Authentic Tai Chi and Qi Gong

Free in the park

Begin The Transformation

    Tai chi is a path of transformation because it changes us in body, mind, and spirit. Tai chi starts with cultivating awareness and intention, resulting in strength from the inside out. These layers of development build upon themselves and improve your performance in all facets.

    At R1 we call this concept full-stack wellness. It is the power of resilient system design and we can help you apply it at any scale.

      Free Introductory Practice

      When:

      10:00 a.m. – 11:00, Sundays. If you enjoy the free practice, stick around and ask about the paid program!

      Where:

      Edward Rendon Park (Across from RBJ Public Health Center)

      West of the intersection of Nash Hernandez and Chicon St, Austin, Texas 78702

      About Tai Chi

      Tai chi is a traditional Chinese exercise practiced for health, relaxation, meditation, and self-defense. The exercise is performed slowly and continuously, taking about ten minutes to complete one “round” or “set.” It requires no special equipment and can be done in a small space.

      Basic principles, followed during the tai chi exercise, gradually release tension from the mind and body. These principles can also be practiced during any activity, and even while resting. They include correct posture and skeletal alignment, intentional relaxation, and use of the whole mind and body to accomplish even simple movements.

      Tai chi is an excellent system of exercise for young and old alike. The weak can become stronger, the strong can become more gentle, the distracted can become more present, the present can regain ease and naturalness.

      Practice Structure

      Step-by-step introduction that takes you through the gateway into tai chi and qi gong practice with a strong foundation in the principles, benefits, and physical and energetic movements.

      Mark Thompson is committed to his students’ success in this course. As a resilience enthusiast and tai chi instructor since 1983, he has been on the trail of what the Chinese call wu-wei or “effortless effort” and embodied cognition for 35 years. Mark now seeks to share these keys to health, happiness, and sustained high performance with a broader audience.

      Free tai chi/qi gong practice 10:00 a.m Sundays at Edward Rendon Park in Austin. All are welcome, no prior experience necessary. Please note that this precedes a paid tai chi course beginning at 11:00 a.m. If you enjoy the free section, stick around to learn more about the paid class!

      Better Balance

      Tai chi helps train proprioception — the ability to sense the position of one’s body in space — which is a function of sensory neurons in the inner ear and stretch receptors in the muscles and ligaments. Fear of falling can make you more likely to fall; some studies have found that tai chi training helps reduce that fear. 

      Improves Strength

      Tai chi can improve both lower-body strength and upper-body strength. When practiced regularly, tai chi can be comparable to resistance training and brisk walking. Tai chi also improves muscle strength and flexibility, making it easier to recover from a stumble.

      Clarity

      Tai chi can help people better understand themselves, their relations with others, and their environment. The art follows the methods of personal development found in practical Daoism and Buddhism that teach one to stabilize and refine one’s mind and awareness, and to cultivate, build, and refine one’s vital energy, or qi.

      The Eight Active Ingredients of Tai Chi

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      Awareness

      Tai chi emphasizes awareness of the body, mind, spirit, and world around us. It teaches one to pay attention to posture, movements, and transitions. This awareness carries over to your daily activities as you are more cognizant of negative habits such as posture or unhealthy movements.

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      Intention

      Tai chi movements are primed by intention. The connection between one’s thoughts and body is a principle often stressed in tai chi. Studies have shown that simple visualization of a technique can help you enact it. These benefits of “motor imagery” have been extensively researched and used in applications ranging from regaining motor skills in physical therapy to athletic training at the highest level.

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      Structural Integration

      Tai chi views the body as an integrated system — more than the sum of its parts — with qi (energy) moving freely between parts of your body for health and fitness. Blockages of this flow are thought to lead to physical and mental imbalances. Tai chi also focuses heavily on connective tissue, fascia, ligaments, and tendons. These often-neglected connective structures impact your health and ability to remain mobile.

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      Active Relaxation

      Tai chi is a moderate exercise described as “meditation in motion.” It offers many health benefits that are often attributed to more intense forms of exercise while being kinder on your body. This allows for training to be effective at any health or age. Tai chi’s deliberate movements allow for your tissues to stretch rather than tear and heal. This is important for people recovering from injury who shouldn’t stress their bodies any further.

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      Strengthening and Flexibility

      Tai chi offers many benefits often attributed to more intense forms of exercise: Burns calories, lubricates joints, improves cardiovascular health, improves flexibility, improves bone density, and improves muscle strength. These combined benefits greatly reduce the risk of falling, which is a leading cause of death in the elderly.

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      Natural, Free Breathing

      Tai chi’s focus on posture allows for more mindfulness in the way one breathes. You can breathe in a greater volume of air when your frame is upright, relaxed, and open as opposed to slouched, tensed, and closed. Tai chi allows for deep, relaxed breathing which is believed to be an internal massage which improves blood flow and reduces pain.

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      Social Support

      Tai chi is often practiced in a group setting. As a communal activity, it encourages people with shared interests to train and improve together. Even when training at home, one is part of the tai chi community at large. Numerous studies conclude that feelings of isolation and lack of a social support network are a leading driver for depression, low self esteem, and anxiety. Furthermore, rates of illness and recovery also strongly correlate with one’s perception of their support network.

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      Embodied Spirituality

      Tai chi’s highly structured and integral nature, the eastern philosophy that birthed it, and the ritual of regular practice and community all lend to a more spiritual framework.

      “As a long-time Austin resident and practitioner of Yang style tai chi for over 30 years (and self-avowed tai chi snob), my first reaction to running into Mark at a local park was, “Where did THIS guy come from? Where has this local treasure been hiding?”
      My very early training with Master Benjamin Lo and his senior students exposed me to a level of expertise that set the bar very high when looking for tai chi instructors in subsequent years. Good tai chi teachers are hard to come by.  Mark Thompson’s skill as both instructor and practitioner was evident to me immediately. He knows what he is doing. His style of class instruction is inspiring- employing extensive knowledge of martial context and making clear historical frameworks. Whether you have a desire to learn form, participate in push hands, or simply explore general health benefits, Mark is exceptionally qualified. And his classes are full of nice people.”
      Christy M.

      Austin, TX

      Tai Chi + Chi Gong Q & A

      Who can do tai chi?

      Tai chi is low impact and puts minimal stress on muscles and joints, making it generally safe for all ages and fitness levels. In fact, because tai chi is a low-impact exercise, it may be especially suitable if you’re an older adult who otherwise may not exercise. 

      (Source: Mayo Clinic)

      Do I need special equipment to do tai chi?

      Tai chi does not require special equipment and can be done anywhere, including indoors or outside.

      What are some general benefits of tai chi?

      Some general benefits of tai chi include:

      • Decreased stress, anxiety, and depression (ScienceDirect)
      • Boosted cognitive function (PsychCentral)
      • Improved night-time sleep quality (NCBI)
      • Improved mood
      • Improved aerobic capacity (Plos)
      • Increased energy and stamina
      • Improved flexibility, balance, and agility (ScienceDirect)
      • Improved muscle strength and definition (Harvard Health)

      What should I wear for tai chi?

      We recommend wearing loose-fitting clothes that do not restrict your range of motion. You can practice barefoot or in lightweight, comfortable shoes. Ideally the shoes should be non-slip but with soles thin enough for you to feel the ground.