A couple of decades ago I got a bit into tai chi: took an early-morning class at Caltech, read some obscure books, and practiced slow, circular movements and the centering ritual. It's quite nice, in a peaceful way. I see no need to believe in chi energy (or qi via the more modern transliteration) or for that matter in any of the other associated mental mysticisms. They're not necessary in order to feel the real benefits of gentle motion, both physical and psychological.

Tai chi came to mind again recently in the context of exercise, when some stale neurons fired and I made a few happy connections. A calm relaxed attitude is extraordinarily helpful when running, as it is in playing tournament chess, listening to one's boss (or spouse!), studying difficult material, or working on any complex creative challenge. Might a conscious application of something analogous to tai chi help along the trail?

As you jog, try an experiment: with your arms relaxed, elbows near your sides, turn your hands palm upward in front of you. The running rhythm will cause them to move in bobbing fashion. Now, gently accentuate that, so that each hand moves in a small circle. They naturally will cycle out of phase with one another, each making a loop, the right hand moving clockwise (deasil), the left counterclockwise (widdershins). Together they create something like the classic eight-on-its-side infinity symbol. (How mystical!)

This is precisely the motion used in juggling three objects in the simplest of patterns, a "cascade". And juggling, to make another quick connection, is a task that can be either extraordinarily stressful or extraordinarily relaxing, depending on one's attitude. It took me more than six months to learn to juggle three things, because I fought the process every step of the way; it took one of my kids only a few hours to get good at it. Another example of the central importance of "letting go", perhaps.

So while you run, hands cupped loosely, imagine that you're juggling. Visualize lacrosse balls, or casaba melons, or something similarly spherical and delightful to the touch. (No comment!) Let them float in front of you, guided gently by your hands along their paths. Relax into their orbits. Be one with them. After a time, try varying the patterns that your hands take. Maintain the balance and circularity and rhythm of their motions. Ebb and flow, wax and wane with the universe and the drumbeat of your feet.

What does this have to do with making better times in the marathon? Maybe nothing ....

TopicRunning - TopicPersonalHistory - TopicFaith - TopicScience - 2002-07-21

Interesting. You might like to know that the [[TaiChi?]]/Running confluence has started to bubble nicely, see:


(correlates: HerodotusOnThePersianPost, MarginAlia, Comments on Rocky Run, ...)