Tag Archives: relaxation

What is ‘Hollowing the Chest’ in Tai Chi & Qigong?

Connecting movements in tai chi & qigong.
Particularly in tai chi, but also in some moving Qigong sets, there comes a moment when you need to connect one change of body position to another, e.g. a sitting back movement which changes to a sideways or forwards movement.
To do so, most people apply pressure with one leg in order to push the torso into the new position.
The result is a mechanical body action which only uses very specific muscles in the pelvis and thighs – the rest of the body isn’t involved.

Sitting back.
1) Sitting back is accomplished by the pelvis.  As you sit back, you need a pelvic tilt which is timed a) to initiate the sitting back and b) to complete only at the moment when you start to move forwards again.
2) As you get near to the end of sitting back, you need to allow the energy in the upper torso (chest, upper back, etc.) to settle and sink.  This is known as ‘hollowing the chest’ and is achieved by letting the breastbone ‘melt’, settle, relax or release, as though it it a river running down the front to the ‘centre’ (core, hara, dant’ien).

When you do this, it smooths the transition between sitting back and moving forwards; deep inside you it feels as though the body is creating a circle, which is exactly what is happening – your centre is rotating.  When the core or hub of the wheel rotates, the outside of the wheel moves at a speed relative to its distance from the hub.

Moving your energy.
If you try to jump off the floor, what happens in the winding up process prior to the jump – in slow motion – is that, by bending your knees, you pull the pelvis downwards, and then the upper body follows.
Your legs are like springs, and as the legs start to compress, the lower part of you (legs and hips) starts to build up pressure.  As the ‘pressure’ of the compression increases, it begins to slow, and the middle of the body joins in the compression, starting to catch up and going to join the compression in the legs.

It’s rather like a ‘slinky’, in that the top follows fractionally later.  If you observe what happens next, you’ll then find that the upper body (shoulders, chest and upper back) follow towards the end, with the head last of all.  In effect, the body has now ‘loaded up’ for the jump.
The crucial thing here is that the upper body is the last thing the sink.

Try jumping!
This is easily tested: Try jumping off the floor, but before doing so, hunch your shoulders firmly up by your ears and leave them there whilst jumping.  You can still do the jump, but it’s not nearly so effective.  Then try doing the same but relax your shoulders.
We do this every time we walk: When placing a foot ahead of us to walk and moving the weight on to it, the pelvis sinks into the advancing foot followed by the shoulders and head.  As we push off the toes to take the next step, we are, in a microcosmic way, jumping; the crown rises followed by the shoulders and hips, etc.  In a way, the body is ‘bouncing’ along.

The principle.
Whether you are sitting back on to your rear foot prior to moving your weight on to your front foot (as in a bow stance), or jumping off the floor, the principle of movement is the same.  When you are about to step or jump, you are loading up one leg in order to move forward, or loading up both legs in order to jump off the floor. The last thing to release in the sinking process is the upper body.

To summarise…
So as you sit back, soften your chest and shoulders just before moving forwards or jumping, having a feeling of the breastbone and front of the chest almost liquefying or melting and running downwards to your centre. This releases the energy in the upper part of your body which can then ground or earth itself prior to moving either forwards (Bow stance), sideways, or upwards (jumping).
This is about feeling what goes on inside… looking inside yourself and becoming an observer.

Connecting movements.
The result of putting this into practise is that movements of the body are smoothly connected – I’m not referring to the movements of the limbs here, although they are undoubtedly affected when you put this into practise.
Without it, you are mainly using leg muscle to push yourself forwards and backwards.
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James Drewe teaches Taijiquan and qigong in both London and in Kent. Details of weekly classes can be found on the website, and there are classes for 2-person Taijiquan one Saturday a month.

CONTACT:
http://www.taiji.co.uk
http://www.qigonghealth.co.uk
Email: taijiandqigong@gmail.com
Phone: 07836-710281 or 020-8883 3308

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Ting (listening) in Tai Chi & Qigong.

