From the 1990s onward, Tai chi has gained popularity in some countries to the point of it becoming nearly as known as a health-oriented practice as Yoga. In fact, in modern times it is even more known for such benefits and methods of practice than it is known for its original purpose in martial arts.
In the last twenty years, tai chi classes that purely emphasise health have become popular in hospitals, clinics, as well as community and senior centers. This has occurred as the baby boomer generation has aged and the art’s reputation as a low-stress training method for seniors has become better known.
Tai chi is often described as “meditation in motion,” but it might well be called “medication in motion.” according to the Harvard Medical School Women’s Health Watch. There is growing evidence that this mind-body practice, which originated in China as a martial art, has value in treating or preventing many health problems.
In this low-impact, slow-motion exercise, you go without pausing through a series of motions named for animal actions — for example, “white crane spreads its wings” — or martial arts moves, such as “box both ears.” As you move, you breathe deeply and naturally, focusing your attention — as in the movement meditation of Empatharian— on your bodily sensations.
Differences and Similarities
Empatharian differs from Tai chi in being a language of movements, a language which is still being created, intuitively, to communicate meaning and emotions. However, the beginning form, called “The Empath Stretch” is a kind of Tai Chi, with just 12 movements, also slow and with deep full breaths.
Tai chi is similar to Empatharian in several respects. The movements are usually circular and never forced, the muscles are relaxed rather than tensed, the joints are not fully extended or bent, and connective tissues are not overly stretched. Tai chi and Empathrian both can be easily adapted for anyone, from the most fit to people confined to wheelchairs or recovering from surgery.
Tai chi theory and practice evolved in agreement with many Chinese philosophical principles, including those of Taoism and Confucianism, as early as 423 B.C., and now has many different styles and lineages, some practicing with extremely slow movements, and some (the oldest) including a variation of fast and slow movements with bursts of power. The traditional 108 movement long form of Tai chi was shortened to 37 movements in traversing to the USA in the 1960’s, and that is generally what is taught today.
It is purported that focusing the mind solely on the movements of the form helps to bring about a state of mental calm and clarity, as in Empatharian.
The physical techniques of tai chi are described in the “T‘ai-chi classics“, a set of writings by traditional masters, as being characterized by the use of leverage through the joints based on coordination and relaxation, rather than muscular tension, in order to neutralize, yield or initiate attacks. The slow, repetitive work involved in the process of learning how that leverage is generated gently and measurably increases, as well as opens, the internal circulation (breath, body heat, blood, lymph, peristalsis).
How Empatharian and Tai chi May Be Similar In Effects
Although tai chi and Empatharian Movement is slow and gentle and doesn’t leave you breathless, it addresses the key components of fitness — muscle strength, flexibility, balance, and, to a lesser degree, aerobic conditioning. Here’s some of the evidence:
Muscle strength. Tai chi and Empatharian Movement both can improve both lower-body strength and upper-body strength. When practiced regularly, the slow movements can be comparable to resistance training and brisk walking.
Although you aren’t working with weights or resistance bands, the unsupported arm exercise involved in both forms strengthens your upper body. You will strengthen both the lower and upper extremities and also the core muscles of the back and abdomen.
Flexibility. Tai chi and Empatharian Movement can boost upper- and lower-body flexibility as well as strength.
Balance. Tai chi and Empatharian both improve balance and, according to some studies of Tai chi, this type of practice reduces falls. Proprioception — the ability to sense the position of one’s body in space — declines with age. Tai chi and Empatharian both help train this sense, which is a function of sensory neurons in the inner ear and stretch receptors in the muscles and ligaments. Doing both of these practices you will also improve muscle strength and flexibility, which makes it easier to recover from a stumble. Fear of falling can make you more likely to fall; studies of tai chi training have found that these movement practices help reduce that fear.
Aerobic conditioning. Depending on the speed and size of the movements, tai chi and Empatharian can provide some aerobic benefits. If your clinician advises a more intense cardio workout with a higher heart rate, you may need something more aerobic as well.
Maybe you are aware that Empatharian was originally developed by a dancer and master dance teacher, Tammy Narena, and that her daughter, me, has re-branded, added and updated her work. With my experiences with TaiChi, Qigong, Yoga and Psychology, I’ve integated a new more open form and technique, and added many other components as major principles in the work, hopefully making it more user-friendly and accessible.
Empatharian includes improvisational movement at the end of a session, so you can move as your body feels you need to, along with more lively fast paced music accompanying. Within a 20 minute workout, you start slowly as in Tai Chi, and may speed up the movements as the session progresses. And the emotional energy and thinking that goes along with your practice will provide expression that is individually you.
In Empatharian we use our spiritual energy and thinking concretely and abstractly to form and make our movements truly dynamic. Empatharian has emerged as a peace arts training, not originally a martial arts training as Tai chi. With Empatharian practice you generate your core and source energy connection, allowing you to express that radiance more clearly and dynamically, creating energy for peace-building in your own life, and with others.