Category Archives: Practice

Evolution of practice, Creating Personal practice and practice in general

Tai Chi Principles

By Jace Lee

When it comes to training, not just in the martial arts but with any art or sport involving movement, practicing movements slowly is crucial to refining movement and creating indelible strength and coordination through the movement. By moving slowly and relaxed, all the muscles involved have an easier time coordinating and remaining balanced. This also programs the entire movement into the brain, so when it is performed fast, it is perfect. Being relaxed through movement makes sure that muscles that aren’t involved in the movement remain relaxed. In a martial arts situation, when punching, the arm is completely relaxed until contact is made. This is so that there is no interference in the movement, tension will slow down the punch and power will be lost.

Relaxation, a very underrated practice, is crucial to everything, not just Tai Chi and martial arts. To remain relaxed through movements means increased stamina, less effort exerted, faster movement and more joy moving through life in general. There is a Tai Chi term called Sung, it means sinking. When it is experienced, it literally feels as if your body is sinking or melting. This is accompanied by a feeling of stillness and relief. Once you experience it you can use it to reach stillness. Experiencing Shung is not difficult, but it can be tricky. You have to imagine and try to feel what you imagine, your body sinking. Also, through practicing relaxation, it can just happen. Once you have it, then stillness must be cultivated. Through Shung you should work to be able to call stillness up whenever you want.  Just to note, this alone can be life changing. Relaxation doesn’t have to stop here, it can get down right euphoric. Relaxation is also a crucial part of feeling and moving Chi and releasing tension.

Once you find stillness it is time to stand. It is through standing that we start to meld mind and body. At first standing is practiced to strengthen our foundation but mostly to scan the body, release tension and find proper alignment. This scanning the body is the same as the technique I use to get people to feel their Chi, increase the feeling and increase the mind-body connection. Once you can feel stillness while standing and you start to feel as if you are floating and it seems effortless to hold up your arms; this is where you start to see how Chi moves the body.

You see, being relaxed cultivates Chi by increasing sensitivity to it and allowing a greater flow. But when it comes to cultivating Chi and making it stronger, we must use it. When cultivating Chi through movement, first the Chi must be felt and some level of movement must be achieved because one must be able to move Chi before being able to move the body with Chi. This is one of the reasons why Tai Chi is performed slowly, it takes a lot of though, visualization and concentration to move an entire body using only Chi. So, at first, the mind moves very slow. But most people never really make it to this point. I really can’t think of anyone else teaching how to move the body using Chi. I think I may be one of the few. I also teach how to use Chi as strength. This adds great power to any physical activity and cultivates Chi majorly. Tai Chi also cultivates Chi by coordinating movement with the breath. Then eventually that breath will drive the Chi and move the body.

Tai Chi is relatively simple in theory and principle. Relaxation, slow coordinated movements alone can have a huge impact on a person. By strengthening balance and coordination, moving through life becomes much easier. Tension and pain is also released. All this gives the practitioner a sense of peace and tranquility. It is this state of mind that truly is the main cause of these benefits are. The mind is the root of our lives, if negative thoughts can destroy our bodies and our lives then positive thoughts can have a reverse effect. The practice of Tai Chi and also Qigong and meditation, is that they are cultivating a relaxed and peaceful mind, the body and your life are reflections of your mind.

There you have it! These are the core foundational principles that make Tai Chi such an effective and beneficial art form. With relaxation, slow refined movement and fast, Chi cultivation and mind-body connection cultivation, how can you go wrong. Well, it depends on the goal. Now, I want you to look at those principle’s and forget you know Tai Chi. These principles can be any movement, that is, any properly aligned movement. My point is, it is not so much Tai Chi that is so beneficial, it is the way it is practiced. I am not trying to get people to forget about Tai Chi, I am trying to get people to see how Tai Chi, Qigong, etc., doesn’t end when your form does. Every step and every move become Tai Chi or Qigong. These principles can also be applied to any sport or physical art or dance. When it comes to mastery one must strive for perfection in every millimeter of movement.

