Thursday, December 17, 2015

Tai Chi Walking

Like many I have a desk job, but I enjoy walking during a break or lunch.  I’ve walked regularly for years, but the years have taken its toll on my body.  Despite regular walks I was still experiencing significant stiffness (I suspect a combination of prolonged sitting and arthritis) and just wasn’t feeling as refreshed as I thought I should from taking a walk.  This has lead me to explore ways to enhance my regular walks and among these was to explore Tai Chi.

First, I want to make perfectly clear that I make no claims of Tai Chi expertise; in fact to the contrary I characterize myself has an extremely rudimentary beginner.  I realize that there will be many Tai Chi professionals (and those that think they are) who are rolling their eyes with a doubtful smirk when a novice such as myself expresses ideas deviating from the purity of the discipline.  Regardless, I tend to think that more often not, it is far better to try to do something new than to continue to do the same thing and get the same results.

Here are my reflections in regards to applying Tai Chi principals to walking:

1.  Gather ideas.  Tai Chi videos or classes are a great way to start.  At the beginning of my quest, I purchased 3 DVDs and before doing, I watched with contemplation.  First, I wanted to gain exposure to the range of movements and concepts being taught.  Next, I wanted to envision if or how these movements and concepts could be adapted within a walk.

2.  Breathing – more specifically, mindful breathing while walking.  In my observations, breathing was an important ingredient to the practice of Tai Chi.  Similarly, breathing techniques such as deep breathing (and frankly rethinking an appreciation of breath) have become a welcome addition to my walks.

3.  Posture – In my previous walks, I recognize that I was programmed to try to conserve as much energy as possible (maybe so I could walk further?)  Hindsight can be 20-20 and this is one illustration as now in looking back, I think this made no sense.   After all, if your goal is to conserve energy you might as well just stay sitting in your chair; my major purpose for walking was for exercise.  Typically, I’d let my arms hang and my frame may slouch somewhat into a slumber like walk.  In my recent walks, I pay greater attention to posture and often posture is linked to breathing whereby pulling in those deep breaths and exhaling helps to keep my chest out, shoulders pulled back a little and spine aligned.

4.  Fluid arm movements.  One of the most striking aspects of Tai Chi that I have observed is the fluidity of arm movements.  In past walks, my arms were hanging (once again conserving energy).  Presently, my walks include a plethora of arm movement and stretching of the trunk.  This may include extending the arms out and walking for short stints letting isometrics work their magic or arm circles or “air” push-ups or other assorted motions of the hands including stretching the fingertips by making a fist then releasing.  I’ll be the first to state that to do this you need to move past worrying what others may think.  Yes, there will be people who may think you are strange or have a tic disorder… so be it.  As a cautionary note:  aside from building your self-confidence when you integrate arm movements into your walk, you must remain somewhat mindful of your environment so that you don’t accidentally smack another walker or jogger while extending your arms.  I try to gauge stints within the walk where I’m comfortably away from others to perform my arm movements.

5.  Neck rolls and gentle neck & shoulder massage.  Work can be tense; don’t forget to incorporate being good to yourself in your walk.

6.  (Bonus:  I did not learn this tip from Tai Chi) Alter your pace or your steps.  This could be doing a short stint of “high” stepping or quick walking or even a very short jogging stint to stretch your legs differently and/or to build in some cardio vascular benefit to your walk.

 Happy walking!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments are appreciated. Please note that comments are moderated, but will generally be published if on topic and free from excessive profanity or hostility.