One of the most important principles in Tai Chi is to relax. In this post, I want to share why I believe relaxation is so important.
At Taiji Zen, it seems that we talk about two forms of relaxation. Relax your mind – this can lead to happiness. Relax your body – this can lead to health. But in reality it’s not so simple. Mental relaxation has clear physical implications – the next time you feel relieved, check in on your body and notice the release of physical tension. Physical relaxation also has clear mental implications – it’s much more difficult to be stressed in a hot tub than on a bed of nails.
So what does this all mean? The important thing is to know that relaxing physically will also lead to mental relaxation and vice versa. And how can we use this information? My favorite application of this concept is trying to maintain a state of deep relaxation all day long. That’s not to say that I never work hard. But I believe that the most productive work comes from a calm mind and healthy body.
And how to stay relaxed? The first step is awareness. We need to be aware of how we feel (physically and mentally) in order to change it. Once you become aware of all the stress you’re carrying, only then can you start to let it go. Try checking in on your feelings at a specific time every day. Are your shoulders hunched up? Is there tension in the muscles of your face? Your neck? Let it go. It’s as easy as taking off a heavy backpack. Or as Jet might say, “Free yourself, make light your burden.”
If you can’t let it go, try doing the opposite – inhale and completely tense every muscle as hard as you can for 10 seconds. After 10 seconds, exhale deeply and release every muscle. If you still can’t let go, then let go of letting go. Sooner or later you’re bound to relax deeper and deeper. Worrying about it about it will only slow down the process.
In my opinion, the best way to relax is to approach it from both angles – both physically and mentally. Think about the law of diminishing returns – the fourth slice of pizza is less delicious than the third, and the fifth slice is less delicious than the fourth. Similarly, as you spend more and more time on mental relaxation, the time is likely to become increasingly unproductive. The same is true for physical relaxation, and almost any other productive endeavor. Put more simply, it’s all about balance.
This is why I love Taiji Zen. By practicing Taijiquan, we learn to relax our bodies. Through practicing mindfulness, we learn to relax our minds. In my (admittedly biased) opinion, Taiji Zen is one of the best systems for learning how to relax, and by extension, developing health and happiness.
What are some ways that you like to relax? Let us know in the comment section!