The Importance of Centering and Alignment

To feel centered is what my Sensei called absolute joy.  Even though that may be a bit overstated, it is a joy.  When you can feel relaxed and comfortable in your body and as if you can move in any direction at any time, it gives you a feeling of strength and power, like you are a kung fu master that can take on 10 men or dance with a man or woman like they never knew possible.  For me, that puts a smile on my face. Also, there are times when I find the right alignment and centering, and it just clicks. When this happens, there is a feeling of emptiness and stillness, my body becomes totally relaxed and I don’t ever want to move. This is certainly a cause for joy.

Well, that is not the only benefit to being centered.  It’s about moving through life comfortably, feeling like you can take on anything and not having to worry about injury.  When it comes to the mind and how it affects the body feeling centered is definitely a symbiotic relationship between mind and body.  When they are both centered the outward expression of each is increased 10-fold.

Now combine that with being strong and flexible within proper alignment of the body and you have a recipe for a cocktail I like to call, the Jackie Chan. Being able to move through life overcoming and accomplishing anything with light-hearted humor. Every martial artist needs to be centered, strong and flexible in order to be fast, move through any position and not worry about injury.  For me I want to be like this in life, without the fighting. Sometimes life is enough of a fight. Or it’s good for keeping up with your kids.

Either way, being centered and strong in alignment and add being relaxed and you have yourself a recipe for a long awesome life.  And when you are in a place like that, the body uses less energy because when all your muscles are working together, they work less, and this also gives you more power to your movements.  Your whole body will feel more relaxed and pain free because you won’t be putting any unnecessary stress on any part of the body.  Now if you incorporate some Chi work and connecting mind to the body, then you will be able to move with the lightness of a mere thought.

Just know this, you don’t have to get to that perfection of centered and aligned to feel centered like a kung fu master. Once you find your center and feel it, then it becomes an evolving journey of deepening that sense of centeredness.  Meaning that you can have that feeling while working to perfect it.  Awesome!  So, keep practicing and get to that center and alignment, enjoy your joy and kick ass everyday!

Evolution of the Self, Your Body and Life as Your Guides

In order to evolve towards something you need a goal.  There are many goals when it comes to Yoga, you can work towards health and well-being, total flexibility or self-mastery.  Even trying to achieve success in life can be a yogic pursuit.  The first two can be goals in themselves or what happens naturally through the practice of Yoga towards self-mastery.  But self-mastery is a very subjective term and can have many sides and possibilities.

At least we know that there is at least one constant; you, the self.  But you have to ask yourself, what do I want, what am I working towards?  Then you have something to work towards and evolve with.  More specifically the teachings presented in this blog and in Living Yoga are working towards getting you healed and working towards mastery.  When it comes to these two things there is an evolution and a progression of practice that ensues.  This may come naturally through just practicing but if you are working towards something then your practice becomes deeper and more dynamic.

For example, theoretically, you take classes at your local or favorite Yoga studio and you learn new movements and possibly some of their principles and you read about Yoga and it’s good.  But do you gain a true understanding of it, are you working towards something?  The point here is that when you work towards something you are more engaged, more motivated and progress much faster.

Your goal is getting healed, this means opening the body, finding your center, becoming strong and flexible in both.  This also entails work on an emotional level and a mental level and possibly on a spiritual level.  This is where your body and life becomes your guide.  Now before you get over whelmed by how long this might take just know that it won’t.  Mostly it depends on what you need to work on and how much time you put in.  The beauty of it is that when you are in it and making great progress, you aren’t thinking about the goal and soon you end up there and more.  Whatever you do don’t get a big head and think you are enlightened because we all always have more to learn no matter how far on our journey we are and there is always something to be learned from anyone.

The strange thing about the evolution of the self is that anyone can come across your path and bring something out of you that you need to face; if you can see it, understand it and overcome it, you will make it to the next level.  If not that same issue is going to keep coming up until you face it.  That is part of your evolutionary journey to self-mastery.  Seeing what is impeding your progress in your yoga and your pursuit of happiness and success.

