Wednesday, 21 November 2018

Tai Chi - Yin and Yang

You may have heard of Yin & Yang but what do they really mean and what do they have to do with our practice of Tai Chi.

Firstly, we should say that the philosophy and cultural influence of Yin & Yang go back a long way in Chinese history, well over 2000 years to around 400 BCE, and probably a good way beyond that.

Yin 阴 means the “shady side” of a hill and Yang 阳 means the “sunny side” of a hill. A simple observation of a nature, the earth and the sun. Something we can all relate to. We often try to buy a house or plot of land with a south facing aspect to benefit from the year round sunshine.

When Yin & Yang combine we get Tàijí 太极 - literally meaning “great polarity or supreme ultimate.”

Nowadays Tàijí often gets simplified to ‘Tai Chi’ in the west and has become commonly used as a short hand for the martial art Tàijíquán  太极拳 - meaning Supreme Ultimate Boxing Art.
The Tai Chi diagram - Tàijítú 无极 - The interplay of Yin & Yang
Tàijítú 无极 - The interplay of Yin & Yang

As a concept Tàijí decribes Yin & Yang as ever moving and changing, one into the other, like day into night, in a dynamic and evolving creative process.

Tàijí springs forth from Wújí 无极 - meaning without polarity or, more simply, voidness, nothingness, without limits or bounds.

The ubiquitous symbol of Tàijí the Tàijítú 无极 diagram represents, simultaneously, both Wújí (monism) and Tàijí (dualism). Stillness with movement or, of a constant issuing forth before eventually returning back to beginnings. So, we have this very paradoxical concept of Dual-Monism.

In modern terms we could think of Wújí, such as that state which came before the 'Big Bang' and Tàijí as the ever evolving and expanding universe. This of course includes all the rich diversity of life evolving on earth, including human beings.

What has this to do with the health exercises we practice in our classes such as the Tai Chi for Health programs of Dr Paul Lam and the Tai Chi for Health Institute?

We explain and demonstrate how the principles of Yin & Yang and the philosophical underpinnings of Wújí & Tàijí play out as one practices the sequences, we teach you how to balance the opposing yet complementary forces of the Yin Yang principles within ourselves, via our posture, our balance and the work of our muscles.

The more we practice, the more we can positively influence this interplay of Yin & Yang to refine our ‘form’ and enjoy the deeper health benefits of this wonderful exercise system from China.

If you think someone you know, a friend or member of your family, might like to read this short blog post, then please do share.

Helen and I look forward to seeing you in one of our classes or workshops.