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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 mind.

- 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.

Mind Chasing

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.

 

We might overstep our walk, wobble in even the most basic motions, walk on the balls of our feet or make our muscles tense.

 

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 subtle awareness.

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
 

When we 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 frequently.

 

When 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 movements.
 

 

 


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 experience.


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 things.

The deeper happenings of the body and the mind while standing or moving are not dependent on our ability to know them


Think with your whole body- Taisen Deshimaru

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Jade

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