What is ‘listening’ in tai chi & qigong?
‘Listening’ is the art of feeling, so you know how to act.
Listening is pulling up a weed in your garden; it is sensing, beyond the point at which you are touching.
Listening is having a conversation with someone for whom you have great respect.
Listening is fractionally preceded by relaxation.
Listening is making the body hyper-alive.
Listening bypasses anticipation and expectation. It is being completely in the moment; you have no idea what is going to happen nor how you are going to react.
Listening is the way that you receive information from the outside world – it is the moment between your antennae and your brain.
Listening is working with, not fighting against.
Listening is having no agenda.

Ideally, listening is very light; it is being able to sense and respond to the gentlest of touches.  If the pressure of one hair were placed against your skin, you would feel its direction and give way.

Setting up how to feel it…
Listening is most easily felt when you are working with a partner, but in a different way it also applies to solo tai chi practice.
To feel it, it is necessary to have a partner to help you:-
1) Hold your arm out in front of you, slightly bent at the elbow so that your palm faces you, and have someone touch your wrist either with his fingers or the back of his wrist.  It is better if he doesn’t grip you.
2) Partner does a gentle push directly towards you.
3) Allow your arm to be moved so that there is no pressure at the point of connection.  If there were a soap bubble between you both, it wouldn’t burst, but neither do you disconnect from the push.

Feeling it…
As your partner pushes, there should be no muscular tension.  This is easy, your arm will simply fold with the gentle pressure.
Try to sense the exact direction of the push.  Was it directly towards you, or was it fractionally left, right, up, or down?  Was there any pressure between your wrist and the other person, and did you respond precisely to that push?  This is ‘listening’ and ‘following’.

A conversation.
It is the same as someone telling you their point of view, when you are only focussing on what they have to say without judgement or wanting to interject with your point of view.

And if you want to change the direction of that conversation?
What if you want to redirect that push?  If you stop listening, your muscles kick in and you’re no longer ‘going with the flow’.
When the muscles tighten and you start to operate them individually, e.g. using only your forearm or only your shoulder, the message pathway between the point of contact (in this case your wrist) and the centre that interprets the sensory input (the parietal lobe) is temporarily congested (by the muscular tension) and messages can no longer get through so efficiently.  In effect, the tightened muscles mean that the joints are no longer sensitively sprung, flexible and soft and are therefore partially disabled.  It’s not unlike a plumbing system where the pipes are badly furred up and the function of transporting water is compromised.

Listening to your body.
Listening also needs to take place when doing solo tai chi.  In this case you are listening to your body.  E.g., if you have a ‘dodgy’ knee, you need to use the joint with caution, feeling how much pressure it will take, and in what way it can take that pressure.  It’s no good working the joint very hard in the hope that you’ll somehow beat the pain into submission and it will disappear.
So, you need to listen.  Listening will allow you to change habits that perhaps are not in your best interest to persist with – a sort of ‘intelligent observation’.

And the point is…
Listening is ultimately about relaxation and the ability to read your own tension, pinpointing where it lies, and how to release it.
When doing a solo tai chi form this is equally as applicable as working with a partner.  It’s your own tension that will let you down making your movements more clumsy and wooden.  You’ll know when you’ve got it right because the movements will feel smooth and easy.
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James Drewe teaches Taijiquan and qigong in both London and in Kent. Details of weekly classes can be found on the website, and there are classes for 2-person Taijiquan one Saturday a month.

CONTACT:
http://www.taiji.co.uk
http://www.qigonghealth.co.uk
Email: taijiandqigong@gmail.com
Phone: 07836-710281 or 020-8883 3308

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Change in Taiji & Qigong

Going with the ups & the downs.
How do you ‘convert’ one movement to another in Tai Chi or Qigong?
Perhaps, if I can understand these changes, for example, when the body starts to move back when it’s been going forwards, or turns left when it’s been turning right, I’ll be able to use it as a tool to understand the way in which I deal with change in my everyday life.  So, if I can make sense of that transition in Tai Chi and understand how to make it feel unforced and comfortable, with a sense of liquidity, I hope to be able to apply those principles to the changes of everyday existence, and get life’s unexpected alterations to work more smoothly.

