Wednesday, August 27, 2014
Tai Chi Reflections: Why Stretching is Important
By De Anna Beasley
I enjoy an active lifestyle. This past spring I played softball for the first time since I was twelve, started running twice a week and thanks to this past summer’s World Cup mania I’m seriously toying with the idea of joining a soccer league. My Tai Chi training has been very helpful in these activities. I’ve noticed that I’m more aware of my body mechanics and breathing. I’ve also enjoyed mentally looking for Tai Chi principles in each activity. For example, remembering to move from the center really helped to improve my softball swing!
I appreciate Tai Chi the most is when it comes to stretching. I’m not the most flexible person in the world and in the past, stretching was by far the most neglected aspect of my training. I decided to fix that by fully committing to a regular stretching routine. At the Columbia Tai Chi Center, we have a series of joint loosening, active and static stretches. Instructors often lead students through one or two series of exercises before starting form practice. Sometimes (and these are my favorite classes) we spend the entire class time going through all three exercise series. I leave class feeling more open and feel especially happy when I can sink deeper into a posture during form practice. Sifu often reminds us of the importance of having a regular stretching routine. It helps keep our joints and muscles healthy as we age. It can also help prevent injuries or reduce recovery time when our active lifestyles get the best of us.
I’m happy to say I can now touch my toes (something that was impossible six years ago) and I hope to one day achieve a full split. All it’ll take is taking a moment after a run, a game or form practice to stretch and open the body.