Chair Tai Chi for All Abilities

The Benefits of Chair Tai Chi for All Ages

I first experienced tai chi in a chair when a fellow student had broken her ankle and needed to modify her training. We were with a group practicing a long form so we placed some chairs at the back, took a seat and followed along with the forms. First, we were more focused on arm and spine movements. As we were getting the hang of it, sometimes we would lean forward or to the corners to more closely mimic the movement of our classmates. We then started including leg movements by stepping to the corner or raising our leg for the kicks.

We felt like penguins!

We discovered we were using our “sit bones” as our feet. Shifting our weight and allowing for movement. What we thought would feel rudimentary, turned out to be very satisfying with wonderful spinal movement and body awareness.  As I teach classes now. I often make use of chairs for any level of ability. For a beginner learning the basic choreography, focusing on just the arm movement can be less confusing than trying to put everything together all at once. It also helps people learn a sense of the structure then apply that while “sitting” into a horse stance.

Chair Tai Chi for Seniors

The entire class time does not need to be completed while seated. For anyone able to stand, even for short periods of time, it’s good to work on leg strengthening and balance. Standing behind the chair can provide support and stability during the exercises. I often start by teaching beginners the Yang 8 Form and this can easily be managed in a chair. For individual with neck or shoulders issues, it’s also good to take a break from arm movements. Taking this time to focus on breathing more deeply, visualizing a movement in coordination with the breath, eye exercises and self massage are all beneficial.

The Benefits of Chair Tai Chi for All Ages 2

Chair Tai Chi in the Work Place

Some of the warm ups used within tai chi classes can easily be adapted to the chair. Starting with good, upright posture and sitting on the edge of a firm seat begin turning at the base of the spine. Continue working your way up each vertebrae elongating as you go until you are looking behind you as far as comfortably possible. The last step is to use your eyes to look in the direction of the turn. Then release the eyes, the neck, the upper, middle then lower back. Repeat with turning toward the other direction.

Keep Joint mobility in mind as well. No formal training is needed to give your body the opportunity to move in a natural way. Start with your hands. Wiggle, clench and stretch your fingers, then rotate your wrists, elbow, then shoulders. Gently roll your neck. Next think about your hips, lifting and moving each leg. Rub your knees with your hands. Rotate your ankles both ways then wiggle your toes. All of this can be done while in a chair.

There are many benefits of chair tai chi for all abilities. To learn how to go more deeply with these simple exercises, learning tai chi forms or the baduanjin will bring even greater circulation and mobility. The baduanjin is a highly effective series of movements for joint mobility, flexibility, strength and balance. Watch for a classes on this starting in March, 2018.

You can connect with us on Facebook, YouTube and Instagram for meditations and inspirations.

To our health & wellbeing!
Wendy Williams

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November | Bone Health

Months of Awareness Series
Turquoise Tiger Healing Arts Centre

Turquoise Tiger Healing Arts Centre donna dee williams therapeutic body painting osteoporosis awareness bone health

In her late 40’s, Dona was diagnosed with osteoporosis. Over 30 years later, she is still active, agile and resilient. “My doctor recommended, at that time, hormone replacement therapy, which I did take for two years but; it was really upsetting to my digestive system, so I started doing research and reading books about ways to increase bone density through natural ways.”

Throughout the years, Dona has used nutrition and supplements to support her health.

Some of the top recommended foods for bone health are dark green leafy vegetables (such as kale and bok choy), citrus fruits, root vegetables, sardines and salmon.   “The latest one I just read on Better Bones Blog was prunes.  Not just the old prune juice but actually incorporating it with other vegetables such as squash.”

donna dee williams Turquoise Tiger Healing Arts Centre tai chi taiji training Aurora

What Advice Can Donna Offer?

When asked what advice she would gives others, Dona suggests, “Do weight bearing exercises, a lot of walking and if you have a mini trampoline, it’s good for building bone mass. Yoga, tai chi, not just once a week but every day.  Every morning I do the sun salutation.”

“Bone Marrow Washing”

In the practice of tai chi, qigong or neigong, there is a reference to bone marrow washing exercises. Here we are moving qi throughout the systems of the body reaching as deeply as the marrow in the bones. As important as the study of movement and breath is the visualization of clear, flowing health through our bodies.

