Tai Chi Postures and Tai Chi Movements
When discussing the various Tai Chi postures and Tai Chi movements (also referred to as Tai Chi poses or gestures) the very first Tai Chi posture to understand and establish is the Wuji 無極 stance. By understanding this Tai Chi posture properly you will develop a good foundation to then learn all the other Tai Chi postures.
Step #1: Start with the feet
As always, the very, very first thing to do is get your feet correct and in the Wuji Tai Chi Posture we establish what is called the basic Horse stance where the feet are parallel, shoulder width apart.
Also make certain the weight is directly center of the feet. This means the weight is centered directly down through the Yong Quan Point (Bubbling Spring, K 1) 湧泉 on the feet.
As I emphasized on the Learn Tai Chi Online For Free page, any deviations from this principle of keeping the weight centered in the feet and you will destroy your posture higher up in the body. If your weight drifts to the inside or outside of the feet, or too far forward or back, then your knees won't be aligned properly and neither will your hips which may lead to joint damage over the long term.
So please, keep your weight centered in the middle of the feet.
Step #2: “Sit” into the legsIn many Tai Chi classes you will hear the instruction “tuck the tail bone under”, meaning you deliberately pivot the pelvis forward trying to “flatten out” the lower back.
In no uncertain terms I am saying, “DON’T DO THAT!”
The forced over-extension of the lower back muscles by doing this alignment wrong can be detrimental. There is more involved behind the idea of “tucking the tailbone” that I will cover at a later stage.
So instead of saying “tucking the tailbone under”, I ask my students to “sit into the legs”. Align your hips and torso as if you were sitting in a poised position on a chair.
And then simply bend the knees so that the knees are over your toes and your weight is in the center of the feet. You should feel poised, not slouched or forced.
Step #3: Float the spine
Running again with the idea of being poised, we allow our spine to extend naturally upwards. Imagine each vertebra “floating” above the one below, extending upwards all the way through the neck up to the top of the head and extending to the sky. A common instruction is to feel like a golden thread is holding up the crown of the head.
Please do not hold the spine with any forced posture, we want our spine to “breathe” and this will be inhibited if you force or slouch the alignment of the spine.
Step #4: Relax the shoulders and sink the elbows
Now there can be some Tai Chi teachers out there that encourage a sort of hunched shoulder posture, this can be a contrived or artificial understanding of the natural Tai Chi posture.
Simply maintain the poised alignment of the spine and let the shoulders relax. If done correctly the shoulders will round out a bit but make sure it is not slouching. The Tai Chi Song Gong exercises are specifically aimed at loosening the shoulders up properly.
Step #5: Touch the tongue to the roof of the mouth
Gently touch the tongue to the top of the mouth, this connects the Governing and Conception meridian channels in the body. Please be soft with this, don't make it a forced or contrived connection.
Step #6: Integrate the body
The three external coordinations of the body are:
- Wrists connected with ankles
- Elbows connected with knees
- Shoulders connected with hips
These coordinations occur both in a linear and in a diagonal fashion. For example in one sense we are connecting left wrist with left ankle etc. but we are also identifying with the connection between the left wrist and right ankle etc.
When I say "connect" I am merely saying that we make a mental connection between these points. These coordinations will become more prominent or self-evident as you learn the Tai Chi Chuan form.
Step #7: Regulate the breathing
Our breathing is one of the Three Regulations (the other two are regulating the body and regulating the mind).
For now just make your breathing be naturally full without forcing it. Try and be mindfully aware of the rise and fall, the expansion and contraction of your breathing. In Taoist inner alchemy practice this is called following the breath.
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