Changing from Yin to Yang; what is ‘change’?
At some stage, energy will always alter to its opposite.Energy Black Hole
I’m a little concerned about this statement, particularly as in a recent discussion with someone, he said that consciousness always expands… although I can’t see how you can have a separate rule for consciousness.  However, for the moment, leaving consciousness out of the equation, this is essentially about the finite points of duality.

  • When the universe has reached its furthest point of expansion, it will start to contract.
  • When summer has run its course, autumn takes over.
  • When a human has grown to his/her full size, he/she will start to shrink.
  • When you’ve finished breathing in, you have to breathe out.
  • You cannot always cycle downhill; at some point you’re going to have to go uphill.
  • One bacterium, amoeba, mollusk, insect, fish, or animal gives up its life to prolong the life of another.

… and so on; everything ultimately degenerates and turns back into earth (given enough time, again) – more food for the bacteria, which will produce the next plant, etc.

So, to repeat… Energy alters to its opposite at some stage, this being one aspect of the concept of Yin and Yang.

How can we feel this change in taiji & qigong?
When performing taiji/qigong, some people do not really ‘finish’ a move, i.e. don’t allow a move to reach its natural conclusion.  They might do a forward movement, stop, do the next (backward) movement, stop, then the next, stop, etc., etc.  Even if they don’t ‘stop’, there is a break in the ‘flow’ of the movement.
By ‘natural’ I mean that first of all they aren’t feeling where and how a movement naturally changes into the next movement.  Yes, they do the movements in the right order, but the movements are almost mechanical, and are coming from the head and not from any sense of awareness of body elasticity.

What does this mean in real terms?
To experience this, breathe in, and before finishing the in breath, breathe out, and then again before finishing the out breath, breathe in… etc.  The whole process becomes forced with your taking excessive control of your respiration.

So how do you breathe with fluidity, sensitivity, and awareness?
You don’t control it, you become an observer and you feel.  I’m not saying that you can’t control it, but the respiratory system tends to work better when you leave it alone, especially when you observe where the in or out breaths naturally end.
When you do this, there is an internal softening; no tightening occurs in the tissues, and perfect fluidity is achieved.

The basic exercise.
First of all you need to find this ‘point of change’.  Finding this feeling of change is very easy; all you need is a movement that is simple, but is absolutely clear as to where its energy ‘runs out’, leaving no option other than either to stagnate, or to change into its opposite.

This is a very simple exercise; it’s sole aim at this stage is to show (as far as is possible) the extremes of Yin & Yang.
24move-50Start in Bow stance (photo 1), and sit back into an Empty stance (photo 2).  How far can you go back before you fall over backwards?
You reach the point where you have no other option than to either go forwards again, or to stop completely (assuming that you don’t want to fall backwards), i.e. stagnate.
If you do this slowly, towards the end of sitting back, you can feel the backwards potential of the movement literally running out… becoming weaker and weaker (more and more ‘Yin’), 24move-515until you have to convert it to the yang movement (moving forwards into the Bow stance) yet again.
You can do the same when moving forwards into a Bow stance, (either allowing the body to lean or not, it doesn’t matter).

In other words, you reach the end of a movement, and there is no choice other than to go back to where you began.
It’s only an exercise with the sole intention of demonstrating one idea.

Experiencing the moment of change too abruptly.
So then there’s the opposite where, in effect, you mistime the change.
You’re arguing with someone and suddenly realise that you’ve totally missed the point.
You drive round a 90 degree bend too fast.
You’re not watching the temperature of the chocolate that you’re tempering and take it 2 degrees too high, destroying the beta crystals.
You don’t feel the wind direction when sailing, and accidentally, and forcefully, jibe.
In other words, we experience everything differently if it catches us unawares.  If we’re watching, everything tends to go more smoothly.

The moment of change. 
So how do you create gentle and appropriate change? How do you convert that moment at a party when you’re talking to someone and have exhausted all the mutual topics and you can’t see a polite way out?
The moment of change of any kind needs a softening and a considerable amount of awareness and sensitivity. In Taiji and in Qigong, you need to feel this change with your whole body; there is no jarring in the change.  [This is one of the reasons for doing some pushing hands in a class; when you first begin to do partner work, you can really discover your own clumsiness – something that is much harder to feel when doing solo taiji].

