A lot of people have been asking me lately about how much I train. Being a professional tai chi instructor I can honestly say that I train often and for hours at a time. This new usually shocks a new student because I think they feel that this amount of practice will be required of them. Although I constantly recommend it, I have never asked any students of mine to practice outside of class. I recommend it because the process of learning tai chi, in my opinion, has to go from a class activity to a personal activity. The only way this change can happen is if a person begins to practice outside of class.
I tell my students that if they are going to practice on their own, they should do it at least once between classes. This will ensure they get the time to think through the movements and the class instruction on their own. Trying to make sense of the movements on their own will constantly challenge a student and will also force them into having a better understanding of the movements. Until we have practiced outside of class, the movements are simply instructions that we are following along with. By practicing at least once on our own between classes, we begin the process of changing tai chi from something we take to something we do. Besides this the amount of time we spend practicing each day can depend on many of life’s variables. How much do we enjoy tai chi? How much time do we have? How much do we want to improve our understanding of tai chi? How much do we want to improve our health?
Balancing the amount of practice with the amount of time and desire I have is tricky business. Of course at night I believe that what will make me happiest tomorrow is going to be 4 hours of practice in the morning. I’ve found however, that this usually does not make me happy it actually makes me frustrated and overly self-concerned. If I find I’m practicing too much I become borderline obsessive and this makes me suffer emotionally. In the past I have mistaken my progress for my happiness and started to obsess about my training instead of my happiness. I know that the more a person practices the better they will become, but I had to ask myself if all my practice was actually making me happier.
What I’ve found works the best for me is to practice as much as I can while still enjoying it. I recommend this to my students as well. If people tell me they don’t have time to practice much then I tell them that they should not practice much. Keeping a hobby we we are doing for enjoyment into something we are doing for other reasons is cause for frustration and problems in our lives. Understanding this balance is a fine line that can only be understood through personal experience and awareness. If we want to develop a better understanding of balance in our lives through practicing tai chi, maybe this would be a good place to start.