Each of your arms weighs about 8-10lbs (roughly 3.5-4.5Kg).
That’s heavy… though we don’t really notice it because either the arms are hanging down beside you, or, if we do come to lift them, we use so many extra and unnecessary muscles to do the job (known as ‘recruiting’ in the Alexander Technique) that their weight is spread across the shoulders and neck.
Where’s the qi?
The result of this is that the qi is held in the upper body which means that
• our balance compromised,
• our breathing tends to be higher,
• our ability to relax is diminished,
• the flexibility of our necks and is reduced,
• we’re more inclined to get headaches,
• the rotational potential of our waist becomes less,
• the range of movement in both shoulders and arms is massively impacted.
It’s all about the shoulders really.
The idea is to lift up your arms, forwards or sideways, and attempt to experience the weight of your arms. What this actually means is that, in order to get that feeling, you can only use the essential muscles. This will also mean that you will need to disengage the shoulders from the task; they aren’t necessary.
Weighing a fish.
The muscles that you use to do this should feel as though they are weighing a fish with one of those spring-loaded hanging scales (I guess that could be your hand luggage also, but the fish is a bit more interesting!). You have to give the arms to gravity, letting go of the muscles so that they gently stretch. If you’re not used to this, it can make them ache as they undo, but it doesn’t last.
Now just do it for the rest of your life!
That’s how to use your arms in tai chi and qigong, but the concept should also be applied to every activity, whether cooking, reading a book, or driving your car, etc., in fact every time you start to raise your arms from the vertical hanging position.
Details of Tai chi and Qigong classes with James Drewe here.