10 YANG STYLE (TAI CHI) SKILLS

LET THE HEAD FEEL LIGHT AND SENSITIVE: Like a thread holding it up, or a top knot of hair tied to the rafters and your body weight loosely hanging from it. Also, as if someone is supporting you under the occiput and jaw.

SINK THE FRONT AND RAISE THE BACK: Melt and soften the chest, feel like your spine and back are ‘charged’. Let the front of the torso sink to the belly and the hips (kwa), whilst lifting and focusing on the back

FEEL FULLNESS AND EMPTINESS OF THE LEGS: Relax the muscles of the belly, hips and thighs. As you shift your weight, you will feel the leg with the weight on it is fuller, heavier than the leg without the weight. Focus on the different feeling of the legs, know which leg your weight is on – this is the full leg. Keep the knees aligned with the feet, weight spread evenly through the feet and sit in the kwa. Pause before stepping

.SEEK STILLNESS IN MOVEMENT: Pause before stepping, only move the empty leg when you are fully rested on the full leg. This pause should be encouraged. Giving yourself the time to pause before stepping is good for you. You can also feel the stillness of the central pole of balance by being aware of the twisting of the body. Focus on the Dan Tien, around 3-4 finger widths below the navel, just inside the belly.Do dissolving / softeningLink the breath with the movement.

UNITE ABOVE AND BELOW: Find your alignments (wrist to the ankles, elbows to the knees and shoulders to hips, also, elbow to the hip and hip to the feet) like a string connecting them, or a thread going through the body, or simply a direct link. The energy is rooted in the feet, developed in the legs, directed by the waist and manifested in the hands.

MOVE CONTINUOUSLY, MOVE WITHOUT BREAKS: Look for circles, move like water or through water, ‘chan ssu ching’ – silk reeling cocoon – spirals.

RELAX THE SHOULDERS AND SINK THE ELBOWS: Just keep your attention on it, keep going back to it and you will retrain your body.

RELAX THE WAIST: drop the hips to open the waist. Then the hips (kwa) can lead and the waist can turn freely.

USE MIND NOT STRENGTH: Soften the muscles and use mind-will to move. Through knowledge of the applications, consciously direct your body whilst looking for softness and clear direction of intent.

UNITE THE INTERNAL AND EXTERNAL: Be aware when you practice. It is the ‘Shen’ the amalgam of thoughts, spirit and consciousness that move you. Unite internal and external means unite Spirit and body. This is done by having a spacious awareness of your body, mind and environment.

Relax

The Chinese word for relax is ‘Song’. It can be translated as relax, but also, soften, loosen, to let go. If you watch a teacher in China demonstrate ‘Song’, you can see them actively checking their body and softening the musles, letting go. They then take that state into their Tai Chi practice.

One way to relax is to do the Qi gong practice of dissolving. This is where you focus on the outer border of an area of tension and feel as if it can melt like wax becoming warm, melting and dropping down. You can also visualise ice melting to become water or even steam and come straight out of the body. This is best developed in a natural standing posture. This melting practice can be done for anything from 2 – 10 minutes to start with.

By far the biggest trick to relaxing is to keep your mind on it. Just a gentle, casual awareness of the process of relaxing / softening. In the little pauses in life, check and relax, soften, let go. The magic of relaxing is in returning your attention to it. If you keep glancing back at yourself through the day, seeing what you can soften, you will change your awareness to one of watchful, kind attention. This will change your state and eventually effect those around you.

Water

To move like water is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself when doing Tai Chi. To be still like a deep fjord, or constantly moving and untamed like a stormy sea is a wonderful feeling. Water can be fluid, ice or steam. It can change. It can change whilst keeping it’s nature. That is what you can do. You can change, flow and adapt. In Tai Chi you can be contracting then expanding, slow then fast.Don’t get fixed on one way of doing Tai Chi, be open.

There are so many opportunities to be free from tension and pain if we allow ourselves to change like water. Tai Chi is the physical embodiment of change if we let it be. If you are lucky enough to live near the sea, mimic its nature. Stand where you can see the water and be with it, letting it guide your movements. It is liberating and unifies you with nature. You can focus on a pond or a lake, then the clouds – that’s a lovely one to do. It is good to go back to the same spot on different days and witness the changing states of the environment.

We get fixed, we get so fixed all the time, we get buried in ourselves. When we are guided by water in its different states, we release ourselves from that fixed state. Then we are free to merge with nature whilst remaining embodied and present.