Everyone’s path is different, for some reason I have to learn everything the hard way.  For me I have a natural inclination towards impatience and worry and has been a tough road, especially since my life can be very complicated and uncertain.  But these have also been great learning tools for me and what I want to do in my life.  Sometimes hardship is there to teach us something.  As I want to be a healer, it seems that I must endure and over come every manner of ailment and learn from the experience so that I may be better equipped to help others in the same way.

You on the other hand may just want to work your career and progress in your practice and live a great life.  As you evolve in your practice you will find new things that need your attention.  This is where your life and body becomes your guide.

With your body, as you get more in touch with it you will see more and more what needs to be done to get you to that place of feeling centered, aligned and moving with relaxed effortlessness.  You may also find emotional traumas or stress trapped in your body and muscles.  Literally the chemicals and hormones associated with emotion get stuck in your body.  As you release them you may experience them again.  Just breathe, relax and let go.

With life there may be certain behaviors and thought patterns that are impeding your success in relationships with others and in life or your career.  The key here is too be aware of your thoughts and actions and how they affect others and your life.  Your life is literally a reflection of who you are just like your body is a reflection or expression of your mind.

Thigs in your life may be going very well, it is when you take on a pursuit of bettering yourself to succeed at being the best human possible that life will start throwing everything you need to overcome to gain that success.  So if something bad happens don’t get down, see it as an opportunity for improvement.  Even if it seems like someone else’s fault, still look to yourself and see if maybe your actions caused any reactions in others.

The brighter side of learning from your body and life is that when you are in a good place and progressing in your practice you may be gifted a technique or movement or pose that can help you reach the next phase of your journey.  For this just stay positive, be spontaneous and open to possibility.  Or when you are ready a person will come into your life and teach you exactly what you needed to know or were looking for.  Remember teachings and healings can take many forms, so be open and aware.

Even if you come to a place of feeling healed, centered, aligned, relaxed, focused and pain free the same principles apply to further healing and mastery in your arts and life.  So find a goal, work towards healing and self-mastery to find happiness and success in your life.  Because when we are happy everything is awesome.  Figure out what is blocking you or what you need to learn to get there.

Goals of Yoga, Don’t Just Practice, Practice to Mastery


The goals of Yoga might be an easy question to answer but with the many forms of yoga we have today it might be tougher to answer.  Truly it all depends on what you want to achieve.  In the pursuit of mastery, personal growth, health and wellness and even enlightenment anything you do can be considered a yogic practice.  You may hate me for saying that because it adds so many other arts to the already long list of variations, approaches and pathways that are possible with Yoga.  I say this because I want to expand your perspective horizons of what yoga is and can be.  By doing this you can add more possibilities to reaching your goals.

You may ask, why not put yoga into any other categories?  Well a lot of other arts are very specialized and although somewhat similar, don’t have the wide range of possibilities refined over thousands of years that yoga has.  To be straight forward the main goal of yoga is enlightenment and meditation is necessary to achieve that.  There are so many aspects of yoga because we are complicated beings and only one approach is not enough especially when dealing with cultivating the body, mind and spirit.  Everyone is different, living different lives with different experiences and with different bodies, so the same yoga is not the best for everyone.  So how do you know what to practice?  Lucky for you that is easy, your body and your life are your guides.  You are your own guru, following your heart and intuition to know what to practice next.

Using your body as a guide to practice is a process of getting in touch with your body and figuring out what you need to do to get to a place of centeredness, proper alignment, opening the body, increasing strength and flexibility.  These are all goals to work towards on a physical level.  Standing is a great way to see what is out of balance in your body and what is impeding you from holding a relaxed, balanced and comfortable stance; this is a form of standing meditation -an important foundation for yoga and internal martial arts.  This is the first step of letting your body guide you.  Then as you progress into other poses and stretches you find other muscles and areas that either need stretching or strengthening.  In order to lengthen muscles and open areas you may need to use alternative methods other than yoga.  Massage is very helpful; it increases circulation and expedites the time it takes to stretch a muscle.  And there is movement, movement also increases circulation and strengthens on a greater range of motion than yoga.  I prefer to use dance for my movements.

