When I first developed an interest in and researched Tai chi, I was presented with, and a bit overwhelmed by what I found. Most sources began the description of the well-known Chinese exercise system, with a long and complex history. There was also a long list of masters going back hundreds of years. Then there were the many different forms to choose from, and a general need to memorize many different movements to get it all in order and done properly.
I knew there had to be a better way.
One day I read an article about Neijia (内家), a term usually translated as internal martial arts. This caught my attention. Having created a meta-analysis of the great Taoist work, the Tao te Ching I had been seeking a way to apply these teachings in a physical form — something Taoist in sensitivity with a yoga-meditation feeling to it.
To describe Neijia Tai chi simply is to focus on simple movements with specifically spiritual, mental, or qi-related aspects. This approach was quite distinct from the “external” approach most Tai chi students focus on — the physiological aspects.
I spoke to one of my Mystic Tao students, himself a respected “Sifu” (Master/Teacher) in the Wing Cheung Tradition.
He told me, that based on my background in yoga, dance, and meditation and my clear intention, I could probably create a simple and effective movement form influenced by Tai Chi.
“I wouldn’t call it Tai Chi”, he added “ because technically it isn’t. If anything you could call it ‘Instant Tai Chi’, Like instant noodles — Cheap, quick, easy to prepare. Not the real thing but “tasty” nonetheless”.
And so I went about creating Instant Tai chi, nick-named “ITC” by my students. Let me explain it in the simplest of terms.
Instant Tai Chi (ITC) involves…
- Organized stretching while in a standing position.
- Long, slow deep breaths whole stretching
- A focus on gentle stretching and range of motion movements of the joints.
There is nothing to memorize here. All you need to do is scan your body head to toe and pay attention to where each joint is and what is its flexibility as it moves.
A joint is a location in the body where bones connect. Most of them are constructed to allow movement in predetermined directions in a normal range for each type of movement it can perform. Most joints support movement and each joint have different ranges of motion, In Chinese Medicine, energy ( qi) pathways called meridians are influenced by the proper range of motion of each joint. A limited range of motion can negatively affect the vitality of this qi.
Let’s explore the joints that are so important to the benefits of instant Tai Chi.
Though there are about 230 joints in an average human body! In Instant Tai Chi you are only gently stretching 12 groups of muscle and joints, all in about 15 minutes.
These joints include;
§ Finger joints
When I say “stretching” I am more specifically speaking of the range of motion of each joint.
What is Range of Motion (ROM)
ROM is the distance and direction a joint can move to its full potential.
Each joint has a normal ROM, while each person has a different amount of ability to achieve it. Joints maintain a balanced range of motion by regular use and stretching of the surrounding soft tissues (muscles, tendons, and ligaments). Just 10 minutes of stretching three times a week can help improve range of motion.
Most joints are constructed to allow movement in four predetermined directions; flexion, extension, abduction, adduction. There are a few joints that do not support movement, such as in the skull. In Instant Tai Chi and on all body movement there are common joint movements include
Although there is variability among various individuals, there are generally accepted values for a normal ROM in each individual joint.
There are numerous influences — inherent and situational — that can affect your ROM and thus your, Instant Tai Chi practice.
Some of the things that you can’t control and that you are born with include:
§ The type of joint, as some joints aren’t meant to move a lot,
§ Bony structures which limit movement,
§ The internal resistance within a joint,
§ The elasticity of muscle tissue, for instance, the muscle tissue that is scarred due to a previous injury is not very elastic,
§ The muscle’s ability to relax and contract to achieve the greatest range of movement,
§ Another factor that you can’t control is how old you are. Age and sex both affect joint ranges of motion. Older participants have smaller ROMs than their younger counterparts and need more time to reach a full range of motion. This is one reason why Instant Tai Chi I so effective for seniors. Speed or forced stretching is not required to apply the technique. It is also invaluable for younger people because it creates greater physical and emotional balance, and reduce the chance of injury,
As for gender, it was found to have a significant effect on ROM. Men had smaller ROMs than women in some areas, with the greatest difference, 29.7 percent, occurring in the hand.
These differences in age and sex were found to affect specific joints and motions, which could be explained by the differences in anatomy and the frequency that the joints are used in activities between the groups.
Causes for Limitations for Range of Motion
Limited range of motion is a term used when a joint has a reduction in its ability to move. This can be due to injuries to the soft tissues surrounding a joint. It may also be caused by diseases such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, or other types of arthritis.
Regaining range of motion in a joint is one of the benefits of a consistent Instant Tai Chi practice.
ITC will gently increase the range of motion of each joint often reducing the pain, stiffness, and swelling that may be present. ITC is also what exercise and physical therapists refer to as active range-of-motion exercise. These are exercises performed without assistance.
As for strength and conditioning, many ITC exercises aim to improve muscle strength. This happens because the slow movement of various body parts offers a type of resistive exercise. The slower the movement the greater the gravitational resistance.
ITC can also function as a general aerobic and conditioning exercise when done at a faster rate. The goal is to re-establish, maintain, or increase range of motion, muscle strength, hemodynamic balance, cardio-respiratory, and endurance.
For the elderly, the purpose of these exercises is both to strengthen muscles enough to function normally and possibly to regain normal strength for age.
TCI also offers meditative and introspective elements as well you can learn more about these through our course on Essential Taoism.
Click on this underlined title to learn about The Course in Essential Taoism A-Z and Beyond…
I’m the author: I am a well- coach and a teacher of Mystic and Essential Taoism. I am also a self-improvement coach offering advice for innovators of all levels who are dealing with obstacles and constraints in their work (and play).
I’m passionate about offering advice on creativity, fitness, innovation, inspiration, self-improvement, life lessons, mental health information, and love.
I am always exploring trends, innovations, areas of interest, and solutions to build new stories upon. If you have any ideas you would like me to write about just email me at LewisCoaches@gmail.com
Most of my Medium stories, when related to natural healing. self-improvement, life lessons, mental health, and Eastern Philosophy are anchored into the concept of Applied Game Theory. This idea explores how and why people make certain choices, including decisions related to their health, well-being, and self-awareness.