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In Part 1 of this article, we discussed that people who practice for health sometimes have a difficult time knowing if their practice is really "working".
That's because many of the health changes provided by arts like ChiFusion Tai Chi and Qigong can be subtle and easily overlooked. So you might find yourself asking, "Is my practice really making me healthier? How can I tell?"
We talked in Part 1 about three important signs to look for. These signs show you that your are getting the health benefits of Tai Chi and Qigong. To recap, those signs are:
If you are practicing to improve a certain aspect of your health, seeing a positive change in that health aspect is a sure sign you are on the right track. This may seem obvious, but it's important that you actively search out and look for examples that your condition has improved.
So if you are practicing to improve a certain illness, disease, or physical condition, make sure you actively look for improvements in your health. Beyond just "feeling better", look for signs of physical healing, improved capacity, the ability to perform tasks you couldn't perform before, or other obvious indicators.
One of the best signs that your practice is working is when your doctor, chiropractor, naturopath, acupuncturist, or other health care professional notices changes.
Don't be afraid to ask your health care advisor for his or her opinion. Because they are "objective", they may actually notice signs that you've missed.
But DO NOT ask them "Is my Tai Chi or Qigong helping me?" Even if their opinion of Tai Chi and Qigong is positive, it's not what you want. What you want is their opinion of your health.
Instead, ask them to evaluate your condition. Do they see signs of improvement? What do the tests and measurements? Do they notice any indicators of improved capability? Asking them to evaluate your condition (rather than your practice) will give you a more objective picture.
When you practice Tai Chi and Qigong, your body sends you specific "signals" that tell you it is working, but you have to know how to look for these signals. Specifically, your body signals the effects of your Tai Chi through (1) your energy level, (2) your mental reactions, and (3) your emotional reactions.
While some people experience signals during or immediately after practice, it's not unusual for there to be a "delay effect" of several hours up to a full day in body signals from Tai Chi and Qigong.
This delay effect has been identified by psychoneuroimmunology (PNI), which studies how the nervous system, endocrine system, and immune system interact. PNI has also studied how these chemicals are released by practices like Tai Chi and Qigong.
Most people find that there will be a "peak" in these body signals somewhere during the 24 hours after practice. Often times, the peak will occur during the same amount of time after practice every day.
So in looking for body signals from your Tai Chi practice, make sure you pay attention to how you feel over a 2 to 24 hour period after practice. Check your energy level, look for how mentally sharp your thinking appears, and notice any feelings of happiness or well-being.
So what if your health condition doesn't improve, your doctor or chiropractor doesn't notice any differences, and you don't notice any body signals? Should you give up practicing?
Instead of abandoning your practice, first check these important points to make sure you are giving your body "what it needs" to improve. This checklist will ensure that you are getting "serious health benefits" from your practice.
Know the Precise Purpose of the Movements You Are Practicing.
This may seem obvious, but knowing the precise health purpose of a Tai Chi or Qigong can tell you whether the exercise is appropriate for the results you want.
For example, a Qigong exercise that concentrates on the legs probably won't do much for a stiff neck. Or a Tai Chi movement that concentrates on the liver may not help you improve your blood pressure, if that's what you want.
So it's important that you know the precise purpose. I can't stress this enough: Never do a Tai Chi movement or Qigong practice unless you know precisely what it is trying to accomplish!
Too often, we accept vague "reasons" or "purposes" from our instructors for what we are learning. But in order to make sure our practice is working, we need definite descriptions of what to look for. Instead, let's look at an example of the type of precision we want. Here's an example of a precisely defined purpose from our Level 3 course, for the movement called Water Pump Qigong:
Water Pump Qigong helps us loosen and stretch muscles in our lower back, hips, waist, thighs, and calves. These are important posture-stabilizing muscles, as they connect our spine and lower back physically through our hips, and into our legs and feet.
And as with all of our kua-focused exercises, Water Pump increases our range of motion in the hips, making everyday activities like walking, bending, and squatting more fluid and free. Finally, Water Pump Qigong will allow us to look at the structural alignment in our legs and feet, adding to our physical awareness of stability and rooting.
This is the type of information you'll need to know for every Tai Chi or Qigong movement you learn. Your instructor or learning material should spell this out for you clearly and precisely for every single movement.
(I can hear the instructors out there right now. "You mean I can't teach a movement unless I know this much detail about its benefits? It would take forever for me to find all this out for what I teach!")
(My response: Yes, it's difficult and takes time, but the benefits to your teaching are worth it. I included this information for every single movement in the ChiFusion Complete Course, because good instructors owe it to their students. And it will also improve your students' confidence in their practice, like it does for ChiFusion students. So get to it!)
Make Sure You Are Practicing Regularly.
Some of your health problems may have been around quite some time. In addition, it takes repeated practice for PNI systems to become "habituated" (physically used to) regular doses of increased endocrine and immune secretions.
So as a result, regular practice is necessary. 10 minutes of practice daily is not the same as 20 minutes every other day, or 30 minutes every third day. While you may think that these practice schedules are equivalent, you'll notice benefits much more quickly in small daily doses rather than large weekly doses.
An analogy I've used before is brushing your teeth. Brushing your teeth two minutes a day is far better than fifteen minutes once a week!
Make Sure You've Customized the Movements to Your Body.
Let me be as blunt as possible: If your movements look exactly like your teacher's, or like the other students in the class, you are doing it wrong!
I make no compromise here. Every movement must be customized to your body. If not, at best you will delay any benefits from your practice. At worst, you'll cause injury or further aggravate any conditions you have.
The only way for you to notice benefits is for you to make sure your practices fit you like a glove! So how do you customize the movements? Quite simply, you need to ...
Make Sure You Are Following All Details Specified in the Course.
Every movement in ChiFusion Tai Chi and Qigong is accompanied by several "ChiFusion Details." These details tell you how to customize the movements, and also point out common pitfalls that can prevent you from seeing benefits from your practice.
Make sure you understand and practice every one of these details. It's better to limit your practice to a few movements that have all of these details in place, rather than practice a dozen (or a hundred!) movements in a sloppy fashion. So do not skip over any details, or skimp on your practice of any details.
As an example, Michael once mentioned on our Support Forum exactly that point. He told us of what happened when he learned to follow the details for one of our simplest exercises, Touch Heaven and Earth. "I must say", he wrote, "that even though the difference (spatially) was only an inch or so [in the placement of the hands], the sensation was quite different."
The old saying is that "horseshoes is a game of inches" - but as you'll notice when you start incorporating more and more ChiFusion Details into your practice, Qigong and Tai Chi are games of inches as well. And these inches may spell the difference between that works ... and Tai Chi that doesn't work!
Quite simply, the reason these details are in our ChiFusion course material is because they work! From our research backed by intensive research, testing, and feedback from masters, instructors, and students just like you, they are GUARANTEED to improve your health, relieve stress, and provide you with in-depth, advanced Chi development quickly and easily.
Of course, that only happens if you are serious about your practice and you actually do them! Don't expect to see benefits if you sign up for the ChiFusion Complete Course, then let it languish on your hard drive or in your email!
Many people practice ChiFusion Tai Chi and Qigong for health, but are you certain your practice is bringing you benefits? To make sure you are getting benefits, actively look for improved health conditions, get the objective observations of your health care provider, and look for body signals after your practice.
If that doesn't work, check your practice to make sure it's regular, customized, and detailed. Use the above checklist. If you do, you'll know that ChiFusion Tai Chi and Qigong is bringing you the benefits you want - and that you have Tai Chi that works!
As always, you have my best wishes for Chi Development,