Tai chi is a centuries-old Chinese martial art that descends from qigong, an ancient Chinese discipline that has its roots in traditional Chinese medicine. It is a discipline that involves the mind, breath, and movement to create a calm, natural balance of energy, Qi (chee). It is a form of meditation in motion promoting serenity through gentle, flowing movements. Many of the movements are based on animals. The legend of Chang San Feng says that he (a Daoist monk) watched a battle between a snake and a crane. Their graceful movements inspired him to observe other movements in nature and how they could be applied to a martial art.
Tai chi is a low impact exercise, putting minimal stress on muscles and joints increasing flexibility of legs and the spine, while improving balance and maintaining healthy function of the torso. The deep stretching on the arms (or front legs) will help loosening up the shoulders, lifting up the rib cage and benefit movement of the lungs. In so doing this tends to free up any blockages, ensure the smooth flow of Qi and blood, and promote the balance of Yin and Yang.
Enjoying Tai chi and observing the strong animal connection, I decided to create for animals a similar program, calling it Tai Chi-huahua™. Animals are very efficient in their use of energy and power. They use this relaxed energy to keep their bodies from burning out. Human Tai chi exercise imitates the actions of animals based on their habits. By emulating these animals we get a sense of their power and an appreciation of the vast store of energy they possess. These animals include the dragon, tiger, monkey, bear, deer, horse, birds, snake, and leopard.
Tai chi type exercises in animals (Tai Chi-huahua™) can positively affect the ‘give and take’ action of muscles, thereby improving proprioceptive (knowing where ones extremities are in association with the surroundings) signaling and posture. Good posture is a state of musculoskeletal balance that protects the supporting structures of the body against injury or progressive deformity. This musculoskeletal balance is important not only at rest but also with dynamic activity.
There are some differences to be considered when taking a biped exercise and transferring it to a quadruped. Quadrupeds have a 4-point connection to earth. Their movement includes diagonal interactions. Suspension and energy flow is achieved with different gravitational forces than the upright bipedal musculoskeletal system experiences. Posture, paw placement, stability, and support are all important factors the person delivering Tai Chi-huahua exercises should be very observant of. Focusing on these points will raise the dog’s comfort level and make Tai Chi-huahua more successful and fun for everyone.
My Tai Chi-huahua™ program is delivered in three compartments: The Awakening, The Moves, and The Close. It is available on a DVD at www.AvaFrick.com. When you begin you want to be in a quiet calm relaxed place, both environmentally and spiritually. And your dog should be in a comfortable position. You can use a slightly deflated ball or peanut to help support him if he is old or recovering from an injury. I am sharing The Awakening with you here.
PURPOSE: To stimulate nerve flow throughout the circulatory system and reconnect the body via meridian pathways
RESULT: Relaxation, improved circulation, reduced tension, and improved ability to move about
NOTE: These exercise directions are given with the handler in a position from behind the dog facing forward. If you are using a different position then some of the directions will need to be modified. SQUARE-UP the dog (Like doing the Wuji stance!) You (the one delivering the exercise) also need to have good posture, positioning, and breathing. Your relaxation helps the animal relax.
STEP 1: With the pointer finger of each hand place one on either side of the spine starting at the neck just behind the head (at the occiput) and run all the way down the spine. The pressure should be light and slow. Do not press. Do this 3 times.
STEP 2: Reverse Step 1, starting near the tail and moving forward up the spine to the back of the head. Do this 3 times.
STEP 3: With both hands spread fingers apart, like a fan. Sweep from top down and around to the midline (dorsal to ventral). Start at the neck and make 5 passes – 2 at the neck and 3 around the torso (more if a large body, less if really small) going from neck to pelvis. Do this 3 times.
STEP 4: Using the same hand position sweep the length of the body from neck to back and then belly to back (ventral to dorsal). Make about 5 passes (more if a large body, less if really small) going from neck to pelvis. Do this 3 times.