As a beginner, Tai Chi can be perceived as something quite simple. Yet the emphasis on achieving the correct posture whilst relaxing the body and breathing deeply can be quite difficult at first. As soon as you concentrate on dropping your shoulders, your lower back closes. Ok, try again…. as you drop your shoulders your breathing reverts to upper chest breathing. Hmmm, try again….. Concentrate on deep belly breathing and your shoulder muscles become tense. The focus on details can be immense and a bit overwhelming. The goal is to have your body, mind and breathing as one unit, working together naturally and smoothly.
Whether you are practicing the various Tai Chi static stances used with Qi Gong breathing, or are practicing moves within the form. As a beginner try focusing on doing one thing correctly for a few minutes. An example would be in your standing practice, for 2-3 minutes focus just on your shoulders. What are they doing, how can you relax them, can adapt your posture gently, are they getting tired early, can you move them slightly to get a better connection? Use a mirror if you need to initially, until your body learns instinctively where to put itself. Over time the more training your do, these moves will become natural, meaning your body has built a memory from practice. This is how you progress in Tai Chi.
Here are some ideas to focus on in your Tai Chi Stance training:
- Focus on your breathing to calm the mind and avoid mental distraction
- Become aware of sensations in the body and follow them e.g. hot, cold, pulse, tension, tingles
- Mentally scan your body from the crown to your toes for areas of tension, and mentally drop these areas of tension away.
- Concentrate the mind on the Dantian. This is located approx 2 inches below your navel, and approx 2 inches into the body, the centre of gravity. The Dantian is your energy centre, where you store energy. This practice is also known as ‘sinking the mind to the Dantian.
- Muscles relaxed, using appropriate muscular contraction. This means avoiding using all of your muscles at once, which is too many muscles and will drain your energy quicker.
- Keep the joints relaxed and open, no locked joints. You want your body to be completely connected without blocking the Meridians so that energy can flow throughout from your head to your finger tips and toes.
- Head erect, chin down, feel the neck muscles engage at the back of the head
- Shoulder blades open and drop the shoulders down (avoid having your trap muscles hunched up by your ears).
- Chest relaxed down, avoid sticking the chest out (which closes the lower back), and don’t slump the chest down.
- Sit into your hip crease, a mini squat and hold it. Don’t stick the pelvis forward or back, keep the pelvis in the middle. Open the lower back (lumbar region) with the pelvis rounded under slightly.
- Knees bent slightly, not past the toes, nor locked straight.
- Tongue on the roof of your mouth to connect the microcosmit orbit when your breathe (this connects 2 of the major Meridian Channels in the body; Du Mai and Ren Mai), breathing through your nose.
- Concentrate the mind on the Dantian (approx 2 inches below your navel, and approx 2 inches into the body, the Dantian is your energy centre, where you store energy). Breathe into the Dantian, deep circular belly breathing.