Saturday, October 6, 2012

In the Zone with Tai Chi

This article is about being "in the zone” with tai chi. This is the feeling you get when you get lost in the moment. This is when you hardly even notice anything going on around you. This is sometimes called "flow". When someone is in the zone, their emotions become energized and aligned with the task at hand. People perform their best at everything and have the most enjoyment when they are in the zone. They are able to maintain intense concentration on the task they are working on.

How do we get into the zone? First, have a clear short-term goal for each practice. When you are beginning to learn tai chi, your goal may be to remember how to perform the movements. For a more advanced student, your goal may be to focus on the substantial and insubstantial weight shifts during the form or maintaining the proper tension in your hands. For another student, it may be to follow the flow of yin and yang throughout the forms.

Second, it is important to receive immediate and relevant feedback. Your feedback may come from knowing that you completed the movement correctly. For a more advanced student, the feedback may come from you knowing that you completed the form or set and were aware of your weight at all times. Your feedback may be from your teacher. In each case, the feedback must be appropriate to your skill level.

Third, match your goals to your skills. You want an achievable challenge. There is no point in beginners trying to apply silk reeling skills as they learn their forms. They need to learn the gross movements first.

Every time you practice, have these 3 factors in mind to help you develop the feeling of being in the zone. As your tai chi improves, you will be in the zone more and more often. This improves your enjoyment and encourages you to practice more often. Tai chi follows the rhythms of nature, so being in the zone should also help you feel in tune with nature.

Agitation and anxiety prevent you from getting in the flow. I find that meditation before practice is tremendously helpful.

© 2012 Eric Borreson