Many scientific studies of tai chi have been shown that there are significant medical benefits to practicing tai chi. These studies don't mention the two main obstacles to using tai chi to improve your health. It is our responsibility as teachers to make sure our students understand this early in their practice.
Truth #1 - It takes time
Many people have heard great things about tai chi. They expect wondrous benefits from showing up for class. They are accustomed to the ideas of Western medicine where a doctor gives you a pill and you are better in a few days or weeks at most. When the benefits of tai chi don't miraculously appear after their first class or two, they want to give up.
It is true that many people will start to feel better after a class or two and a couple of weeks of practice. Peacefulness and calmness are common feelings after a beginning tai chi class. However, studies have shown that measurable health benefits really don't show up until the student has practiced for about 10 or 12 weeks. Remember that tai chi doesn't cure anything. Tai chi promotes wellness and helps our bodies move toward their normal healthy status.
When learning tai chi, learning quickly is not necessarily better than learning slowly and deeply. Tai chi has many subtle details that take time to learn. You have to “digest” tai chi. It takes time for it to get into your body and your mind. With each lesson, it is important to practice regularly until that lesson becomes part of you.
Truth #2 - You are responsible
You can't pass the buck. Practice every day. The only way to get the health benefits of tai chi is to practice what you have learned. And guess what? You need to practice for the rest of your life. If you stop practicing, your health will gradually revert to what it was before you started tai chi.
You will have ups and downs to your practice. You will have times where you get bored with it. You have to persevere. Your teacher is a great resource and can help you get over the bumps and through the doldrums.
© 2012 Eric Borreson