In the great bones of the earth…

Have you ever meandered along a rocky ridge and felt that you are walking on the spine of the earth? Connecting to the earth, feeling how we are part of her cycles and contain the same particles within our bodies, brings us to a larger, clearer picture of health.

Dona comes from a family of artists. Many years ago, her uncle had painted a mountain scene. We used this painting as inspiration for a personalized therapeutic body painting to represent connection to the earth, to past generations and the continual regeneration of our bones. “The mountains in the background represent to me, the structure of our body, the bones.”

To see parts of the interview and body painting process, we will publish a video and link here soon.

There’s a song
In the great bones of the earth
In deep canyons
On high peaks
The song is for us
To remind us
To comfort us
Listen…
We have our being
Here
In mountains
In rivers
In trees
We are earth’s offspring
The song lives in us
It lives in our bones

– Robert Moon

Connect with us on Facebook, YouTube and Instagram for meditations and inspirations.
To our health & wellbeing!
Wendy Williams

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Announcing: The Turquoise Tiger Healing Arts Centre

I could not be feeling more proud right now.  Announcing… The NEW Turquoise Tiger Healing Arts Centre

With encouragement from some incredible mentors, I have followed a path that led me to write and submit a starter company business plan through the York Small Business Enterprise Centre. This challenging process has brought me to a new and exciting level enabling me to offer what I love so that it can be of benefit to others.

About Turquoise Tiger Healing Arts Centre

“Wendy Williams has developed this company as an evolution from her careers and business experience in art, teaching, and traditional Taiji certification. Her two established businesses, Taiji Training and Turquoise Tiger Face & Body Painting will now fall under the umbrella of Turquoise Tiger Healing Arts Centre where she continues to expand on services offered. As important as her qualifications, teaching and artistic abilities are the compassion, patience and sense of calm she brings to each of her clients.”

It is difficult to name just how many people pointed the way for me. I’ll attempt to acknowledge them in another posting. But in some cases it was a small and seemingly insignificant gesture.  In other cases, hours of input and encouragement. Even negative experiences pushed me to my calling.  So for all… I am grateful.

“Turquoise Tiger is a unique fusion of services providing clients with increased sense of joy, expression, connection and improved health through our expert leadership in Chinese Martial Arts and Therapeutic Body Painting.”

Open House Thursday, October 19th: 1pm-3pm and 7pm-9pm

Please join me in celebrating this new space. Mini face or body paint design, refreshments and Ceremonial ribbon slicing (with a sword) will be Thursday, October 19. I’d love it if you wear something turquoise! Join me to celebrate from 1-3 and 7-9. Please contact me for the event location.

Sincerely,

Wendy Williams
Turquoise Tiger Healing Arts Centre

Yang 8 Form Taiji

I first came across a “pocket sized” Taiji (Tai Chi) form when I was looking for something to teach in a seniors’ home. I found that even the popular Yang 24 Form could be challenging to people who are brand new to Tai Chi. I eventually found the Yang 8 Form that has become a popular introduction and practice for Taiji.

yang 8 form

What is Yang 8 Form Taiji?

Yang refers to the style of Taiji that has been passed down from the Yang family.

8 refers to the number of movements found in this routine or set of moves.

Form refers to the type of Taiji being practiced.

There are slight variations, however the 8 Form follows this sequence of movements:

  1. Opening
  2. Whirl Arms
  3. Brush knee and Twist Step
  4. Parting Wild horses Mane
  5. Wave Hands Like Clouds
  6. Golden Rooster stands on One Leg
  7. Kick with Sole
  8. Grasp Birds Tail
  9. Cross hands
  10. Closing

Some refer to it as 10-Form if you include the open and closing. It appears to have been developed in Beijing around 1999 with one of the earlier videos available from 2007. There are a large number of tutorials available for this now which provide us with references allowing for different degrees of ability.

yang 8 form world tai chi day newmarket

An Easier Introduction to Taiji

I find it to be an excellent way to introduce people to Taiji. It’s manageable to learn. It provides a good foundation for further study. It can be completed in a small space – an elevator in fact! The forms are learned on both sides (not right side dominant) and when people start to learn a longer form, they are already familiar with certain postures and principles.

One adjustment I have made is that I simplify it even more. Instead of learning from one side to the other (a 180 degree turn) I start students off by learning each movement within a 90 degree radius.

