Effective Practice revisited

After our last post, one of our students brought a podcast that touches on how our brains learn to our attention.  Bill sent us a link to a Bulletproof episode that contains an interview with Anat Baniel.  She talks about nine steps that can be followed for peak brain and body performance.  

The podcast is longer (about an hour) but the last half may be interesting to taiji practitioners.  She outlines a few of her steps and talks about how they are effective.  Around minute 31, she begins to talk about mindfulness in movement.  Allowing time to observe the body and what it is doing provides time to process and react.  

Variations are also a part of her system.  They allow the brain to work on movements and allow change to happen within an action, slowly and over time.  Changing movements can help you focus on the task at hand because you do things less automatically.

She also talks about slowing movements down to allow the brain to wake up and process. Keeping a slower speed can help the brain process and change the motion in a way that wouldn't be possible at higher speeds.

Reducing force is another step of hers.  She argues that the greater force a movement has, the more force is needed for the practitioner to register the need to change and slows the ability to respond.  

taiji practice_durham NC

While I'm paraphrasing much her her information, it is an interesting conversation that is not about taiji at all.  Baniel works with movement to treat neurological problems and rehabilitate injuries.  Yet, if you listen, you'll hear a great argument for many of the basic practices in taijiquan!  

(I would suggest picking it up around minute 31 if you want to take the time! :-)

Thanks Bill!!!  We're happy to find new things through our students and our conversations on here!

(Link: https://blog.bulletproof.com/nine-essential-steps-peak-brain-body-performance-anat-baniel-394/)

Effective Practice

Knowing how to practice and what to practice is really important in advancing any skill you are trying to learn. An interesting TED Ed video, forwarded by one of our students (thanks!!), has some great points to consider while constructing your practice for any skill.  

You'll notice a little taiji thrown into this.  Can you pick out taiji's favorite advice in this list?  

All of these apply to our practice!  Tells us what helps your practice or how this might influence your habits moving forward.

How To Practice Effectively, According To Science

Practice is a physical activity, of course, but it's also hard mental work — if you're doing it right. A new video published by TED Ed gets down to the scientific nitty-gritty of what good practice looks like, and what it does to your brain. (Think axons and myelin, not "muscle memory" — muscles don't have "memory.")
As Annie Bosler and Don Greene, the creators of this TED Ed lesson, point out, this advice can apply to everything from music to sports. They define effective practice as "consistent, intensely focused and target[ing] content or weaknesses that lie at the edge of one's current abilities." That's another way of saying: Don't waste your time practicing the stuff you already know, just to fill up those minutes.
More of their specific advice, with each point bolstered by research:

Read more here: http://www.npr.org/sections/deceptivecadence/2017/03/06/518777865/the-most-practical-tips-for-practicing-according-to-science

Movement practice to create change

taiji-stance

It seems this year is a time to talk of change!  The new year brought the typical new year resolutions but, for some, it also brought a mindset towards enacting change in wider communities.  Some movements for change involve using various physical movement practices to help enact and create change in ever widening pools of interaction.  There are examples of techniques like this being used for physically empowering women and children, bringing communities into harmony with each other, and building teamwork. 

One specific example of this is the "Move to End Violence" group.  Norma Wong has a discussion of their stance and physical practice here: http://www.movetoendviolence.org/blog/discussing-stance-and-physical-practice-with-norma-wong/ 

Practices such as this provide a window into exploring how your practice of taijiquan influences not only your physical life but also your mental reaction and experience of life and the experiences around you.  

Possible thoughts to explore, discuss and consider?

  • How does connection with breath affect your taiji practice?  Do you use the focus on that breath to center you mind in other places in your life?
  • How does practicing a relaxed yet alert physical state influence your physical presence through the rest of your day?  Can you feel any influence of the alert relaxation in your mental reactions to situations around you?
  • Does practicing slow deliberate movement forward, back, left and right help you be more agile in your daily movements?  Do you find yourself more willing to explore different directions in your view of the world around you?
simple_Tai_Chi_mindful_Practice

All or none of these things may apply to you and your practice!  What other things do you feel influenced by your practice.  Do you feel the outside changing the inside?  

How has your practice changed you?  Is it stronger legs?  Better balance?  A relaxed, amused approach to the jerk down the hall? Join us in the discussion by posting a comment below!