The sensitive gardener.
This sensitivity is similar to that required when pulling an unwanted weed out of a flowerbed.  You can’t pull hard, and you can’t pull too softly; you have to try to feel the weed, right to the bottom of its roots as you pull.
The same applies when doing Tai Chi moving from one position to another.
We’re all familiar with the Chinese method of teaching Taiji or Qigong by number:

  1. Raise your hands to shoulder-height
  2. Bend your knees lowering your arms… etc.

The silk thread connection.
But the sensitive moment – the change, takes place where ‘2’ takes over from ‘1’ (or ‘1’ gives way to ‘2’). It requires softening, release, and Song (see previous blogs: 1, 2, & 3 -part 2), and needs to be achieved with such fluidity and smoothness that, instead of two movements, there is in fact only one, with the apex of movement 1 feeling as though it’s ‘melting’, ‘transmuting’, or ‘metamorphosing’ into movement 2. The move described above might look like a vertical line that rises and falls, but inside it there is the feeling of a circle.

But you experience it several times a minute every day. 
We all know this really, you only have to breathe normally to see it.  When you’ve finished breathing out, you don’t suddenly breathe in, you automatically find the apnea of the breath – that moment when it’s slightly unclear as to whether you’re still breathing out or you’ve started to breathe in, almost as though you’ve stopped breathing, but you haven’t.  It’s a resting, a gentle loading up (or releasing?) of the spring, in archery it’s the moment when you ‘become one’ with your target, it’s the moment of focus and meditation.

No I only have to work out how to apply it to the rest of my life.
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James Drewe teaches Taijiquan and qigong in both London and in Kent. Details of weekly classes can be found on the website, and there are classes for 2-person Taijiquan on one Saturday a month.

CONTACTS:
http://www.taiji.co.uk
http://www.qigonghealth.co.uk
Email: taijiandqigong@gmail.com
Phone: 07836-710281 or 020-8883 3308

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Stress.

Stress.
There are many reasons for stress.  What stresses one person might to another be a positive drive to action.
You would possibly think that de-stressing is about relaxation, but there are many techniques for de-stressing that have little to do with relaxation and more to do with distraction.’

The parasympathetic nervous system.
To begin with, stress is connected to the state of your autonomic nervous system, a system that is divided into the ‘parasympathetic’ and the ‘sympathetic’ nervous systems.
The parasympathetic system is your functional system which regulates your everyday bodily activities (blood supply, breathing, digestion, elimination); this carries on without your involvement, although you can control certain aspects of it.

The sympathetic nervous system.
Your sympathetic nervous system becomes active in cases of emergency.  If something happens that is potentially life-threatening, many of your body’s processes are temporarily either slowed or shut down, and an increased supply of glucose goes to the brain (whilst its access to the cells of the body is blocked – ‘insulin resistance’) in order to deal with the situation that has arisen.  In other words, the brain needs the glucose boost temporarily to find a rapid solution to the emergency.

And after the emergency…
The problems begin when the sympathetic nervous system, having dealt with the emergency, doesn’t settle down again and continues to over-function; this could be because of problems at work, at home, or with life generally.  When this happens, the ‘temporary’ boost of glucose and the shutting down of part of your system becomes more than ‘temporary’.
There are several repercussions from this including the factor that inflammation in the body is increased because the insulin/glucose balance in the body fails to stabilise.

Inflammation is a major stress factor.
We tend to associate the word with localised inflammation, in other words we think of a joint or a muscle being uncomfortable and inflamed, but this is different, it’s inflammation on a whole-body level, and whether it’s high or low level, it is more insidious than an isolated location.
We all know that an aching shoulder, knee, or elbow is tiring; it’s a constant irritation that absorbs our attention.
When the body is undergoing permanent low level irritation, it’s exhausting and energy draining, but the main problem is that it’s cyclical; the less energy you have, the less there is for the body to deal with the inflammation.
So you go for something to ‘perk you up’, usually sugar-based.  This boosts the glucose levels in the body, but because your glucose/insulin levels are not balanced due to your being in stress mode, the glucose is forced to the brain (which is what happens in the emergency situation – the brain needing the extra energy to deal with the tiger that’s about to attack you!).  In effect, you started the cycle again.