Stepping from the centre, to one corner, return to centre, then step to the other corner. Once we have those concepts down, we spend more time with correct turning and pivoting from the hip joint in order not to put the knees at risk.

I encourage you to do an internet video search on this topic. You are welcome to start with my own introduction of this form.

We are holding classes now in Newmarket & Aurora. You can view the full class offerings here. Connect with us on FacebookYouTube and Instagram for meditations and inspirations.

To our health & wellbeing!

Wendy Williams

Tai Chi Sword And Sabre Practice

Tai Chi Sword and Sabre Practice

What is Tai Chi Sword or Sabre Practice?

Most people think of Taiji (for more on the interchangeable spelling, click here) as having gentle movements, like a slow dance, that they see in the background of a movie setting. They also may not perceive Taiji as being a martial art since, in the west, it has been predominantly recommended for its health benefits for balance and meditative calm.

There are various styles, divisions and systems of Taiji. Each of these can be studied and practiced unto themselves. Some students may be drawn to broaden their experience of Taiji by including further training in the following practices.

  1. Bare-hand Forms (the movements we are used to seeing, qigong or standing meditation)
  2. Partner Forms (learning how the Barehand forms apply as offensive and defensive)
  3. Weapons Training (traditionally sabre, sword and staff, although there are more)

It May Seem Unfitting to Learn How to Wield a Weapon When We Are Seeking Peace

Being a peace loving person, it may seem odd that I get a gleam in my eye when I talk about weapons practice.  I don’t enjoy violent movies and am very sensitive to pain and suffering. So why do I include this as part of my practice?

We Are Programmed to Survive

Imagine yourself back in ancient times.  We would be more in tune with nature, counting on our instincts and senses, aware of predator and prey. What would you do if an animal or person threatened you, your child or your clan? By training with weapons, our Tai Chi sword and sabre, we are touching a core element of ourselves and taking ownership in our own power.

It Also Brings Out the Playful Child in Us

What do you think happens when you give people, of any age, some play swords? Yes, even for a moment, we are pirates. We wag the swords at each other and laugh. Sometimes when practicing, we can take on different roles and see how it changes how we express what we are doing. We can be a brutal warrior or an elegant swordsperson.

tai-chi-sword-play

Once you start to get a feel for the weapon, it becomes a partnership. Like using a tennis racket or a golf club, a drum or flute, or the clay in the hands of the potter. We form a relationship and a sensitivity with the properties of the instrument at hand and learn how to extend ourselves to bring out the best through this instrument.

And then it becomes a thing of beauty.

We are celebrating World Tai Chi and Qigong Day on April 29th, we’d love if you came to join us!  Click the link for more information. Connect with us on FacebookYouTube and Instagram for meditations and inspirations.

To our health & wellbeing!

Wendy Williams

Exercises To Improve Posture & Balance While Waiting In Line

Tips for Improving Posture and Balance while standing in line

Waiting in line? You could check your phone, which usually means poor posture…. or make better use of your standing time and improve posture and balance. In an earlier blog, we looked at ways to improve posture, click here to read more.

Once you have consciously made adjustments and improvement in your alignment, you can try the following exercise.

Practice Shifting Your Weight from One Leg to the Other

It might sound simple, but I mean practice shifting your weight from one leg to the other fully, and almost invisibly. In martial arts practice, we call this, “distinguishing substantial and insubstantial”. Feel one leg being full, rooted and supporting your weight. Feel the other leg empty, as if it’s about to take a step. Then slowly, almost imperceptibly, switch which legs are full and empty.

Surprisingly, this does not mean tilting your hips or straightening one leg to achieve this! Both knees are soft, both feet remain in full contact with the ground but one is fully rooted while the other is barely touching.  All the while, the body remains aligned.

Experiment with this and see how you can change your awareness of balance and weight distribution. Visualize water filling up the leg that is supporting you, once it’s full, have that water rise up and gradually pour down filling the other leg.

The Next Step… Is to Take a Step.

Being fully supported by one leg, sink into it even more and let the empty leg float up a bit without tilting your hips. From your hip socket, it’s free to move in any direction.  Slowly and gently place your foot down as though you are not sure if the floor is solid. Sense the floor with your whole foot. Pour the water down into that leg and let it slowly take your weight as you determine if the floor is strong enough to hold you.

full-empty-exercises 

Secret Leg Strengthening

Visually, no one will be able to tell what you are doing.  Meanwhile, you are building leg strength, improving your balance and engaging your mind. It even helps with your patience because you are doing something worthwhile as you wait.

