Sunday 13 February 2011

Tai chi grain by grain

What is the difference between all the various well-being classes? Yoga, Pilates, Meditation, Tai chi, going to the gym - which should you choose? The analogy I like to use is of a spectrum - let's imagine each one has lined up in order of its "internal-ness". We have meditation at one end (very internal) and something like weightlifting at the other end (very external).

Now there is a traditional Chinese saying that every day you practice tai chi is like adding a grain of sand. Each day you add a grain, but the change is imperceptible, but after a few years suddenly you have a huge pile of sand. A poetic way of explaining cumulative benefit. So let me extend this grain of sand metaphor to my spectrum.

As you add your grains of sand, they do not stand precisely on top of each other, but they collapse into a mount whose base slowly widens. Therefore if you imagine that each day you are putting a grain of sand on the "tai chi" position, slowly the base will expand to also encompass neighbouring positions, such as "Yoga" or "kung fu". In other words if you put a lot gains of sand in any particular position these will begin to spill over into other positions. In other words if you do tai chi for many years, you will also have achieved some of the benefits of doing yoga and meditation etc. If you do meditation for many years, you will also achieve some of the benefits of doing Tai Chi. Of course you will achieve the most benefit (highest point of the pile of sand) from where you put the most grains.

Of course there is nothing to stop you putting grains of sand in multiple positions for a balanced exercise portfolio as I talked about before.

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