The Best Slippers to Wear When Performing Tai Chi

You’re more likely to know the practise of T’ai Chi Ch’uan as Tai Chi, a traditional Chinese martial art that has developed a worldwide following. Its slow, deliberate movements allow practitioners to appear as if they’re doing a graceful dance. Tai Chi actually has multiple different styles, including some that are fast-paced and others that involve partner exercises, as well as the more widely seen slow-paced individual practise. These styles can use anywhere from 12 to 100 movements, so you’ll want to research to find the right style for your needs.

Tai Chi continues to grow in popularity as its benefits to both physical and mental health become more and more apparent.

Philosophy of Movement

Many modern Tai Chi styles trace their roots back to one or more of the five traditional schools, all of which trace their origin to Chen Village. The original basis of Tai Chi as a martial art was to achieve a yin/yang balance in combat. The idea was that if a force was to meet another force the results would always be negative, but if you could instead meet a force (such as an attack) with redirection or cause it to exhaust itself, you could end the encounter without a negative result. This philosophy can translate physical encounters, as well as life in general, and the bodily awareness gained through practising has many benefits of its own.

Physical & Mental Benefits

Ancient Chinese medicinal beliefs held that illness could be the result of a blockage or imbalance in a person’s Qi (pronounced Chee), or life energy. Tai Chi is intended to increase and balance the flow of this Qi, helping to alleviate ailments. It can also be adapted for just about any fitness level. It is useful for improving your balance and flexibility, something just about everyone can benefit from, but it is especially beneficial in older adults as it can reduce the risk of falling.

The relaxing nature of the movements and the gentle exercise could help to lower blood pressure and promote weight loss. The movements are low-impact, so they are perfect for those with joint issues or arthritis and could even help to alleviate pain. There are even seated versions of the movements for those with mobility issues. In studies, practising has even been shown to improve the symptoms of both fibromyalgia and COPD. Just about everyone can find something a physical beneficial from Tai Chi.

A common phrase used to describe Tai Chi is “meditation in motion,” and for good reason. Beyond the many physical benefits to practising, there are a host of psychological benefits, as well. Tai Chi’s slow-paced, deliberate movements can provide a focal point for meditation. It is not uncommon for practitioners, once they become comfortable with the movements, to slip into a meditative state where their sole focus in on their body, the way their weight shifts, and their breathing as they sweep through their movements.

Exercise has been known to reduce stress and improve mood, and Tai Chi is, at its core, a form of exercise. Moreover, because of its accessibility, almost anyone can benefit from its uplifting effects. The focus on breath and movement has been known to help with managing anxiety and promoting an overall sense of well-being. Regular practise could even contribute to more restful sleep.

Preparing Yourself – Finding the Right Footwear

Unlike many forms of exercise, there are not many requirements for getting started with Tai Chi. It can be practised indoors or outdoors. It can be practised with a group or on your own. It also does not require a lot of equipment, but one thing that you may want to consider investing in is a good pair of Tai Chi slippers. Most commonly, people wear trainers to exercise, but these have been designed to be at least somewhat slip resistant, which can cause issues when you’re attempting the more advanced Tai Chi movements, that involve quite a bit of pivoting.

There are three main kinds of Tai Chi slippers: cloth, rubber sole, and athletic. The athletic looks sleek but tends to be a bit pricier. The rubber sole is typically mid-range pricing wise. While a good idea for practising on damp grass or other such surfaces, the rubber sole may not allow you to turn quite as easily. Cloth shoes like these cotton sole slippers are my own personal choice as they provide an immediate connection to the ground, allowing you to still feel it beneath you even through your footwear. They’re also lightweight and allow your feet to breathe as you practise, reducing moisture in your shoes. Additionally, these are inexpensive and easy to both carry and pack up. It is important to note that size is difficult to guarantee, but a good retailer knows this and will often have a flexible or even free return policy to account for sizing issues.

Are you just getting into Tai Chi or have you been practising for a while? Do you have questions about what kind of benefits practising could have for you? Let me know your thoughts in the comments and follow me on Facebook for more health and wellness tips.

The Benefits of Weleda Arnica Massage Oil

As a Tai Chi instructor, I can’t stress enough the importance of physical activity to enrich your body and mind. However, when deciding to undertake an activity, the mantra that I tell all of my students to remember is the seemingly simple, “If it hurts, don’t do it!”

Exercise is meant to be mindfully enjoyed, not dreaded, and there are a variety of steps that you can take to feel more comfortable before and after physical activity.

Researching your activity, allowing yourself the proper time to warm up, and listening to your body are all ways to care for yourself and make your exercise regime one that you won’t want to quit 4 days later.

Have You Tried Massage Oil?

Another option that may surprise you is massage oil. Weleda Arnica Massage Oil may be just the tool you need to reduce soreness and promote relaxation before or after physical activity, or even just at the end of a stressful day. This oil contains plant oils, including sunflower and olive oil, mixed with the popularly medicinal arnica flower.

