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Tai Chi’s Nine Steps to a Healthy Life

by Sifu Peter Newton(more info)

listed in chi energy martial arts, originally published in issue 231 - July 2016

You are probably thinking “Oh no, not another meaningless guide to something none of us are likely to be able do”. Well you would be wrong, because this is achievable through a few simple adjustments to your everyday life. After spending 35 years training in the ancient Chinese health arts of Tai Chi Chuan and Qigong, Sifu (teacher) Peter Newton has abstracted Nine Steps of Wisdom from his latest book Healthy and Fit with Tai Chi published by Findhorn Press, Scotland (www.findhornpress.com/healthy-and-fit-with-tai-chi ) that will “keep you on the healing ‘Middle Path’ of life.” 

For years Peter has applied what he calls ‘The Stripped Back Core Skills’ of the postures, body-mechanics and breathing methods of these popular healing arts to support his physical therapy work.  His customers include: Leonard Cheshire Acquired Brain Injury Unit, Parkinson’s UK and MIND mental health charity. His weekly health classes are attended by doctors, nurses, physiotherapists and a growing public who are keen to learn these simple life enhancing skills.  So here is your Essential Guide, straight from the sages and physicians of ancient China, to acquiring natural robust health, contentment and longevity:

Sifu Peter Newton

STEP ONE: What is my ‘Teh’?  To find your true and safe pathway in life the ancients recommend we get to know who we are in order to steer ourselves through life’s long and winding road. They say you should know your Teh (natural character), which exposes in a positive way your strengths and weaknesses. Excessive yin or yang personalities can be self-destructive if left to run unchecked (especially by themselves). For example, the excessive introverted, passive, timid yins are like black holes sucking the life-force (Qi) from those who encounter them. While the excessive extroverted, domineering and boisterous yangs drive everyone away with their volcanic like personalities. If you know who you are you can stay focussed on your strengths: aware yins make great listeners and creative thinkers, while aware yangs make great inspirational leaders.

STEP TWO: Breathe through the Nose.  For thousands of years the wise Chinese sages and physicians have stressed the importance of breathing through the nose. They say: “Qi (Life-force energy) enters the marrow through the nose and damages it through the mouth”. Nose breathing makes the breath longer (breathe long, live long), balanced and more refined. It treats the air on its journey to the lungs by filtering out pollutants and injects a respiration friendly gas called nitric oxide from the lining of the nasal passageways that kills harmful bacteria and stimulates a more efficient gas exchange deep in the lungs. The mouth does none of these things. Correct and natural long breathing is known to reduce stress, lower blood pressure, massage the organs, aid digestion, regulate cardiovascular efficiency and help us maintain a healthy hormone balance.

STEP THREE: ‘Suspend the Head from a Cloud’. Many people unwittingly hold their head in positions that is harmful to the body that lies below. However, when you lift the crown of the head as if you are try to touch the clouds, it has the effect of aligning the spine vertically with gravity, which in turn releases the diaphragm and diffuses potentially harmful pressures off the lower back, hips and knees. Those who fall into postural errors often find it difficult to understand why they are experiencing health problems in a particular zoned part of the body, for example, a collapsed midriff creates digestion issues. In a healthy body the shoulders, chest and pelvis are meant to be self-levelling and self-centring, stress and incorrect head positioning destroys this.  In addition, when you ‘Suspend the Head’ you are in fact ‘Standing Long’ in a posture.

Sifu Peter Newton

STEP FOUR: ‘Retain the Full Range of Motion in all Joints’.  Most adults lose increasing degrees of joint movement as the body grows older, or at least that is what we in the western world are programmed to believe. Although we do gradually lose our muscle mass as we get older, there is no logical reason why we should lose our joint mechanics. The message here is simple, a small reduction in joint movement creates a greater likelihood of developing Arthritis. However, this may not occur if every day you habitually move all your joints through their full range of natural motion. If your joints are hinge type (toe, finger, knee and elbow joints) then bend and straighten them. If your joints are multi-directional (wrists, shoulders, hips, ankles, spine and knuckle joints), then rotate, flex and extend them.    

Sifu Peter Newton

STEP FIVE: ‘Embrace the Healing Power Postures’.  These are special postures that are powerful in combatting a number of human health conditions. “The posture you adopt reflects mood and the mood you adopt reflects into your posture.”  An example of this is seen in the ‘Healing Power Postures’ chapter were you will find the powerful ‘Heaven Posture’, this combats depression and low self-esteem by elevating your spirit. Whereas, the great stabilizing: ‘Earth Posture’ is known to calm the hyperactive ‘Monkey Mind’. The ancient Chinese would stand still in one specific posture, or move through a combination of mixed power postures to help recover from ill health, change their mood or simply to make them physically strong.

STEP SIX: ‘Healthy Living Movement’. The Chinese also call this ‘The Art of Living’, which means to live your life consistently in harmony with nature (the Dao). My new book shows many examples of how to move the body ‘Naturally’ in everyday life for health enhancement.  The principle being to utilize the natural body-mechanics of Tai Chi every time you move your body when undertaking for example: bending, stretching, twisting, lowering the body to sit, raising from sitting, squatting, pulling, pushing, grasping, lifting, and lowering objects. From the moment you get up in the morning until you retire to bed at night, you should utilize these natural mechanics in daily tasks like: gardening, house chores such as brushing floors, vacuuming, wiping surfaces down, ironing, making the beds, opening and closing doors, curtains and even when cooking.

