ChiWalking: Fitness Walking for Lifelong Health and Energy

Notes

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T’ai Chi, creating balance is both the means and the goal. The same is true for ChiWalking. For instance, you can create energetic balance in your life (the goal) by creating balance in your body with an aligned spine, a balanced walking form, and a great program (the means).

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The power that drives our movement should come from what in Pilates is called the powerhouse and what we call in T’ai Chi your dantien.

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By aligning your spine, engaging your core muscles, and relaxing everything else, you tap into an infinite source of chi.

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NEEDLE IN COTTON: GATHER TO YOUR CENTER AND LET GO OF ALL ELSE

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In ChiWalking, your spine is the needle and your shoulders and arms, hips, and legs are the cotton. The more energy you gather in toward your center—your needle—the more you must let go of holding any energy in your extremities and imagine them to be as light and airy as cotton.

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Always keep in mind that your center is the origin of all your movement and your arms and legs are extensions of your center.

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We get muscle tension and stiffness when our muscles do the work that our skeleton should be doing. Most backaches come from poor posture and overworked muscles. It is important to align your entire body as well as your spine. When aligning yourself during walking, the best and simplest rule to follow is this: have as many parts of your body as possible moving in the same direction that you are.

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What is interesting about balance is that it means that there is a center and that things move around that center. You can’t create balance without having a center. When your core is engaged, the next step is to create balanced movement around that core. Creating balance is in many respects an ongoing and consistent consciousness of where your center lies.

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When you’re mentally or emotionally out of balance, you pull the plug on your available energy resources. Worrying about the future or obsessing about the past are two ways you can throw yourself off balance from your connection with the present, which is your center.

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the best decisions are made when your body is included in the process of making a choice.

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Here are the five Chi-Skills: Focusing Body Sensing Flexibility Breathing Consistency These Chi-Skills are unique in that they contain both the process and the goal. For example, the more you focus your mind (process), the more you become a focused person (goal).

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When your mind wanders, you will refocus it on your movement. Every time you refocus, you’re building your mind’s muscles. So your job is not to stay focused, because you won’t for very long, but to refocus your mind over and over.

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Build your life brick upon brick. Live a life of truth, And you will look back on a life of truth. Live a life of fantasy, And you will look back on delusion. —Deng Ming-Dao, 365 Daily Tao Meditations

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Gradual Progress is a universal law that applies to all things and in every situation. It says that everything must follow a simple pattern of growth, starting small and gradually increasing in size until it becomes its mature size.

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Don’t limit yourself as to when you practice your ChiWalking focuses. Get creative and practice your focuses regularly so that they become second nature to you. Look for ways you can use them throughout your day, and you’ll have the beginnings of living a mindful life.

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When you begin walking, commit to exercising four days a week or every other day at least. When you’re learning something new, it helps to have your practice sessions somewhat close together so that you’re not starting from scratch with the learning process each time you go out.

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Master Xu, my T’ai Chi teacher, says that your pelvis is like a bowl holding water. When it tilts down in front, all of your water (your chi) will spill out. So keep it level and you’ll gather energy to your center (dantien ).

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A good way to remember to hold your posture straight and your pelvis level is to imagine your body making the shape of the letter C. Your spine is straight, your chin is down, and your pelvis is coming up in front. C is for Core strength, Centeredness, and having a Container for your Chi, all of which come from leveling your pelvis. If you don’t level your pelvis, your C is reversed and you spill your chi.

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A trick that I use to remember to watch my posture is to set my watch to beep once an hour. When it goes off I do a quick posture adjustment and continue on with my day. If you don’t have an alarm of some kind, you can use main transitions in your day to remind yourself to check in with your posture:

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Stride length and cadence are some of the major differences between ChiWalking and ChiRun-ning. For those of you who have practiced ChiRunning, you will note that it is just the opposite with running. Your cadence always stays the same and your stride length changes as you increase or decrease your speed.

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The center of this twist is at T-12/ L-1, which is the medical term for where your twelfth (lowest) thoracic vertebra meets your first lumbar vertebra (see figure 24). In traditional Chinese medicine this is one of the main points where chi enters the body. This is an important spot to be aware of, because when your spine twists at this point, more chi energy will enter your body, thus energizing you while you walk.

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In all of my experience with training groups and individuals, I’ve found that the best way to be consistent is to make the choice to be so-and that ball never leaves your court.

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When it comes to practicing Nonidentification, you have to do what your body tells you is best for you—not what your mind thinks is best for you. Nonidentification begins with doing a personal assessment so that you can accurately determine your best starting point—realizing that there is always a gap between where you are and where you want to be.

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you want to build up to a program of walking at least 6 days a week (preferably 7) for 30 minutes a day (or less for those 65 and older). This works out to about 3 hours or more of walking per week.

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Here’s a crash course in layering. When you’re packing your clothes, just think of the four W’s: wicking, warming, windproofing, and waterproofing.

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Learning the difference between what you think you want and what you really need involves a principle known as Cotton and Steel: gather to your center and let go of all else. Becoming mindful of your diet is the first step toward learning to let go of foods and eating habits that no longer serve you, your walking activities, or your health.

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Take a little time to remember what you’re doing—you’re taking in nourishment. Some people like to observe a moment of stillness to help them transition between their busy day and their time of nourishment. Others like to say a silent prayer of gratitude. I like to think about all the people whose hands helped the food to get to my table.