Sunday, August 18, 2013

Reflections on Ten Essentials of Tai Chi Chuan - Part 1

Tai Chi
Photo Tai Chi kindly provided by  Hao Jiang
Follows are my reflections on the Ten essentials of Tai Chi Chuan taken from Yang Family Tai Chi, please look at further explanation on their site.

1. Empty, lively, pushing up energetic
This principal refers to the posture of the head being upright but not stiff as if being pulled up by a string.  There is also an energy gateway at the crown of the head.  Another great metaphor is as if the spine is held up vertical like a string of pearls.  

Posture is so very important and it has a direct impact on attitude and confidence.  

As a parent, I often used to ask my kids to look at a plane to stop them crying, it always worked!  Watch anyone paying attention to any subject, naturally they immediately sit up right.  

Keeping the head upright, pulls up and naturally straightens the spine like a string of pearls hanging vertically.  Alertness accompanies a vertical spine,  life requires us to be alert at all times for many reasons.

Meditation also requires the spine to be perfectly straight.  Keeping the back slouched will put you to sleep, cutting off access to deeper and longer sessions of meditation.

2. Hold in the chest pull up the back
Here it says to sink the chest slightly in as to push the Qi into the lower Dan Tian...I asked my teacher last week why his back seem concave he said he was sinking the Qi, and lifting his head, and that action looks like it is slightly concave but it opens the spine and it gives a sort of zing! that one can feel it.  I said it  like sort of strung like a bow then, he said yes sort off.

This to me also symbolizes a sense of humility a relaxed chest, rather than a cocky one...humility is not to be confused with weakness because in weakness there is little sense of self dignity or purpose.  Humility involves subduing the ego to focus on what is at hand.

3. Relax the waist
Cheng Man Ching used to say that the one who as the most flexible waist has the best Tai Chi.  

Much tension and stiffness is stored in the waist.  My teacher last week showed me that sinking into one leg helps one also to be more flexible in the waist.  A wide squat posture or the frog yoga asana seems to open up the waist.

In Tai Chi the hips move the hands, our normal everyday movements seems to be counter to this, the hands seems to move independently of the hips.  In Tai Chi the hands simply follow, they are like the bumpers of a car.

It almost seems that we move in a deframented, un-unified manner.  Tai Chi helps us practice moving in a co-ordinated unified manner, the whole body moves or the whole body rests, its either one or the other.  

My teacher said  we move, then we stop, we pour concrete into the posture, then we move again everything with purposeful intent.

The Mind-Body-Spirit moves as one is this not also the true goal of Yoga or the state that anyone should aspire too in anything one does?

My teacher also said, that relaxation enters through the hands, then the elbows, then to the rest of the body but entry point is always through the hands. Learn to relax the hands first, then you can learn to propagate this feeling to the rest of the body, especially where tension tends to accumulate, the jaw, the shoulders, the waist.  

If there is any one thing that one can do to improve health and attitude in life, it is that of relaxation, but not a passive relaxation like watching TV but active relaxation through being mindfully present to body or situation without judgement.


Saturday, August 10, 2013

Antaeus, Tai Chi and Being Firmly Rooted

Hercules kills Antaeus
Picture kindly provided by Klearchos Kapoutsis
The legend of Antaeus talks about a giant who had incredible strength just as long as he had contact with the ground.  Antaeus challenged many that came across his path and defeated them all, they would throw him to the ground and he would only get stronger thus slay his opponents.  Hercules discovered the source of his strength and held him up in the air, thereby was able to slay the demi god Antaeus.

In Tai Chi the classics talk about being rooted firmly into the ground, balancing on one leg sinking into it, drawing strength from it, then moving only from this position of stability.

On a mental level it has some validity as well, it means that one should root themselves in a firm experience of strength, being un-shakeable, being un-moveable until one puts the next foot down heel down to sense if it is where one should move then shift weight totally on it being rooted on that leg.

Confucious says 'A man stepping on tip toes cannot stand firm' if we are doing the wrong things, it does not matter how much we kid ourselves, we are not standing on solid ground to begin with...

I emphasize the word experience until we can see a path that works for us, until we can see a path that we can model, until we can see a path that we can imitate, until in our guts and bones can feel that this is the right path only then can we have or develop this root, this firmness, this strength supporting us...otherwise we are easily uprooted, being lifted off the ground like Antaeus, our spirits are easily distracted or crushed!