STEP SEVEN:  ‘Tai Chi’s Middle Path Walking’.  Walking is the one thing we do more than any other physical action and yet it is shocking how many people unknowingly adopt poor walking mechanics. The majority are totally oblivious of the damage this does to human health. Regular and correct walking is extremely beneficial to our minds and bodies, so here is a short healthy walking checklist for you to make a new start:

  1. Lift up the crown of the head and keep your eyes on the horizon, don’t look at the floor;
  2. Slightly raise and point the centre of the chest in the direction you wish to go;
  3. Open your armpits and swing both arms from the shoulder root;
  4. Use a full leg swing from the hip root;
  5. Relax the knees and let them flex naturally;
  6. Land the leading foot lightly on the heel;
  7. Roll along the sole of the foot to the tips of toes;
  8. Ensure your feet are pointing forward and not turning in or out;
  9. Maintain an approximately seven centimetre swinging gap between the feet;
  10. Encourage a spring in your step by pushing off the toes of the rear lifting foot.

STEP EIGHT: ‘Stillness for Health’.  This is the easiest healing power to find and yet it is the most underutilized. Stillness rejuvenates your cells, connects you to your body, lowers stress, clears and focusses the mind and strengthens the spirit. The question is “How do we find ‘Stillness’?” The answer is “You don’t find stillness, stillness finds you.” Stillness is classified as external and internal, external - is when you place yourself in an environment where stillness exists, for example on a mountain, or in your garden at dawn or at night. Internal stillness spontaneously appears when you ‘Do ‘Nothing’, ‘Think Nothing’, ‘Relax’ and ‘Breathe Long’.

STEP NINE: ‘Let Your Body Guide You’.  Now you have completed step 1 to 8, your body will be clear and able to transmit its essential messages through its neuro pathways and Qi circuitry. The Chinese call this “a body that is at one with itself”. Without this clarity of mind and body, a condition known as the ‘False Brain’ can and often does exist. This is where a structurally misaligned body becomes so accepted by the brain that when corrections are made to place the body into a healthier posture, the brain thinks correct is wrong and wrong is right. To ‘let your body guide you’, you must start listening to its subliminal internal messages, which become clearer the more you move to becoming ‘One’ with yourself. These messages will tell you when to: eat, drink, sleep, wake, work, rest, make love and even when to go to the toilet. A posture malfunctioning body clouds the mind, which suppresses your inner messages creating a negative and destructive condition the Chinese call ‘Stagnation of Essential Qi’. This is where the body is pleading with you to perform its key health sustaining physical and metabolic functions and the clouded conscious mind is unable to hear.

Final Note: Remember at all times avoid doing anything too ‘Extreme’. Find the ‘Middle Path Way’ through life and you will be happier and potentially live longer. The Dao (the force of nature) is within all of us and her message and voice is loud and clear. She wants you to be healthy, contented and to enjoy an active fulfilling life. You in return must clear all the obstacles that suppresses her voice and guidance: poor posture, poor body mechanics, lack of physical activity, high stress levels, overactive monkey mind and uncontrolled emotions.

Comments:

  1. Ann Fillmore said..

    He's right on. I've taught Tai Chi for seniors for twenty years and have been witness to some of the most egregious practices now going on in the health field here as regards to exercise. (eg: Tai Chi for Better Balance taken up by the CDC and touted as a 'cure-all' for the aged when it does nothing - even hurts students.) Sifu Newton has described excellent ways to 'do' Tai Chi without even 'doing' Tai Chi - the walking technique is one I use and is vital to any lesson in Tai Chi. And we are in agreement that 98% of Tai Chi, and life itself is in the use of ENERGY/ CHI. Excellent article. Thank you.


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About Sifu Peter Newton

Sifu Peter Newton is author of the book: Healthy and Fit with Tai Chi  (Findhorn Press 2015.) Peter commenced his training in 1980 with a Kung Fu school in North Wales (UK) Learning Wing Chun, Qigong and Tai Chi including weapons training. In 1982 Peter was introduced to the ITCCA (International Tai Chi Chuan Association) headed by Master Chu King Hung. Peter trained with Master Chu King Hung for six years and then continued his training with Master Michael Tse (Tse Qigong Centre), and then Master Yang Jwing Ming (YMAA). As an instructor Peter has been assessed to teach by County Councils, Health Authorities and the Police. He is also a long standing registered Senior Instructor with the 'Tai Chi Union for Great Britain'. In 2009 Peter was made an honorary Vice-President of the TCUGB in recognition of his work in promoting and teaching Tai Chi and Qigong. Peter is guiding the China Bridge Centre, further and deeper into the mechanics of Tai Chi and Qigong, emphasising how the combination of posture and mechanics, in stillness and motion, enhance human health. He may be contacted via chinabridge_taichi@yahoo.co.uk and the China Bridge Centre - www.chinabridgetaichi.co.uk.

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