Arnica flowers are beautiful yellow flowers, related to sunflowers, that have traditionally been used for everything from pain relief to vision problems, including vision problems that occur post-stroke. This makes arnica a powerful flower that can potentially help alleviate complications from serious conditions. These special flowers have even been used to reduce bruising and help with the pain of arthritis. Weleda’s arnica oil combines these flowers with healthy plant oils to create a massage oil that is healing, soothing, and marvellously reinvigorating.  

Mindfulness and Physical Activity

Exercise is often thought of as a completely physical activity, but this of course isn’t at all true. Physical activity can help reduce stress and improve mental health, giving you the overall full body wellness that you deserve. While any exercise will provide these benefits, there are certain exercises that seem more geared toward accomplishing both than others, simply by the very nature of the activity. Tai Chi, swimming, and walking are just a few examples of activities that encourage participants to slow down and focus on their bodies and their environments.

As the fitness magazines make clear, physical activity is so often viewed as something that should be taken to extremes. We’re told to run as fast as we can, for instance, and for as long as we can, without regard for how our minds and bodies are feeling. When performing any kind of activity, use it as an opportunity to also train your mind. Notice your breath and be present in the moment. Try to clear your mind, letting thoughts come and go as you focus on your exercise routine. My soon-to-be-released book will go into greater detail on mindfulness, but taking these steps now will allow you to be at peace in mind and body, giving you the maximum benefit from your workout routine.

Massage Oil: Beyond Pain Relief

Weleda’s Arnica Massage Oil isn’t simply healing. It’s also another way to relax and  practise mindfulness. You’ll first want to warm the oil by placing a few drops into your hands and gently rubbing them together. Then, you’ll want to carefully massage the oil into the muscles impacted by your workout, or the parts of your body most impacted by workday (or general life) tension. Really pay attention as you massage, allowing your mind to breathe in the arnica, and using this as an opportunity to practise mindfulness. Note the feeling of the oil on your fingers, guiding yourself to be present in this moment.

Have you tried a massage oil like Weleda’s arnica oil as part of your exercise plan? How do you practise mindfulness during physical activity? Let me know in the comments, and don’t forget to follow me on Facebook for tips, tricks, and updates on my upcoming book.

If it hurts, don’t do it!

About 10 years ago down in London when walking home after a morning of teaching Tai Chi I found myself alongside my most elderly student. After a short time, I noticed that even though I was about 40 years her junior I was putting in quite some effort to keep up with her. Initially I was okay with this until I discovered that she would be walking about 80% of my route which meant continuing to go at a pace that was becoming embarrassingly uncomfortable! This was further exacerbated when she told me how she was a member of a local 70+ ramblers club, and that she was going to have to leave them because she was finding it difficult to keep up, what with being well into her 80s and also now having a dodgy knee…

Now, even with all my years of training in a variety of sports and specialised activities, and despite being outshone by anyone who’s seriously older than me, I still think that walking is one of the best exercises around; provided you’re sensible.

As with all exercise I always apply what I call my ‘golden rule’ which I also teach to all my students: “If it hurts don’t do it”.

This is a simple mantra that usually serves to protect most people apart from those that don’t listen to me and those that don’t listen to their own bodies. One such episode occurred when one of my younger students (she was only in her 70s) was informed by her GP that she had a raised cholesterol level. Being the type of person that she was my student went into a panic and without further consultation decided she best take up jogging. Fine you might say, until you understand that this is not by itself the best way to reduce cholesterol, nor is it a good idea to take up jogging if you have no experience of it, especially if you are in your 70s. Surprise, surprise, she put her back out within a hundred yards of her house.

After talking with her I ascertained that in her ‘panicked state, my student ignored all of the cardinal rules of any physical exercise:

  1. Understand what you are doing, or get expert advice if you’re not experienced
  2. Gently warm up before throwing yourself headlong into the activity
  3. Relax and enjoy it
  4. And finally – for the third time: “If it hurts don’t do it”

One of the main points I took from this is that although learning Tai Chi will automatically and unconsciously have beneficial effects on all areas of your life you still need to consciously apply it to gain the full benefit. Who knows, she might not have even made the hundred yards if she hadn’t been a Tai Chi player? The other point being that if you build up slowly you can achieve amazing things – and it really doesn’t need to hurt!

As I am a pragmatist rather than a purist I recognise that amongst my Tai Chi students, and indeed amongst the rest of you, there will be some people who feel the need to do other forms of exercise, e.g. long-distance running. Therefore, I thoroughly recommend a book entitled ‘Chi Running’ (link opens in Amazon.co.uk) which I have used myself on those occasions when I need to go at more than a snail’s pace. I don’t do serious amounts of running but I take the same view as I do with swimming, i.e. I can swim well enough to save my life in reasonably non-extreme circumstances such as falling into the river from a pleasure boat. Likewise, with running I can still catch a train when the taxi taking me to the station is forced to stop after knocking down a jogger trying to reduce their cholesterol. Fortunately for me it was less than a hundred yards to the station…