Hi, my name is Victor. I am a Psychiatrist and a student here at Ji Hong Tai Chi. I would like to share my perspective on tai chi. I do this based on my professional point of view as a Psychiatrist as well as a tai chi practitioner. If you have some questions about how tai chi might help you, this perspective may help you understand your own practice better or it may help you understand why you would try tai chi for your own mental, emotional and physical well-being.
The modern approach to Mental Health considers three domains of the human being. These three domain views of mental health is called The Biopsychosocial Model. It refers to the three domains of a person when we want to consider how to optimize the health of the whole person. The three domains are: BIO is for Biological; Psycho is for Psychological and Social refers to the interaction with others and the sociocultural environment.
In Tai Chi, the philosophy and practice holds similar ideas of helping the person become or remain healthy.
BIO is for Biological
The biological aspect of a person’s Mental Health includes the genes, organs including the brain and the body that holds them. Of course, on a microscopic level, it also relates to tissues and cells and all their intricate chemical components and interactions.
While practicing tai chi, the body learns the moves of the form. The muscles relax to reach a combination of soft and strong. When we practice, we are meditating or in other words, creating an awareness of our bodies. We pay attention to whether we hold our bodies relaxed or stiffly, strongly or softly, open or closed and the list goes on as we delve into more advanced levels.
To spend so much time thinking about our bodies, we gain an awareness of it. We align our body and limbs to elicit our own intrinsic energy and maximize power when we choose or need. Tai chi’s internal martial arts philosophy helps students create this understanding of their bodies.
Psycho is for Psychological
The Psychological area relates to the mind. It is the way we are shaped by our history and the way we feel about ourselves. This perception of ourselves helps construct our future. The Psychological aspect relates to concepts of intention, grounding and “agency” which means being in charge of our lives as much as we can.
In every movement of tai chi, we move with intention by leading with our dantian and having our body follow so we are always centred in space and time. In tai chi, we learn breathing and focus in our stances and movements. By grounding ourselves in this way, we give our body roots.
Tai chi practice offers Psychological benefits such as gaining self confidence, developing a sense of purpose through movement and the discipline to achieve it. By practicing Tai Chi, we can achieve a good balance between “doing” and “letting go”.
Social is for Our Human and Cultural Environment
The Social sphere, which overlaps to a good degree with the Psychological, focuses on how individuals relate to others, their communities and societies. Our social spheres are defined by how our own personal principles and values interact with the world.
The Social is represented by the relationship the Tai Chi practitioner has to the school space, to other practitioners at the school and to the school structure itself. The Ji Hong Tai Chi school provides a community to learn, to meet other students and to gain a much deeper understanding of the Yin Yang concept as well as other philosophies that are intrinsic to the biomechanics of tai chi movement.
While forms practice offers opportunities to work together as students, the social is experienced particularly in “Pushing Hands”. In Push Hands, two practitioners will practice their ability to sense one another’s movements, follow or respond to the partner’s movement and learn the moment or point where that movement is not balanced.
Social is learned in a physical way to perceive, negotiate and gain mastery in our own space. We learn to relate to the space which is both close and beyond the body as well as the presence and energy of other people.
Tai Chi for Physical and Psychological Well-Being
I’ve been practicing Tai Chi for many years under Sifu Bao Sen Liang’s wise guidance. I have learnt and keep learning that beyond the mechanical form, his teachings help me relate better with my body, with my mind and with my surroundings. I find this powerful and extremely helpful for my physical health, my psychological well-being and my effectiveness at work.
If you’re curious about tai chi and how it could help you, I would encourage you to try one of the school’s trial classes.