As for mental goals for yoga, this is simple.  You want to create a strong and focused mind that is clear of chatter; peaceful.  This is one of the benefits of mediation and that alone can change your life and your body.  A relaxed mind is a relaxed body.  Meditation doesn’t necessarily mean sitting meditation.  Meditation is simply the practice of concentrating the mind on a task to increase mental strength and focus.  I find that the best beginning meditations are focusing on relaxation and the breath, eventually one becomes both.  These you can do anytime or while you practice yoga, this is incredibly beneficial, I can’t stress that enough.  The more relaxed you are the faster your muscles can release and the faster your progress.  Before you start to practice anything you want to be relaxed, breathing, centered, the whatever you do will be easier and you will learn incredibly fast.

Spiritual goals, well, usually this means practicing to be a good person.  I like to uphold love and truth as my pillars of practicing wisdom to gain wisdom.  But when I think of a spiritual practice I think of it in a more literal sense, actually practicing spirit.  Once you can feel and practice Chi/Prana and understand its relationship to the mind then you are truly practicing your spirit for they are connected.  You the observer use the mind to control Chi with imagination and visualization.  It is really that simple, if you can think you are moving spirit.  So be careful what you think about and how often.  When using it in and on the body or to move the body or to heal the body, then you are practicing mind, body and spirit as one.  This is a spiritual goal.  To make this into your every move and every moment, is a great achievement of mastery.

Remember this, the mind and spirit are one.  They are made of the same material.  Your mind whatever you think becomes your meditation, your practice; so be careful what you think about and how often. If you think angry thoughts it will be detrimental.  Think good thoughts and feel good.  This because the mind affects your body and your life.

Chi can easily be used to expedite your path to your center, proper alignment and the opening of the body.  When focusing on using your Chi with visualization to affect change in the body you are meditating.  What better meditation than to focus on cultivating spirit and healing yourself.

First goal of yoga, get centered, build awareness in the body, work towards proper alignment and strengthening it until it becomes relaxed and natural.  When it comes to mastering anything, there are techniques to practice to proficiency and parfection before moving on.  Start simple and build upon and gently pushing the boundaries of your limits.

Today we mostly just practice yoga and sometimes some breathing exercises (pranayamas) are incorporated or a gimmicky concept.  There is no real progression, starting simple and working towards more difficult techniques.  Take note, just because you learned a difficult technique doesn’t mean it is bringing you closer to mastery.  The thing is that there are a lot of techniques and they all have specific purposes, make sure that the techniques you learn are something that you need for your evolving practice.  As you progress you may not need certain techniques and new ones will come along.

For example, a lot of yoga schools teach fancy pranayamas that seem cool and make you feel like you are practicing yoga but what is it really doing for you in the moment and the long term.  Always start simple and build upon that, like mastering the yogi complete breath and yogi rhythmic breathing before jumping into more advanced breathing techniques.  Also working to get the breath to become natural on a simple level will help you greatly in feeling more relaxed and alert throughout your life when you are not on the mat and in everything you practice.

So don’t just practice yoga, work towards your ultimate self, centered and aligned, focused and relaxed, mind body spirit connected.  Then you can move on to deepen your yoga practice or practice and master other arts or live a good long healthy life.  Get in touch with your body, figure out what it needs, figure out what you want and practice.


Importance of Rest

When it comes to progress rest is just important as practice.  Even I when I really get into my practice can overdo it.  That is when the practice starts to impede progress.  When you first start training I would say that rest is most important because your body is weaker and more vulnerable to injury.  If you become sore, just wait until your body heals and practice some meditation or chi exercises.

Personally I tend to push the limits of my body and after a session I can feel worse, tighter, less flexible and the parts I worked on also feel tight and sore.  I find that once I wait a couple of days the work I did has a chance to set in and once I’m healed I realize that I am stronger, more flexible and made great progress.  You see this is why we need rest.

When you have been practicing for longer the body may not need as long to recover.  Also like I said you can switch up your work out to concentrate on certain parts of the body while others rest.  So be patient, practice hard and let your body rest and recover and come back stronger.