But let me back up a little. We have a way of talking about the body as if it is not "us" but something separate from us; something we own, "my body." It's as if the "me" is not the body, but the "me" has a body as an appendage.
Our trouble with the body is as old as recorded history. The body is a wild horse that needs to be mastered (the ancients). The mind and body are a dualism (the moderns). But, what if the body is just who you are? Be kind to you!
Mostly, we are unconscious of the body until it begins to play up. You don't notice your feet until someone treads on your toe. You don't think about your stomach, until it is upset. Your head sits on your shoulders unfelt until you get a headache. Body consciousness (and that is what taiji is) is about becoming more aware. Being more aware you become kinder.
I have noticed this with sports. Not the ones we watch as spectators, but the ones we engage in. I was talking with a friend recently who has not been exercising regularly for some time. "I need a good work out, sweat a little," he said. We have a view that every now and then the body is better for a good thrashing! (English public school style.) That is not being kind to you. You will feel it. The body will ache. You will pant a lot, sweat a bit and think it's done you good. I wonder.
Before practicing taiji more seriously than before, my games have been squash and running (2-3 games of squash a week, plus a couple of runs of about 3-4 miles). They have kept me pretty fit. Both are good exercises, but both are pretty jarring on the body. I have noticed in recent years that in both squash and running, I am more prone to aches and pains. Knee aches. Ankle aches. Back aches. Shoulder aches. (Of course, my right shoulder still aches because I ran into the wall playing squash six months ago. Stupid thing to do!) In both sports I have learned to push hard. Give it 100%. More if you can.
I am rethinking. The other week my knees started to ache a little. Hmm ... All I have read about taiji is that it is good for your joints and muscles. What was the issue? I began to pay attention to my knees. Focus energy there while practicing; becoming more aware of the feeling in and around the knees with different forms and movements. I realized that I was pushing too hard. After years of "One hundred percent effort. No pain no gain" thinking, I had taken it over into taiji.
New way of thinking. Be kind. Don't push so hard. If anything hurts, pull back. In any movement take it only to 70% of your ability. Be kind to your body. Be kind to you.
The difference? My knees did not ache as much. I am hoping that the ache will go away completely.