|Mind Posture - Body Posture
||This Month my
Student A.J. writes of his experience and
insights in Tai Chi.
A.J. is a talented massage
therapist who has travelled the world to enrich
his art form. More information on his massage
can be found here
The Way of Balance
A good stance and posture reflect a proper state of
- Morehei Ueshiba
Posture is not only involved with our relationship to
gravity, stillness and motion, it has great impact on
digestion, breathing and even our emotions. Whatever we
do as exercise is only as beneficial as the posture in which we do it. But our interest for self
progress has to go beyond words and classes. Proper
physical postures are important to practice not only in
class, but every moment of the day. Such is true with
Tai Chi posture, both of the mind and body.
We go through life as if moved by every force outside of
ourselves, rather than acting from within our own choice
or thinking. The world moves us. Relationships move us.
We chase after whatever enters the mind. We are
responding to the world constantly. Because we answer
the demands of the outside world, we miss opportunities
to better understand what the body does naturally. One
thing is certain for many people, we seldom just stand.
If you are honest in your observations, you will find
yourself leaning against walls, on one hip, on your
shopping cart, constantly moving and twisting yourself,
even if you are practicing a routine of relaxation.
Sensing the Earth
If you further observe yourself in these moments, paying
attention to the subtle feelings in your body, you will
notice tension, lack of quality breathing and even rapid
or stressful thinking. Once we take a step forward,
since we are moving from an imbalanced posture, our
movements will by clumsy and imbalanced.
overstep our walk, wobble in even the most basic
motions, walk on the balls of our feet or make our
To avoid this, check your standing
posture first. Allow your weight to sink equally onto
both feet and let your hands hang at your sides.
If it is comfortable for you, let your palms face behind
you and bring your shoulders back and down for a proper
posture. Distribute your weight throughout your feet, not the balls
of your feet or heels. Get the sense that the earth is
supporting you. Once you maintain this posture, try
engaging in conversations or reading etc. to see how
long you can hold this posture without losing that
|Here A.J. has described the
first requirement of Taiji training called 'Zhan
Zhuang.' This is the way to begin each class.
Awareness in Motion
feel natural and comfortable
in this posture, we can try a walking exercise. We
want to use the awareness and sensitivity gained by
standing, and keep it with us in motion. Walking can be
seen and experienced as a profound activity. Yet with
automaton-like, restricted movements walking
could do more harm than good.
Walking has many benefits; besides stimulating our
cardiovascular system, walking helps us relax as well as
energizes us and reduces stress. Walking has a deep
connection to the fluid rhythms of movement and breath.
Free and open breathing can have a major role in letting
tension go in the body to maintain energy levels and
coordination. Try to bring your awareness back to your
breath when you notice your mind starting to wander.
Begin to enjoy each breath of air and step you take. If
find yourself rushing, slow down. If you feel yourself
bouncing in your step, (you must be very happy!) try to
move around and discover a more fluid movement. As you
walk, begin to release any tension that may have built
up from being anxious. You don't want to waste energy in
moving without awareness, so check in with yourself
you allow your body to remain open and stress free and
your mind clear and aware, they can both move together
as one. As you continue to observe your body in motion,
notice the range of your movements. Can you start to
notice how your movements represent your state of mind?
Begin to feel
how your body is moving and notice how everything is
interconnected. Sense each foot as it touches the ground
and notice how it lands; gently or hard, flat or rolling
heel to toe, etc. How about your arm movements? Are you
looking at the ground, thus slouching your shoulders?
Notice the body and be free and easy about your
Zhuang Zi said,
True human beings breathe with their heels,
while the majority of us breathe with our throats.
As you continue to release tension in your body you will
feel your breath reaching deeper into your body. Your
mind awakens with sensation as you enter a new state of
being, sensing new awareness of body parts you seldom
When I Started
When I first entered my Tai Chi training, my cup was not
overflowing, it was cracking from the overwhelming
amount of misconceptions and misinformation I held about
the art. My associations to words and theories did not
allow my awareness to enter the body freely. My
movements would meet the resistance of my knowing. Why
could it not accept what was simply taking place without
forming values or beliefs?
Over time I began to ache from my movements. My practice
was resulting in tension in the body and no real
improvement in my body. I eventually learned to let go.
Now, I am simply moving to move, as I walk just to walk -
enjoying each movement
I didn't need to stretch beyond my reach, to create more
activity in the mind than what was actually taking
place. I was desiring what I considered the deep and
complex aspect of Tai Chi and movement. But the subtle
is not less than the complex, small things make up big
The deeper happenings of the body and the mind while
standing or moving are not dependent on our ability to
Think with your whole body- Taisen Deshimaru