I do this all the time while in line at the grocery store.  Having the cart to hold on to is helpful as you are working toward building up your balance. Maybe one day I won’t care if my public exercising is subtle or not.

Imagine if it was normal and acceptable to get up just about any time or anywhere and have a good stretch or joint rotation? It couldn’t be more annoying than having to hear one side of a conversation as people talk on their phones! I’ll let you know if I get to that point!

We are celebrating World Tai Chi and Qigong Day on April 29th, we’d love if you came to join us!  Click the link for more information. Connect with us on FacebookYouTube and Instagram for meditations and inspirations.

To our health & wellbeing!

Wendy Williams

Subtle Activism: Coming Together On World Tai Chi & Qigong Day

There are studies designed to observe the effects of prayer and meditation on decreasing violence. These theories have been both proven and debunked.  My point here is not to provide an argument for or against but simply to raise the question with you.

My experience is that we can have positive, uplifting, peaceful attitudes or we can be negative, depressing and hopeless.  I personally prefer to be with people who are the former and optimistic as that helps keep my spirits elevated as well. It can be easy to slide into a sink hole of pessimism we choose to surround ourselves with it.

David Nicol from the Centre for Subtle Activism writes;

Subtle activism is the use of spiritual or consciousness based practices for collective transformation; which distinguishes it from the usual focus of using spiritual practice for personal development. We’re not looking at this as a substitute for external action or the practical action that of course needs to happen in the world, but exploring nonetheless that this approach could form a crucial piece, a foundational piece in the shift that we need to make on the planet.”

“Subtle Activism” is an example of Yin and Yang

As a very basic description, Yin, is described as inward energy. For example, our personal development or quietly coming together.  Yang is outward energy, and in this context, is about the external action or the outward expression. Because of this, the two need each other. And without each other, yin would implode and yang would explode. These dualities are the principle behind all Taijiquan and Taoist philosophy.

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World Tai Chi & Qigong Day is an Example of Subtle Activism

Founded by Bill Douglas and Angela Wong Douglas in 1999 in Kansas City, it has now spread to well over 70 nations.  The motto being, “One world…One breath” as people come together in tai chi and qigong with the collective intent of world peace.

This event travels through the time zones on the last Saturday of every April at 10am local time, creating a beautiful wave of collective intent and practice around the world.  We can see the wave begin in Auckland as it is live streamed across the globe until it reaches Hawaii.

With this event, we are provided with many inspiring images of large groups of people practicing this ancient art. Newcomers are always welcome and encouraged to come and learn. It is an excellent opportunity to move along with a group of people and experience what it feels like to be in the midst of this strong and peaceful energy.

Taiji Training will be hosting a World Taiji and Qigong Celebration in Sharon, ON on April 29th.  Join us in our wave of this world-wide experience.  Participants of all ages and levels are welcome.  For more information, please see our Facebook Event, or click here for event details on our website.

We really hope to see you at this exciting event!

For more information on class schedules, please click here. Also, you can follow us on FacebookYouTube and Instagram for meditations and inspirations.

To our health & wellbeing,

Wendy Williams

Are Tai Chi And Taiji Different?

How is Tai Chi Different from Taiji?

There is no difference; they refer to the same thing just with slightly different spelling. There are many detailed resources available online regarding this topic.  However, if you are new to the world of Taiji, sifting through even some basic information can become overwhelming.

To help, here is a simple introduction to Taiji.

Tai Chi is a shortened form of Tai Chi Chuan

This is from the Wade-Giles transcribing system and appears to be the more popular spelling used in the west.

Taiji is a shortened form of Taijiquan

This is from the pinyin transcribing system which is more traditionally used in the east.

However, as our worlds are opened up across the internet, I’m seeing that variations of either spelling are chosen no matter the geographical location.

What Does Tai Chi/Taiji Mean?

Commonly, you will find interpretations such as, “grand ultimate fist” or “great art of boxing”. But as usual, there is something lost in translation as is the case here. So these can be taken lightly but it’s a start!!

How Do You Pronounce It?

