My first exposure to tai chi chuan was just after high school through a friend who studied with Batan (a student to Cheng's) at Naropa College. I continued to work with a few basic moves until I studied Wu style (Cheng's is Yang) with Joyce Baronio. Most recently have began with Chen style at the Great Nature Cultural Center with Erik Oliva. Because I have only dabbled in the practice, I have yet to realize full benefit. I suffer from a mis-alignment in my upper back, repeated shoulder injuries, and excessive thinking and emotional energy in my head. It is easy to see how my lack of dedication to tai chi chuan resulted in a too much "upward energy" in my body. Granted, I have also studied other martial arts, especially goju ryu harate. I had also studied tae kwan do as a kid and have been studying wing chun when the opportunity allows to see my teacher. These things have deepened my understanding of tai chi. Plus, I was not just being lazy besides - I study and practice herbology (Cheng was also an herbalist and those who are studying should read his book) and shiatsu and have otherwise been busy with life. But, it is precisely the business of life that requires a dedication to tai chi.
Every week someone asks me about remedies to help with sleep. Anxiety is another very common ailment that people approach me about, as they have not found relief otherwise. Many people turn to herbs after the pharmaceuticals fail, adn I am quite happy to see this for in my opinion anti-anxiety drugs are under the same dark cloud as other mid-altering and pain killing pharmaceuticals. These are dangerous drugs and should be avoided. Many times herbs will provide benefit, but we still need to get at the root of the problem. These conditions, as well as anger, frusration, headaches, hypertension, and lung disorders are the result of chi rising in the body rather than "sinking into the bones" where it nourishes and regulates the vital functions and great health.
Over ninety percent of people who come to me to receive shiatsu (acupressure) treatments complain of upper back, shoulder, and/or neck stiffness, tension, and pain. This also is due to not sinking the chi. How will these folks, including myself, recover? My thinking is that tai chi chuan must be an essential part of recovery. Along with proper diet, herbal remedies, and lifestyle the practice of tai chi chuan can help restore the depleted body. (Even lower back problems are the result of chi rising, as the lower back and belly is the center of nourishment when the chi is sunk into the belly. When the chi fails to nourish this area, lower back weakness is a possible result.) Fortunately, one begins to learn about sinking the chi with the first class.
When the body relaxes and chi sinks to the point below the belly button, the "sea of chi" or tan tien, the tendons also relax and the chi and blood and flow freely through the body. This promotes health and healing, including a centered mind.