What can I do about it?
This is almost impossible to answer as it depends on what is stressing you in the first place. However, there are a number of factors to take into account that can help to improve the situation and some techniques that can also help.

1) Diet.
Some foods are more inflammatory than others. This will vary from person to person, but if you know what they are, avoid them.
One interesting example that I read recently is that red meat contains one molecule that is not found in humans; therefore, when this molecule enters the human body, the immune system sees it as an invader and, in order to fight it, creates inflammation, in effect using fire to stop the spread of the potential problem, and ‘burn out’ the invader.
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t eat red meat, but this is one example of how the body deals with something that it doesn’t want.

2. Psychological.
Where to start?!
Very briefly, following an event, a part of our brain mulls an issue over and over.  It compares it to previous similar events, it forms plans as to how to deal with it, it considers what you might have said at the time, how things might have been better had something else happened, and so on.
The Chinese call this the ‘Monkey Brain/Mind’.  It’s also known as your ‘Default Mode Network’, and is the network of brain cells from approximately the middle-front of your skull towards the back.
The problem is to break the thought-cycle that is creating the stress.  This involves various techniques, many of which involve distraction from the problem, if only for a short time. Often during that short time, the situation itself either alters or possibly resolves in some unexpected way.
(In the diagram, the ‘mPFC’ refers to the median Pre-Frontal Cortex’, the ‘PCC’ to the Posterior Cingulate Cortex – i.e. front to back along the top of the head).

Distraction can be in the form of anything that alters your focus for a reasonable length of time, which engages your brain and therefore disengages you from the problem.  Puzzles, meditation, focusing on breathing, learning/playing an instrument, listening attentively to music… I’m not convinced that watching TV is as good.

Maybe it’s also worth pointing out that this part of the brain is the location of what Freud called the ‘ego’, and which is also known as the ‘autobiographical memory’.  This is where you constantly recreate that picture of how you see yourself – the Monkey Brain in action.

3. Exercise.
This is a good way to de-stress, and ties in with (2) above.  The exercise shouldn’t be exhausting, but slightly cardiovascular is good.  (Various tests have been done that show that forcing the body very hard during exercise doesn’t help to de-stress as much as gentle exercise).
Obviously this is where tai chi and qigong fit in.  This type of exercise connects the mind & body, each helping the other to relax and soften.

4. Central equilibrium.
One of the main reasons however why tai chi and qigong are so good for de-stressing you is that both are about the physical ‘balancing’ of the body, in other words, making the body work as a perfect unit.
How can you feel stressed if your body – your own personal universe – is moving breathing and rotating perfectly, and is working in perfect accord not only with itself but also with your environment?
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James Drewe teaches Taijiquan and qigong in both London and in Kent. Details of weekly classes can be found on the website, and there are classes for 2-person Taijiquan on one Saturday a month.

CONTACTS:
http://www.taiji.co.uk
http://www.qigonghealth.co.uk
Email: taijiandqigong@gmail.com
Phone: 07836-710281 or 020-8883 3308

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How on Earth do you ‘Relax’?

Relaxation v. De-stressing.
You might think that relaxation is the same thing as de-stressing,  but there’s a difference.  De-stressing can use a variety of techniques that don’t necessarily involve relaxation of muscles.

It’s relative.
How relaxed you are is a relative matter; perhaps there’s an ultimate, but it’s always in comparison to either how you were before, or to how someone else is.

 

 

 

How is ‘relax’ defined?

  • The state of body and mind being free from tension and anxiety.
  • A loosening or slackening.
  • The lengthening of inactive muscle or muscle fibres.
  • Returning to a state of equilibrium having been displaced from it.
  • A form of mild ecstasy coming from the frontal lobe of the brain.

Other applicable words:
•  Letting go
•  Undoing
•  Loosening
•  Releasing
•  Softening
•  Sinking
•  De-stressing
•  Settling
•  Song 松 (Chin.)

