Professional and amateur athletes are under pressure to deliver and maintain a high level of performance. This often leads to them pushing themselves to their physical limits, resulting in increased stress and anxiety. Many turn to cross-training, which at times causes their body and mind even more stress. Some athletes have plateaued, some are stuck in a rut, while others are recovering from injury and looking for new, less strenuous methods of training.
Given what you already know, it shouldn’t be surprising that Tai Chi can help improve athletic performance. And no special equipment is required.
Tai Chi accomplishes this in multiple ways. It teaches us how to relax through correct alignment of the body. It also teaches us how to use motion with little to no effort. This is important, because real power comes from relaxed motion, while true force comes from rooting into the earth and up through our relaxed bodies. The hands express what is happening in the Dan Tian. The Tai Chi Classics state that “the motion should be rooted in the feet, released through the legs, controlled by the waist and manifested through the fingers.” The eyes follow the hand movements as all parts move together. Sounds a lot like how baseball great Curt Schilling described throwing the perfect pitch.
When even one part of the body doesn’t follow the others, the body does not move as a unit. When you use the Tai Chi principles of body-alignment and movement, you can move with more power instead of wasting energy by holding in excess tension. Using effortless power refines your movements and releases any tension that you are holding, and the slow movements allow you to recognize where you have extra tension that is negatively affecting your movements and performance.
Tai Chi also improves focus, mental flexibility and awareness of your body in space, and thus improves our mind-body response time. Every swing, push or pull becomes a whole body movement, because the force is coming from our Dan Tian, or center of gravity. The result is quick and efficient reaction.
Looking for real-world examples? How about Tiger Woods, who practiced qigong early in life and still practices swinging from his Dan Tian? Or NBA great Robert Parish, who believed Tai Chi extended his career by helping him integrate the mind-body connection. Regular practice develops new neuromuscular pathways, which increase internal and external balance.
Whether you are a professional, semi-professional or even a weekend warrior, Tai Chi can help you achieve even greater athletic performance! You have nothing to lose and much to gain, so give it a try.