Tai Chi Chih Series: Rocking Motion
Almost all T’ai Chi Chih movements begin with the heels together, the big toe of each foot about 4-5 inches from the other. Knees are soft and turned out at the same angle as the feet. The hands are right in front of the waist, palms down and fingers separated as though resting or pillows of air. Attention is on the soles of the feet, aware of how the feet are experiencing the ground: where is the weight? Is it even? Are my toes relaxed? This position is sometimes referred to as “Graceful Conclusion”.
Become aware of your t’an t’ien, which isn’t a “thing”, but a place about an inch or two below the navel and an inch or two inside. This is the “fulcrum” or center that needs to be engaged mentally for you to achieve physical, sensory and emotional balance. This concept is not unique to T’ai Chi, and in sports, physical therapy and dance the area is sometimes referred to as your “core”. It is protected by your skeleton, and it in turn protects your organs. This is where all balanced movement begins.
Rocking Motion: Imagine watching yourself in an old slow motion movie, jumping up and down on a trampoline, and you will have a sense of what this move feels like. First you take one step to the side, bending the knees a bit more so that the body sinks, then rises up, straightening the legs and moving up onto the balls of the feet with the arms swinging forward following the energy as it rises; then the arms drop as the body sinks. As the body rises again, this time the feet remain flat on the floor, toes raised slightly, bringing more weight onto the heels. As the legs straighten the hands rise behind the body, palms facing backward. Repeat: Arms and body drop down then rise with palms forward; arms and body drop down, then rise with the palms backward.
During the rising and falling motion the body remains relaxed, but erect, neither bending forward nor backward, moving as though gently suspended by a bungee, which is an extension of the spine, from the ceiling.
Through all of the moves of T’ai Chi Chih, the arms remain relaxed, elbows soft and rested against the body. In “Rocking Motion”, the arms swing within a comfortable range which doesn’t require any effort by the shoulders and upper arms. Less is always more when it comes to arm movement, and the shoulders stay stacked right above the hips.
Balance: Think of your spine as a stack of ice cream sandwiches, each dependent upon the integrity and position of the one below it. If those on the top start to lean forward you would need to counterbalance with some other part of the body (probably your back) and this would create stress and ultimately pain. If the bottom of the stack starts to move without bringing the rest of the stack with it, again, the stack will fail.
Carol teaches Tai Chi Chih every Thursday evening at 5:30pm at East Wellbeing & Tea located at 1238 Monterey St. Suite 110 San Luis Obispo, CA 93401. Call 805-542-9500 or click here to book this class.