When we look at an experienced Tai Chi player flowing effortlessly through the movements of the Tai Chi form it is understandable to imagine that it’s quite easy to do.
On the surface it looks like a fairly simple activity but it’s when we actually start to learn that the reality can be a little more challenging! It can seem quite a mountain to climb to memorise the entire form when your starting out! And I know from experience in teaching beginners that it can be a giant hurdle to overcome. The secret to success lies in what and how you practise everyday.
But Tai Chi can be fun and extremely rewarding WITHOUT the struggle to memorise it IF you follow these very important tips!
The key to learning anything new is how to PRACTISE
Practise is an art. It is a skill in itself and when mastered can lead you do new heights of performance. When you know HOW to practise then progress is so much quicker and tons more satisfying.
Poor understanding of how to practise will enevitably lead to poor performance.
The 10 Most important tips for successful practise:
1. Welcome to the inner critic!
Let’s clear the one obstacle that stops people from practicing in the first place.
The inner critic has the habit of appearing whenever we try something new or experience something out of our comfort zone. The inner critic will convince you that you’re no good, it’s pointless carrying on and it’s just a waste of time.
This little monster has the ability to stop you in your tracks, kill your motivation and persuade you that you really are no good and it would be better if you stopped altogether!
The inner critic has deep roots which we will go into in another blog but for the moment realise that your self-talk has a huge impact on our success in every area of our life. Starting something new like Tai Chi will bring that little monster to the fore and will want to take centre stage!
Lack of confidence and the fear of not doing it absolutely right straight away will put many people off from taking the plunge and trying out the moves themselves at home.
Now I want you to pay attention!
Yes I’m getting serious now!
This can be life changing.
Do not believe your inner critic!
The negative self-talk often comes from deep seated emotional wounds from our past which replay in the present. Unless we heal and process those wounds then they will play out in every moment in the present. Paying attention to the negative self-talk and reactivity allows us to acknowledge and process it. By doing this we clear old dis-empowering behaviour patterns and build a strong inner foundation on confidence, trust in oneself and authenticity. We re-connect with our deepest self.
So this leads nicely on to no.2!
2. Just do it!
Whilst it is extremely important to clear old destructive emotional or behaviour patterns which can get in the way of our success…
This will be ongoing work
Rome wasn’t built in a day!
So whilst engaging with the inner work of clearing on a day to day basis…
I would encourage you to follow this motto…
JUST DO IT
No Matter what!
Feel the fear and do it any way!
Whenever you feel under pressure from the inner critic and tempted to give up
remember the motto!
How often have I caught myself saying “but I don’t have time.” When I decided to take back the violin I seriously believed that I just didn’t have a spare moment to give to practise. But my love of playing the violin was so strong that I had to find a way. I had to find the time. And so it was that I made the decision that my violin was coming first. I decided to put my violin above all else. I made it my priority of the day. The funny thing is that I have found the time and have made other things work around it. But it only happened when I made it a non-negotiable priority.
4. Have a clear goal
When learning a new skill, have a clear idea of what you would like to achieve in the time you have. If you have a short amount of time, aim for one particular goal and plan your session around that goal. Avoid spreading yourself to thinly and trying to achieve too many things. This will set you up for disappointment if you don’t achieve them. Set an attainable goal and this will give you encouragement and steadily increase your confidence to set more challenging goals.
5. Practise slowly
Practising slowly allows you the time and space to really listen and feel. It encourages a deepening of awareness from the inside of your body. We become aware of the subtle and not so subtle events that occur in our body that we can learn to interpret and if necessary re-adjust. We become aware of our own ‘aliveness’. A feeling of awakening to a joy in every moment. At the same time this increased awareness of the body will encourage our minds to return to the present moment. In doing so, emotional pain that had once been shoved into the background of our consciousness can be brought forth, acknowledged and healed. Altogether a fabulous body/mind makeover!
When I was a music student in London many years ago, I remember being in the practice room in the Royal Academy of Music and being completely distracted by either what was going on outside or by my own very busy mind. It would be impossible to focus and get anything worthwhile done.
Having a relaxed but laser-like focus is essential for good practise. Finding a way of encouraging the mind to settle was crucial and meditation and mindfulness are both excellent methods that can really help you to find an inner quiet which will lead to greater focus when you practise.
7. Stay relaxed
Always have in mind to stay relaxed no matter what the task is. Approach your practice in a relaxed way. Notice when any signs of struggle or strain begin to appear. Press the pause button and notice what you need to adjust. Maybe it is a sign to change onto some other goal. Perhaps trying too hard is a past behaviour pattern that needs to be addressed. Remember that there comes a point when repeated practice becomes self defeating and it is when we need to change subject.
9. Keep a journal
Each time you practise write down how it goes in a journal. Make a note of your successes and also where more work is needed. It is great to look back at all the discoveries we make along the way and serves as a useful reminder. Recording your sessions like this will enable you to keep track of your progress and help you plan for how you work in the future. It won’t be long before you look back with pride at how far you’ve come!
10. Keep learning
“Your ability to expand your mind and devote yourself to lifelong learning is the key to breaking any success barriers that may be in front of you – Brian Tracy”
Your ability to expand your mind with continual learning is critical to your success. Keep reading books, watch tutorial DVD’s, listen to audio recordings, go on webinars, attend workshops or even find a coach who you can work with on a 1-2-1 basis. There are so many ways one can learn these days especially as technology has advanced so much. Keep ahead and keep learning.
Stay relaxed, focused and enjoy your practice.