TAI CHI AND POSTURE
by Bill Walsh
In Tai Chi Chuan, posture is related to mechanical efficiency.
Tai Chi Chuan is a slow-moving choreography that asks its practitioners to sense each minute shift of weight while paying attention to the principles. The first principle „Lift the headš suggests we delicately lift the head as if we were supporting a light object on top of it. There is a specific spot on the crown of the head that should extend towards heaven. This idea keeps the practitioner lengthening the spine and consciously improving posture during practice. Yang Cheng Fu, third generation Master of the Yang family, wrote a paper detailing ten principles that should accompany form practice. In this paper he specifies the relationships between body parts that should be established by the mind and spirit‚s intention during practice.
It is important that form practice be done slowly. This requires moment-to-moment attentiveness to posture, enabling the practitioner to better perform each movement more efficiently. Better posture thus translates into better balance and flexible and greater strength.
There are two ways to enhance the benefits of Tai Chi as a postural exercise. The first is doing the Tai Chi form practice lower and slower. Slow and low transitions are more difficult to do smoothly because the load on the single weighted leg increases. The task then becomes one of smoothly transitioning between postures without bobbing up and down. This requires the practitioner to organize his or her posture between movements more carefully.
The second is „Standing in Postureš. This means holding one posture for a period of time instead of moving from posture to posture. "Standing in a Posture" puts more weight on one leg than the other. Tiring in that posture, the leg you are standing on starts to talk back. It hurts. It is under tremendous load. The proper response is to find any holding or bracing and let go, releasing those muscles. As the muscles are releasing, the spine is lengthening. Learning to release under load is an important prerequisite to doing „push handsš which cultivates the martial arts aspect of Tai Chi Chuan.
Practicing lower and slower, and „Standing in Postureš, are advanced exercises that should only be done under the guidance of a qualified teacher. Practicing any kind of Tai Chi Chuan helps posture, and practicing according to these guidelines increases the benefits considerably. Tai Chi Chuan not only improves posture and balance while doing the Tai Chi form, but in everyday activities as well.
Bill Walsh is the Director of the Yang Chengfu Tai Chi Chuan Center, USA, in Carmel, New York and teaches in NYC. He has been doing Tai Chi Chuan for twenty-five years. He has studied handform, sword, and push hands with Lou Kleinsmith and push hands with Stanley Israel. They were both senior students of Master Cheng Man-Ching. In 1993, he began studying with Master Yang Zhenduo, fourth generation Master of the Yang Family and his grandson, Master Yang Jun. Bill has studied the Traditional handform, sword and saber with the Yang Family and opened one of their first three Centers in the US. Email: Bill4Walsh@aol.com Website: www.at-taichi.com
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