You can always relax more.
It’s quite astonishing how much more you can relax your body.  You think you’ve reached the full extent, and then someone rests their hands very softly and gently on, for example, your shoulders, and you find there’s more to go.  I’ve seen it in the people I teach, and I’ve experienced it myself many times.

Why’s it so hard?
You have to become an observer to relax; to experience your body you have to ‘stand outside yourself’.  That’s the relative or comparative part – you need perspective.  In order to make this comparison, you produce a memory of when you felt more relaxed, which you then put alongside how you currently feel, and measure them against each other.  This ‘standing outside yourself’ lasts for the briefest of moments.
You can only ever work within the field of your personal experience of relaxation – you can’t experience someone else’s sense of relaxation.  It’s therefore what you might call ‘personally-comparative’; when relaxing, you are aiming to be more relaxed than you were a moment ago.

Physical technique.
1) Make fist and squeeze it as tightly as you can.  Let go of it and observe the sensation of release.

Perspective.
2) Change the perspective on your body.  At this moment, whilst you reading this, you might think that you’re relaxed, but perhaps you’re only semi-relaxed.  Try relaxing every inch of you from scalp to feet.

Imagery
3) It doesn’t work for everyone, but for some people imagery can help, e.g. looking at a picture and imagining that you’re there.  But even that must be based on memory.  In this picture, if something disastrous had happened on the beach, you possibly wouldn’t feel so relaxed.

Visualisation.
4) Think of your shoulder, imagining a finger very gently pushing into the muscles on the top.  Try allowing that imaginary finger right in, so that you feel no discomfort.  You might have felt a slackening or undoing in that shoulder.

Breathing.
5) When you breathe, the muscles in the chest, and also in the abdomen ideally, are compelled to stretch and then release.  This is an all-body version of the finger-in-the-shoulder exercise above.  In the above imagery exercise, you were stretching and then releasing one muscle; when breathing, hundreds of muscles are involved.
So you can use conscious breathing as a very useful tool for both muscular and mental relaxation.

 

At the end of the day, it all comes back to this.

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James Drewe teaches Taijiquan and qigong in both London and in Kent. Details of weekly classes can be found on the website, and there are classes for 2-person Taijiquan on one Saturday a month.

CONTACTS:
http://www.taiji.co.uk
http://www.qigonghealth.co.uk
Email: taijiandqigong@gmail.com
Phone: 07836-710281 or 020-8883 3308

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Tucking Under… Don’t FORCE it.

The mechanics.
When you sit down on to a chair, you automatically, and without forcing it, do a pelvic tilt.  If you don’t, you run the slight risk of hurting your spine.
The same thing should be true in tai chi and qigong when you move your weight from the front leg to the rear leg of a Bow stance; you need to do a pelvic tilt (see previous blog).

Forcing it.
Without repeating the previous blog, I’ve noticed that quite a few people force the pelvis under rather than allowing it to roll under by releasing the back and the neck.  If you don’t release the muscles in the back, you’re just creating further tension and the movement won’t function as effectively if someone were to push or pull you at the same time.
This relates to the question that people sometimes ask – How do you relax the gluteus muscles in the buttocks at same time as tucking under?

Stretching or releasing?
If you force the pelvic tilt, you are deliberately trying to stretch the lower back muscles by contracting the abdominal muscles.  Forcing it means that the movement is coming from only one place, and the back isn’t joining in the game – or only slightly. 
If you force the pelvis under, the neck doesn’t release, and the tension within the pelvis may even cause the chin to lift because the entire back, including the back of the neck, contracts.
In fact, to go a stage further, when tucking the pelvis under, your neck should release at precisely the same moment.

Feeeeeel……
When you release the back, as opposed to ‘forcing’ it, the sensation of release occurs throughout the entire back – the waist, the ribcage (sides and back), the armpits, the shoulder blades, the neck, and even in the back of the head and up to the crown of the head.  Your back should feel like a compressed spring releasing.
Should you release the neck or the back first?  Both; it’s all one and the same.

