Monday Morning Tai Chi Training Tip # 237
Exploring Stress
Stress, especially unrelenting stress, plays havoc with all the systems of our body.There is only one sure-fire way to deal with this as far as I can see – soften and relax. Let me give you an example.
Hold a pencil between your hands and slowly start to bend it. For a while the pencil will resist the force and nothing will happen. As the force increases, you will see the pencil start to bend as the fibers elongate to try and adapt. As you continue to increase the pressure, at some point, the pencil will snap and break.
If we don’t want the pencil to break we must either reduce the stress or strengthen the pencil. But strengthening the pencil will only work for a short time if the pressure continues to increase. Strength against strength always meets its match.
The pencil breaks because it is rigid, and unable to adapt beyond a certain point. If we really want to keep the the pencil from breaking, we could make it out of rubber. Try breaking a rubber pencil by bending (if such a thing exists). What I am suggesting is to make our bodies like rubber by relaxing and working on flexibility.
Tai Chi is such a wonderful practice to locate stiffness and stress in the body and learn how to let this go. When playing push hands, one learns to soften and go with the flow. If one fights back against the incoming force, that will only work with a smaller person or one who is not very experienced in sticking and following the energy.
We start off many classes with what we call “partner pushing”. One person stands in wuji, (balanced stance). The partner starts gently pushing with short energy, in many different places on the body – front side, back. Always start very gently and then add more energy as partner gets the idea and starts to loosen and connect to the center. It is fun, informative, and helps build class unity.
The benefits of such training will pay big dividends, especially as we age, because that is the time when physical stressors really do us in. A fall when young means nothing, but for an older person, it could mean the end of a good life. Don’t put it off.