When we were children we quickly learned to deal with stress and conflict by stiffening up our bodies.
As we aged, we continued to react, even tensing up and making ourselves look bigger. We also learned that, by having physical muscle strength, we could handle any conflict. This usually worked well when we were children, because the stronger person usually prevailed. Although we carried that learned response into our adult daily lives, we find that we can no longer use physical force to solve stress.
Human Nature and Knee-jerk Reactions can be altered with Tai Chi Training
There are consequences for our actions. This learned response from childhood is ingrained in our subconscious, and is used in dealing with other stressful situations that come about. This results in physical and emotional tension in many of life’s conflicts.
When we react to a stressful situation by stiffening up, we are not only wasting energy but we can also add symptoms of anxiety. This causes our body to release adrenalin which bounces around as though it were inside a cup surrounded by the oceans water.
Fear strikes, Adrenalin Takes Over: What does this mean to you?
The extra adrenalin being released causes feelings in us that we don’t understand and fear is the result. In addition we experience feelings of light-headedness, our pupils dilate and we may even feel like passing out because our breathing has slowed. This frightens us even more.
In studying Tai Chi we learn to relax and rely on structure without muscle tension. By practicing a form that is a series of postures that flow together seamlessly, we are able to stay centered and balanced throughout the form.
Push Hands and Why Bodybuilders Need to Practice Tai Chi
As our Tai Chi practice progresses we also learn Push Hands, which is a two person exercise. This can either be fixed or restricted step. In the restricted or fixed step Push Hands, you quickly realize that, if you stiffen your body you are more vulnerable to being pushed over. When one person pushes, the other person neutralizes the push by relaxing and keeping proper balance and structure. The force comes in, but you only use the muscles or joints necessary to neutralize the push. This exercise repeats until someone stiffens and is unable to neutralize the push. They are then pushed off-balance. This teaches the Tai Chi practitioner that when we stiffen and try to use muscle strength, we actually are more vulnerable to being pushed off-balance. One of the benefits of Push Hands practice is to reverse the stiffness reaction we have done all our lives. Then we are able to merge this newly learned reaction into our daily lives, by relaxing when we feel threatened or when a stressful situation occurs. This technique of relaxing enables us to realize that we actually become stronger, both mentally and physically, and can deal with any situation.
Practicing Tai Chi has enhanced my weight training and made me more aware of my body alignment. It has helped me cut unnecessary muscle tension during my workout. If my body is not aligned correctly, I am not grounded, and force is not directed properly. It’s good to remember when performing any exercise, that if your body is not aligned correctly, you are not maximizing to your full potential. If I am doing a bicep curl, there is no need to overly tense muscles I am not using to curl the weight. I have learned through my increased body awareness, that I may be exerting and wasting energy I am overly tensing for no reason.
Proper form is essential when doing any exercise
In the book ARNOLD: The Education of a Body Builder by Arnold Schwarzenegger he recommends visualizing the physique you want to achieve when you are performing any muscle-building exercise. Focus on your goal and most importantly, be mindful of the muscles you are training.
Tai Chi is highly regarded as the elixir of life. It brings the daily practitioner so many wonderful health benefits like strengthening the immune system and increasing bone density. It also reduces high blood pressure. “Bodybuilding is the closest we have to the fountain of youth” – Lee Labrada
What better way to reverse aging and promote better health, than to combine natural bodybuilding, weightlifting or any other physical training activity with Tai Chi?
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Joe Cavaliere has been weight training since he was 13 years old. He has spent the last 22 years practicing Yang style Tai Chi and earned his Shodan in Aikido. He along with his nephew Natural Pro Bodybuilder George Greene and sons created Muscles on Porpoise® – Better. Because you want to be.™, an online fitness apparel company that promotes a healthy lifestyle, natural bodybuilding and online training.
Check out his great blog – the Tai Chi Daily
Muscles on Porpoise Inc. donates 10% of profit from apparel sales to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.