Unfortunately none of the English spellings help us much with the pronunciation, leading us to blunder our first attempts. No matter what spelling is used, it should be spoken in the same way. “Tie Jee Chwen”. With emphasis on the first syllable.

taijiquan-picture

Is All Taiji the Same?

They do appear to go back to a common beginning but there are many schools and styles of Taiji. It’s like one tree with many branches.  Which is the beauty of it. I will be bold enough to say that absolutely everyone would be able to find avenues of Taiji that would suit their personality, learning style, health needs, spiritual, athletic, scholarly, artistic and / or philosophical interests.

What is Taiji Training?

I chose this spelling, in part, because I am affiliated with both the 5 Section Taijiquan Curriculum and the Canadian Taijiquan Federation.

As well, based on some informal research and surveys conducted in the area where I live, (Newmarket, Ontario) people associate “Tai Chi” with “something that old people do”. It’s my goal to break that stereotype. Many people of all ages around the world are engaged in and reaping the benefits of this martial art.

If you would like to learn more about Taiji, I welcome you to check out our class schedule, or simply contact me with your questions.

I am bringing Taiji Training to Newmarket, Aurora and surrounding areas. For class schedules, please click here. You can also follow us on FacebookYouTube and Instagram for meditations and inspirations.

To our health & wellbeing,
Wendy Williams

Every Day Tips For Better Posture

What do you do when someone mentions, “posture”?

Usually, our first response is to “sit up straight” or “stand at attention”.  We put our shoulders back and lift our head. We have this idea that good posture means looking like a soldier. Then, as we find this uncomfortable, slowly slip and slide back into our poor habits when we stop consciously thinking about it.

Our bodies are typically top heavy

Our minds are busy, our brows furrowed, our shoulders are tense with stress. Often our attention is in our heads and we tend to ignore or disconnect from the rest of our bodies.

Our bodies become “top-heavy”.  I remember playing with Weeble Wobbles: “Weeble’s wobble but they don’t fall down”.  They were little egg shaped toys with heavy, round bottoms. You could push them or try to knock them over but they would always return to be upright.

That’s what we strive for too!

Where should you start? Work from the ground up…

Feet

Whether standing in line at the grocery store or commencing form in Taiji, be aware of the weight distribution in your feet. At one of my first workshops with Sam Masich, I remember learning to think of a tripod on the bottom of each foot. Each foot being divided into the large ball, the small ball and the heel. When you do this, you are preparing your body for better alignment and freeing up your toes. From there, become aware of your knees. Are they locked back or falling in? Soften your knees. Not locking your knees means you are ready to move in any direction. From a Martial Arts standpoint, this makes you less vulnerable.

feet-alignment-for-better-posture

Hips

Are your hips tilted or is your pelvis angled up or down?  Allow your entire hip area to relax while maintaining its structure.

We hold so much tension in our hips without realizing it. In Taiji Training, we work on loosening the joints for better mobility. The more movement we are able to create in our ball and hip joint, the more relaxed we feel day to day and we are able to do more in our Taiji practice.

Shoulders

It’s good to pull our shoulders back when stretching and warming up.  But it’s not a natural stance. We also don’t want our shoulders to slump forward.

Think of your back as having a natural, protective awareness. We call this, “turtle back” as we imagine the function of the shell.  Not in an exaggerated form but as a mental image to inform our body.

Head

Next, feel the top of your head as if it’s been held up, supported and suspended, as the rest of your body relaxes down from this. Picture a water balloon. The knot is being held and the water settles nicely in the bottom of the balloon while the structure of the latex is resting comfortably.

Essentially the same egg shape as the weeble wobble! If we are bottom heavy, we are not as likely to fall down.

Develop a daily practice

I hope these tips for better posture are useful in your daily life. Good posture is being challenged more than ever with our continual use of devices. I imagine this technology may evolve to be more body friendly soon enough. I sure hope so!

Meanwhile, we need to remain conscious to keep ourselves strong, flexible and aligned. Practicing an art, such as Taiji, addresses all of these issues and as our posture improves, so does our overall wellbeing.

I am bringing Taiji Training to Newmarket, Aurora and surrounding areas. For class schedules, please click here. You can also follow us on FacebookYouTube and Instagram for meditations and inspirations.

To our health & wellbeing,

Wendy Williams