The Tai Chi Stance, Part 1

Just as there are basic elements of a golf swing to learn before walking onto a golf course, so too are there basic things to know before beginning a Tai Chi Form.

As in Yoga, the stance used in Tai Chi is extremely important. Without the proper alignment, not only won’t the practitioner get maximum benefits from performing a Tai Chi form, but also he or she might actually suffer an injury. I’ve used ‘stance’ in the title of this article, but there is far more to consider. Since moving energy is primary, the novice needs to understand what is happening.

The Chi flows through the body primarily from the top of the head, down through the spine, legs and feet. It moves through the body by way of ‘meridians’ just as blood moves through veins and arteries. Because it enters the body from the top of the head and is channeled down the spine, it moves best when these areas are aligned. What I mean by ‘aligned’ is that a straight line is formed from the back of the head to the bottom of the spine. Thus the following explanations give the practitioner ways to establish such a stance.

The primary stance in any Martial Art and Yoga forms an alignment of the head and entire spinal column. Imagining that a string connected at the top of your head suspends the body is a way to feel that alignment. To actually feel it, and see it too if you have a large mirror, is to lean against a wall with the back of your head, shoulders, back, and spine (butt) touching it at once. To do this you’ll have to bend your legs and stand with your feet about shoulder width apart and a few inches from the wall. Once the correct alignment is felt, step away from the wall slightly holding the stance. Continuing to practice with ‘wall alignment’ and using a mirror to notice the ‘straightness’ of your stance will give beneficial results in a short time.

Continue to practice the proceeding until it becomes second nature. While you’re doing that pay attention to the next important part of the stance – consciously standing and moving from your Dan Tien. This is the place of power within your body and is located directly below the navel. Just as you normally sense everything from the head area, you can relocate your sense of awareness and balance at the Dan Tien. When you consciously move about remembering to pull your butt in so too can you put your conscious awareness at your Dan Tien. It may feel peculiar at first, but practice will bring it into a familiar way of standing and moving.

One way to practice sensing the Dan Tien is through ‘standing meditation.’ This stance is the foundation for all Martial Arts practice. It grounds your body and rivets it to a solid foundation. Once this stance is mastered an opponent will find it difficult to move your body from its position. First, get into the stance described above – feet about shoulder width, knees slightly bent, head, shoulders, back and spine straight, tailbone (butt) tucked in. The knees should be apart like you are riding a horse. If you’ve never ridden a horse, pretend what it would feel like if you did. Use a wall or mirror (preferable) while getting into the stance.

Now imagine you are holding a large ball (like a medicine ball) in your arms. With your arms rounded and held about chest high, bring your hands toward each other so that your fingers are three to six inches apart and opened slightly. The elbows should be slightly bent downward.

Now sense your Dan Tien and shift your awareness to that place in your body. Feel each breath come into that area, like breathing through it rather then your mouth or nose.

Stay in that stance until your thighs begin to burn. And burn they will if the stance is correct, so if you don’t feel the burning sensation check the stance again, especially that the knees are separated enough. The burning could start within 30 seconds or not for a few minutes. Work up to ten to fifteen minutes or more for this stance. Longer is better.

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