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Saturday, January 22, 2011

Tai Chi: Bringing the principles into daily life - Part 2

In Part 1 we explored the importance of relaxation and the connection between thought, emotion and posture.   In Part 2 we delve a little deeper into posture with body awareness.  

BODY AWARENESS

What does "body awareness" mean?  "Aware" implies knowledge gained through one's own perceptions, and "conscious" emphasizes the recognition of something sensed or felt.   So conscious observation of your body and how it feels in different positions is what we're aiming for.   As a beginning Tai Chi student this usually means becoming aware of where to place your hands and feet and how they move as your transition from one posture to the next.  As your training deepens you learn to feel the connection your arms and legs have with your spine.   In the following video provided by expertvillage, you are shown a very simple exercise to help you become aware of the connection between your arms and spine as you raise and lower your elbows.  Give it a try and think about what you're feeling as you do.  When you raise and lower your elbows do you feel movement?  Where do you feel it?  These connections can feel subtle and annoyingly elusive at first, but don't give up.  As you practice they will become more obvious. 



How to include body awareness in your daily life:

As you go about your day,  ask yourself the following questions:
  • Are your ears above your shoulders when you're sitting at your desk or driving your car?  Or is your head in front of your shoulders bringing your ears with it?  You don't need to look in mirror - just become aware.  If you're not sure where your head is in relation to your shoulders, gently move your head forward and back.  (Remember to keep your shoulders dropped.) 
  • When you walk are your shoulders above your hips? Or do they roll forward, closing/putting pressure on your chest?  Are your feet parallel, or do your footprints in the sand or snow look like a duck just walked by?
  • When you stand, put equal weight on both feet and notice where your pelvis is.  Is it forward and under like in a pelvic tilt?  Or is it tilted back/upward.  Where is your tailbone?  Is it pointing straight down to the floor?  What postural adjustment do you need to make so it does?

  • When you stand, how do the bottoms of your feet feel?  Is the pressure of your weight distributed evenly from toe to heel?  Or are you leaning forward/backward putting extra pressure on your toes/heels?

  • When you reach overhead are you pulling your shoulder up around your ear? How does it feel if you allow it to rotate in the socket instead of raising it? 

Watch others.  Observe how different people use their bodies differently.  A great place to do this (discreetly!) is at the gym.   You'll be amazed at how many different body postures you'll see as you watch people lift weights, run on the treadmill or do their stretches.  Or sit in a busy public place and people-watch.  Notice how people walk (watch their feet and hips) and how they sit (where are their shoulders? is their spine straight?). 

You've noticed you have some postural habits that need changing.  Now what?  DON"T FORCE IT!!  Become aware of your body and the changes you'd like to achieve.  But remember, developing your current postural habits has taken years, and you're not going to correct them quickly.  Forcing a sudden change is going to stress muscles, nerves and joints and will result in pain.

The best way to regain flexibility and realign your body is to continue your Tai Chi practice.   The stretching and strengthening Tai Chi provides is an excellent and safe way to gently change your body over time.

 Part 3  - Feet First

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