‘Don’t try harder, try softer’ is one of my Tai Chi teachers, Dave Haines, favourite sayings. ‘Let go and stop trying to make it happen’ says Jean, his wife and co-teacher of our Tai Chi class at Bolton Low Houses.
Learning how to relax and let go is one of the key principles of Tai Chi. The beginner who has started lessons with the intention of working hard to master the art of Tai Chi as quickly as possible soon discovers that a new approach to learning is required.
It is not surprising that we want to work hard to succeed as it is something that has been encouraged all our lives whether learning a new skill or trying to pass an exam etc.
This is one of the paradoxes of Tai Chi where trying harder creates more muscle contraction which is the exact opposite muscle state that we are trying to achieve. Even thinking about performing a movement correctly or worrying about not being able to remember a posture and failing to succeed can create muscular tension.
So how does one learn to relax in Tai Chi? The answer is to slow down, be kind and non-judgemental to yourself, ‘let go of trying hard, try softer’!