Vail Living Well Summit: Flow like water
VAIL — You knew it was going to be interesting when tai chi master David-Dorian Ross quoted Bruce Lee during his seminar last Friday.
“Be like water — water takes the shape of whatever you pour it into,” Ross quoted Bruce Lee during his TaijiFit session in Vail Village, comparing the practice of tai chi to the fluidity of water. “If you pour water into a cup, it just becomes a cup; if you pour water into a bottle, it becomes a bottle. So today, whatever shape seems to appear in front of you, just pour yourself into that.”
Ross’ Friday and Saturday classes were a part of the Vail Living Well Summit, an interactive health, fitness and longevity weekend experience. He has been studying tai chi for nearly three decades and is an eight-time U.S. national champion, a world silver medalist and a two-time world champion bronze medalist in tai chi performance.
During Friday’s session, classical methods of tai chi were present, but so was Beyonce.
“We are developing programs that are specifically designed to capture the attention span of the regular folks who don’t know anything about tai chi or care about tai chi,” Ross explained. “We are the Zumba of mind-body.”
Ross and his business partner, marital arts champion Jet Li, founded TaijiFit — the first teacher-training program for tai chi recognized by the fitness industry. TaijiFit combines elements of fitness, meditation and tai chi. Kung-Fu Magazine called him “the man who brought tai chi mainstream.”
Feeling the flow
Friday’s sunny outdoor class was filled with curious and willing individuals.
Kerri Langer, a Living Well Summit scholarship attendee and doctor of psychiatry at the University of Colorado Hospital, said she enjoyed the balanced cadence of the class.
“It was really a nice blend of movement,” she said. “It was not happening too fast or two slowly, and it was pretty great synergy of everyone moving in tandem with the breath and the energy — the flow felt really powerful.”
It’s this “flow state” that Ross explained as being the complete essence of the movement. He said to the group that it doesn’t matter what their movements look like, as long as they are simply moving with their breath.
“The most direct method of getting into a flow state is breathing,” he said. “What interferes with a flow state is tension. The movement is not about motion; it’s about the breath that goes along with the motion — let the breath do the work.”
The group followed Ross through a variety of sequences, including “The Dance of the Five Animals” and “The Opening of the Heart.”
He emphasized the importance of dropping the need to know each move, encouraging students to focus on feeling their individual experience.
“If I could leave people with one thing every class that I think would make a difference, it would be to open up a little bit,” Ross said. “Just open your heart, and again, be like water — just pour yourself into the movement.”
Benefits of the practice
Ross said in the last few years, an extensive body of research has been completed by institutes like the Mayo Clinic, John Hopkins University and Harvard Medical School, all showing the unquestionable benefits of tai chi.
“Pick almost any disease that you can think of,” he said. “For example, heart disease is the number one cause of mortality in America. Tai chi, almost more than any other non-pharmaceutical methodology, is good for reversing heart disease, lowering cholesterol and lowering blood pressure.”
The moves of tai chi are easily accessible for most individuals of all fitness levels, so it’s even a great method for addressing obesity.
“Five minutes of sustained physical activity for overweight individuals is usually difficult because of the extra weight on their joints,” Ross said. “Once people begin doing tai chi on a regular basis, they can do it for longer and longer periods of time.”
He went on to explain that tai chi also has an anti-inflammatory effect, so the inflammation that is a large part of the diabetes process is something that can be reduced with a regular breath and movement practice.
“When you can do something on your own to reduce inflammation, your insulin levels being to regulate themselves, and your pancreas comes back to a more healthy condition, so you can lower the amount of insulin, or any other kinds of drugs, you are taking,” Ross said.
The metabolic effect of tai chi can also be significant, according to Ross, burning as many calories as running or downhill skiing.
He said his tai chi workout is ideally two hours a day, but sometimes five minutes is all he can fit in.
“You should do tai chi when you can, where you can, for as long as you can. I am 56, and I don’t do any other kind of workout,” said the fit-and-toned Ross. “Tai chi is my complete regimen.” For more information on TaijiFit and to find a local class, visit http://www.taijifit.net.