Stand in wuchi: sincere and patient, but not neglectful. Stable and rooted, yet agile and poised. Stand in wuchi, the sky comes down to you, the earth rises up within you. Stand in wuchi in movement, the stillness is yin, the conscious center. Zhan Zhuang, or post standing, or Yiquan are similar. Even when you are moving in the form, be in wuchi. Even when moving you are still and within that stillness, there is motion. There is no movement without stillness and no stillness without movement. This stimulating perspective ignites my imagination.
Tai chi and spine health: tai chi is a powerful way of activating the spine and flooding it with healing energy. Look at the backs of many martial artists and you will see youthful strength and vigor, even in men and women of advanced age in the their 70s and 80s. Average people in our country spend a lot of time doing things other than developing a strong back. If we do, we think of it in terms of muscle strength. In Chinese internal martial arts, we focus on developing an energetic back, one in which the nervous system is activated through precise movements. Qi is stimulated and the body is refreshed. This is quite different from the westernize method of “working out.”
Additionally, focusing on the back and spine takes attention away from the stomach, which is what the average US person is tied to. We eat too much, we think that a six pack is cool, and we have bad backs. This tells you something is being missed if you ask me. Not that anyone is, but it’s been on my mind lately. I know have to watch I put in my body as much as what I do to it, or with it. I have to look at what not to do as much as what I am doing. I probably should practice tai chi more often and more regularly, but I’m doing better than not practicing at all. People who don’t exercise at all must surely be taking a toll on their longevity.
We sit too much. Doing tai chi helps get us up and work our skeleton and nervous system. Tai chi tells our bodies that we are not ready to just sit around waiting for old age to take its toll on us. Our bodies are capable of living 120 years quite easily, even longer, if we took care of them in ways that facilitate long life. Tai chi is a way to do that, along with intelligent nutrition, of course (see my website’s tai chi and nutrition page). Too often, our final years and days are put in the care of doctors and nurses (who provide a great service albeit with limitations) which often becomes a sad time of hospital bedcare and loss of dignity. We deserve much more than that kind of withering away. We deserve lives of vigor and longevity. Childhood is not just a phase of life that fades into “old age.” It is only the beginning of a long, vigorous time in this marvelous world.
Tai chi practice helps to cultivate sensitivity to subtle changes in the body and beyond. This has implications for overall health and wellbeing, because you should be more able to detect shifts in your physical conditions early and fend off illness before it is too late. You can catch a cold for example and stop its development before it takes over. Years ago, in my early fifties I got shingles, which can be painful and for some, last a long time. Mine lasted about two weeks and I attribute that to catching it very early, going to a doctor and getting medication practically the first day I detected something odd. I attribute that to my tai chi practice.
Part of the reason why tai chi is so powerful for maintaining overall health and well being is due to its meditative qualities. Slowing your mind and body down with mindful movement, breathing completely with conscious intention, focusing the attention on the dantian (field of elixir) and zhong ding (central equilibrium) and moving from the center that is created, all together cultivate awareness of changes in one’s body, mental and emotional minds, and even in other people around you. Perhaps the term intuitive is applicable here. You become more intuitive, meaning you become more aware or cognizant of energetic movements beyond the material world.
The means by which you can practice developing greater sensitivity of the subtle energies is to be sure to move in the sequence that is most appropriate for taiji. That is a mind-energy-body progression. The way I have learned to practice that I find effective is to visualize the movement before actually moving. When I do that, the qi goes there in a natural response to the intention that has been set, then the body follows. This is a powerful way to focus your attention in meditative movement.