Yin and Yang in Taiji
by Eric Borreson
One of the fundamental principles of taiji is that we start in wuji, or neutral emptiness. As we begin to move, wuji separates into yin and yang, the opposite poles of the universe. Yin corresponds to insubstantial, or storing energy. Yang corresponds to substantial, or delivering energy.
One of Yang Chen Fu’s Ten Essential Points says that we must be able to distinguish between insubstantial (yin, storing energy) and substantial (yang, delivering energy) to be able to turn and move lightly and gracefully. If we can’t tell the difference between yin and yang, our steps will be heavy and sluggish.
Another of Yang Chen Fu’s Ten Essential Points says that we must coordinate the upper and lower body. The whole body should act as a unified whole. Motion is rooted in the feet, released through the legs, controlled by the waist, and manifested by the hands through the shoulders and arms. When our hands move, our waist and feet as well as the focus of our eyes must move accordingly.
We need to have both yin and yang in our hands and feet. When one hand is yin, the other is yang. When one foot is yin, the other is yang. In addition, we need to have both yin and yang on the same side of the body. When the right foot is yang (substantial), the right hand is yin (storing energy). Throughout our forms, 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 taiji. We need to learn to visualize the movements of the forms. When we become aware of yin and yang, we can start to develop a mental image of a linkage between our hands and feet. When we mentally link our hands and feet, we also link our upper body with our lower body so they follow each other. Our hands reach their full extension at the same time we finish shifting our weight.
With practice, it becomes more natural to use spiral force from your feet and legs to create the movement of your hands. In turn, this awareness of connectedness helps us become more aware of yin and yang as we shift our weight. In turn, this makes us more aware of our balance and weight. We become more rooted.
It’s a virtuous circle. As we practice our taiji, we become aware of the interconnected principles that underlie taiji. Spiral force helps us move properly. Moving properly helps us understand yin and yang, which relates to substantial and insubstantial. It develops into a never-ending spiral of deeper and deeper understanding.
Practice your forms. Thousands of times. There are no shortcuts.
Eric Borreson, a student and teacher, finds teaching tai chi, 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 is a Master Instructor in the Therapeutic Tai Chi system. He teaches tai chi and qigong at the prestigious Heartland Spa, a top 10 destination spa, in Gilman, IL. In addition, he teaches tai chi (Therapeutic Tai Chi, Yang 24, Dr. Lam’s Tai Chi for Arthritis, and Dr. Lam’s Tai Chi for Diabetes) at other venues. He teaches private lessons on request. He writes a weekly wellness column at http://eric-taichi.blogspot.com