Sunday, 10 June 2012

The benefits of injury in tai chi


Being unable to train in tai chi clearly sets you back, but sometimes through injury or illness it is inevitable. Having recently twisted my knee during an unrelated activity, I was once again reminded that there is a silver lining to being injured. If you look for it...

It has sometimes been said that if you take a break and then come back, you feel much more proficient. However wise masters will say that this is an illusion. The fact that you are reactivating all of your "tai chi muscles" after a break, means that you are suddenly filled with a rush of endorphins and sensations you misinterpret as proficiency. Do not get trick by this effect!

One thing however it is certain is that if you have a break in your training, your body will start to tense up, as you naturally adopt less optimal structures in your daily life. When you come back to it, you have an opportunity to notice which parts of your body have lost their fluidity. Pay attention to this, for it is a direct indication of bad posture in your daily life. Does your right shoulder feel exceptionally stiff? No doubt you have a natural tendency to to tense it for some reason. What a great clue to investigate the cause which may or may not be obvious.

If you have a specific injury (such as my twisted knee), although it might be painful or weak to begin with, the benefit is that it will be exceptionally sensitive. Tai chi should be about natural movements and postures, so if you can hold static postures reasonably well, but you notice shooting pains at particular movements, that might well indicate incorrect technique. If like me and your knee is weak for a few days, you will naturally pay attention to knee position throughout the form to ensure it is correct. Perfect! After all, we are training our concentration and body awareness abilities and there's nothing like pain to keep you focused!

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