By Eric Borreson
One of the fundamental principles of tai chi is that we start in wu ji, or neutral emptiness. As we begin to move, wu ji separates into the yin and yang that our body manifests throughout the forms. Yin corresponds to storing energy. Yang corresponds to delivering energy. Throughout a form, our hands and feet continuously transition between yin and yang.
Why is this important? What difference does it make whether a hand or a foot is yin or yang?
The answer to these questions is simple, yet subtle. Intention, thus visualization, is very important in tai chi. We need to learn to visualize the movements of the forms. When we become aware of yin and yang as described above, we start to develop a mental image of a linkage between our hands and feet.
According to the classics of taiji, “Internal force is rooted in the feet, developed by the legs, governed by the waist, and expressed in the hands.” This internal force is a spiral force generated at the feet that causes the waist to rotate, which leads the hands in the various taiji forms.
When you mentally link your hands and feet, you also link your upper body with your lower body so the top and bottom follow each other. With practice, it becomes more natural for the movement of your legs to create movement of your hands.
In turn, this awareness of connectedness helps you become more aware of substantial and insubstantial as you shift your weight. In turn, this makes you more aware of your balance and weight. You become more rooted.
It’s a virtuous circle. As you practice your tai chi, you become aware of the interconnected principles that underlie tai chi. Spiral force helps you move properly. Moving properly helps you understand yin and yang, which relates to substantial and insubstantial. It develops into a never-ending spiral of deeper and deeper understanding.
Be aware though, you can’t just read about it. You have to do it. Each time you practice, focus on one principle until it becomes second nature. Then focus on another principle. And so on. Then go back to the beginning and do it again with your newer understanding. Practice your forms. Thousands of times. There are no shortcuts.
Eric Borreson – a student and teacher, finds teaching taiji, qigong, and meditation to be a path to a more meaningful life. Eric is the founder and director of Meditation in Motion, specializing in teaching about living healthier and happier lives. He teaches taiji, qigong, and meditation at the prestigious Heartland Spa, a top 10 destination spa, located in Gilman, IL. In addition, he teaches taiji (Yang 24, Sun-style taiji, and Dr. Lam’s Taiji for Arthritis) at other venues. He conducts workshops and teaches private lessons on request. He writes a weekly wellness column at http://eric-taichi.blogspot.com.