some practice, you can then take the techniques applied to your body and reprogram subtler levels of energies, such as any emotional or psychological habits that no longer serve you. It’s the same energetic principles in action, just applied to life instead of your body.
Finally, one of the biggest things we learn to embody in internal martial arts is the practice of moderation. Contrary to the attitude that we must push ourselves to the limit and beyond, having a slightly relaxed effort is actually more efficient and stress-free. When this is applied to a tai chi practice for instance, you find that your body, mind and your energy just feels and flows better. The same is true for everything else that requires effort. Go ahead, try this now. Do something with as much effort and concentration as you are able to gather. I promise you it’s not sustainable.
Going with the flow, letting go and relaxation are some of the principle cultivated in internal martial arts that slowly, with practice, can become an embodied part of a happier and healthier lifestyle. Just like how a tree grows in a forest of trees, it does what is most natural to it. If there is a boulder in the way of its roots, it goes around it. If the leaves don’t get enough sunlight, the branches grow higher. A tree grows slowly, but lives a long time and in the process shares its many purposes like providing shade, shelter or food. Think about it – what sort of tree would you like to be?