How does the front of the body behave?
When you release the back, the muscles at the front feel as though they are being drawn upwards and inwards, rather than tensed.
What happens is that the back ‘opens’ – not exactly a bowing backwards, more a sensation of the cellular structure undoing and opening, and the front of the body ‘closes’, – a feeling of the front drawing in, compressing.  These events happen simultaneously so that one reinforces the other.
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James Drewe teaches Taijiquan and qigong in both London and in Kent. Details of weekly classes can be found on the website, and there are classes for 2-person Taijiquan one Saturday a month.

CONTACT:
http://www.taiji.co.uk
http://www.qigonghealth.co.uk
Email: taijiandqigong@gmail.com
Phone: 07836-710281 or 020-8883 3308

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The Breathing of Movement in Tai Chi & Qigong.

Walking & ‘Open/Close’.
If you picture your body as a mobile vertical line, what allows you to be mobile is your ability to split that line at the base – in other words, you have legs.
You can move a leg forwards or backwards thereby temporarily fraying the vertical line from the pelvis downwards.
If you stay as a vertical line you are static, and if you stay as a frayed line you are static; your ability for movement is caused by your alternating the two options.
There aren’t any other possibilities apart from hopping up and down on the spot.
So when mobile, you constantly change between a closed and an open position – as you push off one leg, leaving it behind, you advance with the other leg, before again bringing the legs back together prior to repeating the whole event.
Of course, it doesn’t feel that way; we don’t really notice when the legs come back together again. It feels as though our legs are constantly split in the process of walking, perhaps because the weight is only on one foot as the advancing rear leg moves forwards with the intention of taking a further step.
The process is therefore a constant expansion away from the vertical axis, and contraction towards the vertical axis, which is the basis of both tai chi and qigong.

The arms when walking & ‘Open/Close’.
The arms do the same thing; they swing forwards and backwards as you walk.  Usually this is unconscious although it obviously doesn’t have to be.  They expand away from the vertical line before coming back to it only to move again in the opposite direction.

Opposite shoulder turns to opposite hip (‘Open/Close’).
If you step forward with your left foot, as you put your weight on to it (prior to stepping through with the other foot), your centre-line (sternum to navel) will turn towards that left foot
•  1) because you are pushing off the rear right foot, which therefore turns your hip to the left,
•  2) because the turn to the left stabilises the vertical line over the weighted foot, and
•  3) because the right leg which (hopefully) is attached to the right hip, which is turning, will be brought forwards for the next step.
As a result of the turn of the body to the left, the waist will also turn with shoulders naturally following, the arms therefore following the shoulders.
In other words, the arms do exactly the same as the legs (but in opposition).  Both the arms and legs return equally to the vertical axis before starting again with the opposite limb.

Experiencing the body turn.
To feel this movement of arms and body clearly, you only need to put on a heavy rucksack and walk.  The rucksack accentuates the body movement, and you will feel it swinging from side to side with the turn of the body; the body turn towards the advancing leg therefore becomes very obvious.  It’s this twisting of the body inwards as the pressure moves on to the advancing foot that is the body seeking the vertical line.

Compared to …
As a further walking experiment, try walking without turning the hips or shoulders at all.  All the movement is then coming from the legs; you can walk quite fast, but not as fast as when using the body correctly – mainly because your steps become much shorter.  When you start to watch people walking, you can see that a lot of people move that way, particularly those with no flexibility in the waist.

How does this relate to tai chi and qigong?
There’s a reluctance to move the body when people do tai chi and qigong.  All that arm and leg movement looks as though the limb movements are the main point.  In reality, in tai chi and qigong, all movement is governed by the way that you use your torso; the arms move because the torso moves, your balance is maintained because you use the torso … it’s all there in the everyday action of walking.
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James Drewe teaches Taijiquan and qigong in both London and in Kent. Details of weekly classes can be found on the website, and there are classes for 2-person Taijiquan one Saturday a month.

CONTACT:
http://www.taiji.co.uk
http://www.qigonghealth.co.uk
Email: taijiandqigong@gmail.com
Phone: 07836-710281 or 020-8883 3308

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