Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Breathing and Tai Chi?

The question is HOW? Breathing for the general population, un-fortunately, has evolved into Thoracic breathing. Basically this means from the upper chest with less involvement of the diaphragm. Diaphragmatic breathing, also known as belly, pre-natal and baby breathing is what we do when we are born … and then spend a lifetime getting in the way of the natural  process. Sometimes this is caused by lung disease and the inability to take a deep breath. However the consensus is that stress is a major culprit. So, when a Tai Chi teacher says " just breathe naturally ", they are really implying don't think about your breathing, just  let your movements dictate your breath. as opposed to allowing your breath dictate the pace of the movements. However this only effects timing ..not quality. Trying to initially learn the movements and principles of Tai Chi is challenging enough without also trying to incorporate a specific breathing pattern. For this reason, we start every class, regardless of level or experience with 20 to 40 minutes of Chi Kung and include the specific breathing pattern and introduce/support diaphragmatic breathing. Hopefully 
"Just Breath Naturally" become Diaphragmatic. Once a student has become comfortable with the movements of a Tai Chi form ( as part of the corrections process )  we introduce a specific movement related breathing pattern. The goal is for the student to have principle intense movements, where the breath dictates the pace of the movements ... including emphasis on, softness, moving from the center, proper body alignment, functional relaxation and a specific breathing pattern that incorporates diaphragmatic breathing.  NOTE: Diaphragmatic breathing needs to be done with a relaxed abdomen. Anyone who has any type of abdominal medical history should consult with his/her personal physician before starting a diaphragmatic breathing program. This is an exercise and should be treated as such.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Yang Style Tai Chi Forward Stance

In Yang style Tai Chi your weight distribution is either 100% on one leg …. or a 70/30 weight distribution. A 50/50 weight distribution is only a transitional point ( connecting moves ). Sort of like  going through neutral when shifting gears manually. Your just passing through.
       When in a forward stance your weight is 70% front and 30% back. You are in minimum tuck. This means your back is straight (as in the image below) … but not straight to the floor. The back of your head, hip and heel are basically in a straight line (but not to the floor). If you were to roll your hips under you allowing your back to become straight to the floor, you would also be 100% weight forward / maximum tuck. From a forward stance, if you were to unfold your body
( backwards ), at 50/50 your hips would begin to roll under you and you would wind up in a 100% tuck … back suspended stance.

Friday, May 28, 2010

The Preparation - Not Just Separating Your Feet.

When performed at its highest level, every Tai Chi movement contains every principle of Tai Chi.  Personal growth and the benefit gained from doing Tai Chi relates to how full each move can become.  That means how many of the principles of Tai Chi are included and at what level are they being done.  Very often the Preparation is reduced to just separating one's feet.  When that is done slowly and under control, with no sense of falling into the step, one at least gets a balance credit.  However, many teachers allow this move to become a race to get ready.  Separate your feet so we can now start doing Tai Chi.  The fact is the preparation is a highly complex move with only the finish being " Feet Separated ".  Circling the upper body to create a shift, folding in two directions to move the empty leg back, counter circling to move  that leg to the left ...while unfolding to move the foot forward into a parallel position incorporating the concept of the Empty Foot ... and finishing the circle to temporarily (transition) being double balanced.  The upper body remains folded so as to lead immediately into the commencement. All of this happens while keeping ....hips to the front, expanding & contracting,  relaxing the shoulders, maintaining a solid root in the right leg with perfect knee over foot alignment.  Not Exactly Just Separating Your Feet. So ... slow down and get the benefit from every move.