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My Sunday Reflections: Alleviating Pain Through Tai Ji

Many of us experience neck pain and stiffness from prolonged work on notebooks and smartphones, often caused by keeping our necks bent for extended periods. In Chinese medicine, there's a belief in the importance of Qi, which can be thought of as the flow of life within our bodies.

When I was 24, I discovered Tai Ji, also known as Tai Chi (an old form of transcribing the word), and it became an integral part of my time in Shanghai. I began learning both Tai Ji Quan (fist) and Tai Ji Jian (sword) at the Shanghai International Studies University (SISU). I chose to focus on Tai Ji Jian, fortunate to join a group led by a demanding and great female local master. Her student invited me on campus to join them and I was the first foreigner from outside East Asia to practice with them, and I brought in some more people from my course. In the end, the new students joining were from Croatia, Hungary, Switzerland and France.

But starting with a sword is like starting to learn how to bake a great pizza by taking it out of the oven at the right time. At least that is how I felt by then. I was unprepared and had to practice more to become good. However, I was ambitious and lucky that some students were exchanging their training against German classes with me. Practicing in the serene Lu Xun Park among the natural beauty of water features, lotus flowers, and bridges provided a peaceful contrast to the bustling city around us. 

And don't be afraid. Tai Ji has many forms and is accessible for all ages. In China, you can see many people far over sixty practicing sports. Tai Ji requires only the commitment to continue training and make it a habit. 

For those suffering from neck pain, I recommend starting with simple head movements: gently rotate your head in small circles, starting downwards, to the left, then back, and to the right, completing six rounds in each direction. Follow this by circling your shoulders six times forward and backward. Incorporate these exercises a few times throughout your workday to help alleviate discomfort. You can set a reminder in your agenda or a timer on your smartphone.

By integrating these practices into your routine, you can improve the circulation of air and blood in your body, gradually easing neck pain. 

Let's all become more comfortable in our bodies.

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