Thursday, July 29, 2010

9 Healthy Reasons to Adopt Chinese Food Habits

Photo: Been There

We all have to eat food every day. But do we always employ the healthiest habits and enjoy our food in the way best suited to our bodies?

I enjoy many kinds of food, and after much experimentation, I have found that the healthiest food habits often have their roots in ancient Chinese customs. The Chinese customs of preparing and eating food are among the healthiest of those of all cultures. Here are some reasons why I think they are healthier:

1. Chinese use chopsticks to pick up food. Their hands never directly touch the food (the way Americans often touch hamburgers or Indians touch nan bread), so there is no risk of bacteria transmitting from the hands to the mouth.

2. Using chopsticks allows you to filter the food a second time. If there is a piece of unhealthy food such as a pig fat, or any non-edible item mistakenly mixed in, you have a second chance to filter these out by using chopsticks. On the other hand, if you are eating a sandwich, often the fat is already mixed in to the ham and it is hard to pull apart a whole sandwich.

3. Chinese food is well-prepared which means it is often chopped into small pieces prior to presentation and consumption. Because of this advanced preparation, there is no risk of dangerous incidents such as cutting your fingers with a knife while eating because the food has already been cut and there is no need for a knife. Similarly, a big piece of meat can pose a problem if it is not well-cooked inside (risking exposure to bacteria) and/or if it is burned on the outside (potential exposure to carcinogens).

4. Most Chinese food is meant to be eaten when it’s warm or it will lose its taste. The heat also keeps the bacteria away. When food becomes cold, bacteria can thrive and grow.

5. Another benefit of eating food when it’s warm is that the Chinese believe in the importance of making sure the temperature of the food and that of your body are similar. Eating cold food can be like putting cold water in fish tank; it can harm the fish. Cold food can cause stomach pains or similar discomforts. Food eaten warm, at body temperature, is natural and healthier.

6. Chinese never eat food without either rice or noodles. A bowl of rice or noodles ensures that you fulfill one of the 6-11 recommended daily servings of starches or grains in the food pyramid.

7. Chinese add vegetables to most meat or seafood dishes to ensure that you are getting your recommended daily servings of vegetables.

8. Chinese really take time to prepare soup. They prefer to obtain their vitamins the natural way. For example, a pig-bone soup takes a long time to cook to ensure that all the calcium from the bone is passed on into the soup.

9. Many Chinese foods include Chinese herbs which can help your body. Soups such as Huang Qi Chicken soup contain the Chinese herb Huang Qi, which will help you recover faster from a cold in the winter.

Among all the different styles of Chinese food, I prefer Shang Hai cuisine. Shang Hai cuisine is lightly seasoned and requires less oil. It’s not as strongly seasoned as Cantonese style, or as spicy as Hunan and Sichuan cuisine, nor is it as sweet as Beijing cooking. Shang Hai cuisine focuses on the natural taste of the food instead of seasoning or sauce. Most seasonings and sauces are full of extra salt and sugar which we all know is not healthy. Based on the above evidence, I conclude that learning the Chinese way of preparing and eating food, along with your daily Tai Chi will make your life healthier and more peaceful.

Copyright 2010 Huan's Tai Chi

Monday, July 19, 2010

Plus and Minus Method for Tai Chi Footwork

Photo: yofx

As the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu once told us, “A huge tree is grown from a small bud; a nine-storey high tower started as a small pile of dirt; a journey of a thousand miles begins with the right first step.”

Lao Tzu’s wisdom is directly applicable to Tai Chi. It is hard to do Tai Chi well without the right step of your feet. In Chinese, we say, “if you want get your Tai Chi right, you must relax from your head to your toe.”

If you want have a relaxed foot, you must relax all your toes at once. When you are doing a movement such as Brush Knee or Repulse Monkey, you need to transfer your weight in the right way. You need to apply your Ying (empty energy) and Yang (solid energy) to your feet. This means shifting your body weight from one foot to the other. Because your body weight is substantial (100 - 200lbs), you need to transfer your weight slowly, but definitively. As you shift your weight, you will need to use the Plus and Minus Method.

The Plus and Minus Method means when you release (or subtract), for example, 2 pounds of weight from the right foot, then you should receive (or add) the same amount of weight to the left foot. There shouldn’t be any extra weight remaining in-between. Extra weight in-between may cause you to hurt your knee or you will be double weighted (lifting weights). Once you have transferred all your weight to one foot slowly - which means one foot has become solid - then this solid foot should feel rooted like a tree grabbing deep into the earth. When you are well-rooted, your body forms one line vertical to ground, and your head supports the sky. Now your form has a good structure and has become stable.

When we talk about Tai Chi, we always return to many of the same principles: Empty and Solid, Ying and Yang, Double Weight, Advance and Retreat, Left and Right, Balancing, Rooting, Centering. All these terms above are related to our feet. To get our Tai Chi right, we need to start from our feet and start our thousand-mile Tai Chi journey with that single, solid step.

copyright 2010 Huan's Tai Chi

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

4 Methods and 4 Skills of Tai Chi

Photo: Just Grumpy

Today I’m going to teach you the 4 methods and 4 skills of Tai Chi. You may have already be familiar with them, in which case this will be a good reminder of how to incorporate them into your own Tai Chi.

The 4 Methods are Hand, Eye, Body, and Step.

As you practice each Tai Chi movement, you must practice not only the hand form, but also make sure that your eyesight is focused and your eyes follow the movements, that your whole body is involved, and that you have both correct and stable steps. You need to put the 4 Methods into practice as you first start each movement, and then as you go through each movement, and finally as you end each movement.

The 4 Skills are Mind, Energy, Concentration and Thinking.

The 4 Skills are a bit more complicated to understand because you can’t really see them. In Chinese, we say “Originate from the mind, reach to your energy, move with concentration and remember with thinking.” “Originate from your mind” means every move starts in your mind. That’s why we need to quiet our minds when we practice Tai Chi. When we don’t have a quiet mind then we can’t concentrate well. “Reach to your energy” means you need to move your energy around. When you bring up enough energy, then your Tai Chi looks peaceful, settled but also lively. “Move with concentration” means use concentration but don’t use force. When you use concentration to lead your structure, then you can use your structure to lead energy and bring energy to the whole body. “Remember with thinking” means you need to remember every move you are doing and remind yourself of the correct technique throughout the movement. As you do your movements, think about them and pay extra attention to them. Carefully finish each movement with a mental reminder to yourself of the correct form.

In short, the 4 Methods strengthen the outer part of your Tai Chi and the 4 Skills strengthen the inner part of your Tai Chi. With the right understanding and the correct application into your Tai Chi, the 4 Methods and 4 Skills allow you to train both your outer body and inner mind.

2010 Copyright by Huan's Tai Chi