Tai Chi Ski Principles by Patrice Wooldridge

In April 2022, my husband Patrick and I went to Götzens, Austria (a community in the district of Innsbruck). It is an amazing place to explore, and Maria Gandler and her team made it very attractive and welcoming to participate in their Tai Ski program!

Tai Chi classes are presented over several days so that people who are brand new to Tai Chi, as well as those with previous training, can study and practice Tai Chi before hitting the slopes. This year’s Tai Ski teaching is happening soon and will meet from Thursday, 2 March to Sunday, 5 March 2023!! For more information, contact Maria ([email protected]).

Classes are small, giving everyone a chance to ask questions and learn at their own speed.

And there is plenty of time to hang out together, share meals, and explore the countryside.

Tai Skiing

Then, after 4 days of Tai Chi practice, the principles are enriched through downhill skiing for 3 days. What fun it is to apply what one learned on the floor to skiing on the hill!

Principles like sensing the dantian connected to the center of the earth and being suspended from the heavens are so palpable when outside in the open air and skiing the pistes!

On each ski run we enjoyed sharing our experiences on the way up the lifts. Then, we picked a Tai Chi principle and challenged one another to keep it in mind on the way down.

It was great to start with the feet and notice how the toes tended to peel up or curl when one felt anxious. We could see this reaction as similar to when an anxious moment comes up in Push Hands. Working the experience in a completely fresh environment gave me a perspective I might not otherwise have had when being told that my toes were peeling up/tensing up in Push Hands.

Moving up from the feet we focused on the knees staying inline with the center linesof the skis and relaxing in the kua. (Note: The term kua refers to both anatomy and function, encompassing the whole hip area, centering at the inguinal crease. It includes the relationship between the thigh and the torso. The kua contains some of the strongest muscles in the body.) Practicing with the idea of relaxing and opening from the shoulders to the kua as we turned the lower body back-and-forth carving through the snow was a treat. Not only did it feel as if my skiing was smoother, more powerful and fun, but I also felt the experience would be easily applied to my Tai Chi practice.

There were many other areas that we had fun noticing:

  • How relaxing the wrists helped with relaxing the ankles and then the whole body.
  • That when the snow was crusty, the vibration of the skis over the snow challenged us to refrain from “shaking up” one’s focus. It was easy to see how little it took to be distracted. We were grateful for the opportunity to work on staying calm and relaxed even in difficult situations.
  • It was wonderful to be sensitive to the experience of feeling through the snow where the buds and seeds were getting ready to burst forward. We appreciated their energy and connected to the Wood energy as we did our spring skiing.

Whether you ski or not, being in the mountains for this wonderful winter program is well worth your time. Thank you, Maria, and the whole Götzens group for such a memorable experience!

All the very best for 2023 Tai Chi & Tai Ski March 2-8.!!

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