Feeling the Balance: Tai Chi Helps Develop a Strong Sense of Center
Jan 23, 2011 03:32PM
By Susan Aimes
Master Ting teaching
An early Tai chi master once wrote that the ultimate purpose of learning this art was to live forever in the spring season of one’s life. Regular practice can help individuals retain robustness and balance, even into old age.
According to Roger Jahnke, doctor of Oriental Medicine, author of The Healer Within and director and chief instructor of the Institute of Integral Qigong and Tai Chi, in Santa Barbara, Tai chi can not only turn on the “healer within,” but also afford practitioners the energy to enjoy life’s precious moments and to meet its less pleasant challenges with grace. Lynn Winkler, a Tai chi practitioner for 20 years, can attest to the many benefits of this self-care strategy and form of preventive medicine, which focuses on a mind/body integration to promote good health and general well-being.
Winkler’s consistent, long-term Tai chi practice with Master William Ting, founder of Silver Tiger Tai Chi, in Mount Laurel, made a significant difference in her recovery from a recent total hip replacement. While working with the physical therapy department within hours after surgery, her walking and balance were so significantly better than the average patient that three therapists asked Winkler for the name of the studio, so they could visit and look into studying Tai chi.
“I was up the same afternoon, walking with little difficulty and able to perform all the tasks assigned by my therapist without problems,” says Winkler, who was released the following day and continues to wow the home therapist with her ability to walk and especially, balance. “The only difference that they can point to is my dedicated study of Tai chi,” notes Winkler, who originally began her practice when she developed a balance problem similar to Meniere’s Syndrome, due to a hole deep within her ear.
Told that she would likely need to limit her daily activities, including driving, and take medication for the remainder of her life to control bouts of vertigo, Winkler practiced Tai chi as much as possible. She lives now without medication or any of the predicted limitations. “I know beyond a doubt that this could not have been possible without the training I received from Master Ting,” advises Winkler.
Marvin Freeman, of Cherry Hill, is also a student of Master Ting. At age 78, the retired aerospace engineer credits his Tai chi practice with the ability to manage his balance by controlling the center of gravity in his body. “I wasn’t concerned about losing my balance, I just wanted to learn Tai chi as prevention, in order to maintain balance so that I avoid falls,” says Freeman, whose practice consists of a class on Tuesday afternoons at the Jewish Center. “On other days, I go to the gym,” he remarks.
After five years of Tai chi classes with Master Ting, Thelma and Jack Hilibrand credit their good energy levels and sense of balance to their weekly classes, which have helped them to gain body awareness. “We are both 80 years old,” says Thelma. “We initially looked into Tai chi classes because we wanted a practice that was focused on prevention. And we got what we wanted.”
Awareness is the key to knowing one’s center, says Master Ting. “The center is your awareness of the combination of your qi (energy), gravity, balance, posture, relaxation/expansion, coordination and mind/body unity,” he advises. “All the elements must be inclusive, with no separation between them. To focus on any one element upsets the symmetry; awareness keeps the harmony.”
In Master Ting’s teachings, the center can be defined both as a middle place that is equidistant from all points on a given surface and also as the point, axis or line around which something turns. “It is easier to begin relating to our center from a physical standpoint. In order to develop a strong sense of center, you must maintain good posture,” says Master Ting.
“Developing a strong sense of center and relating this to correct posture is vitally important in everything that we do; not just as we practice Tai chi, or Qigong or Push Hands, but in all aspects of our daily lives,” he continues. “It is in our center that we form a reference point for judging balance and learn how to adjust and maintain it. It is through our center that we begin to connect all the parts of ourselves together and find coordination and unity or wholeness.”
Silver Tiger Tai Chi, 114 Creek Rd., Mount Laurel. Call 856-778-8333 or visit SilverTigerTaiChi.com.