February 05 , 2008

Greetings. The Inner Journey continues to evolve for me. I am offering a workshop covering more than 25 essential elements that make up this Inner Journey. Here I am sharing one of them. During the workshop we will integrate all these elements into one or two moves so we can explore them for deep understanding and integration into our own form. Inner Journey - Sat. Feb. 16 from 1 to 4 pm at the The Gilman Studio. The class fee is $30. All styles and levels of Tai Chi welcome.


Inner Journey – Lining up the energy centers
The Inner journey is concerned with gaining an awareness of how to maximize the benefits, enjoyment, and mind/ body connections for the movements of Tai Chi Chuan. The Inner Journey is comprised of many “essential elements” or inner directed, mind/body intentions that can be learned and/or polished with some thought and practice.

The awareness of these essential elements has evolved through my teaching, in order to help students overcome limitations, or increase overall performance in their practice. The one I would like to share with you now is called “Lining up the energy centers”. This evolved as a combination of traditional Tai Chi instruction and my desire to help a student with a balance problem.

Balance becomes an issue during the stepping phase of Tai Chi movements. With a fixed stance, e.g. the sequence of Roll Back, Press, and Push, students rarely lose balance. But when moving from Push into Single Whip, for example, balance does become an issue as one turns and steps out with the left foot.

Energetically and physically, this essential element comes into play. We have a series of energy centers that start at the top of the head with the Bai Hui point and end in the feet with the Yung Chuan point that need to be lined up and balanced. Let’s take a quick look at them and see how they can help us maintain balance.

Starting at the base, we have the Yung Chuan or Bubbling Well point, roughly in the center of each foot. This is our root and connection to the ground and the yin energy as it rises from the earth. One foot, or both, is always in contact with the ground.

Next center of energy is the lower dantien or physical center in the lower belly, roughly in the center of the torso, from front to back. The emotional or heart center is in the center of the lower chest area. The mental or intellectual center is centered in the forehead area. The top of this energetic pole or fountain of energy is the Bai Hui at the top of the head, which is our connection to the heavenly forces, or yang energy.

When we use the Bow and Arrow stance (the stance used in Roll Back, Press, and Push), both Yung Chuan points are in contact with the ground at all times during this sequence. This is our base of support. Using this base, we move the torso back and forward according to our intention to neutralize or attack.

The Tai Chi classics teach us that the torso must remain upright and erect at all times during all movements. This means that the physical (lower dantien) supports the emotional (middle dantien), which supports the mental (upper dantien). All must be aligned and placed directly overtop the next one. This makes for correct balance, like blocks being stacked, and ease of energy flow through elimination of any kinks in our energy hose.

I like to pay attention to the Bai Hui point at the top to make sure it is aligned with the other centers along the center channel or trusting channel. The Bai Hui point is like the top of a mountain – a place of clarity to see all around. From this elevated position, energy is gathered and sent down to the appropriate center that needs to deal with that information.

So, anytime you are moving forward and backward with fixed step, make sure to align the four points along the trusting channel – lower, middle, upper Dantiens, and the Bai Hui point. Be sure they are plumb, straight and erect, without being stiff. Think of this channel as a bamboo shoot growing up from the soil, not a steel rod placed on the ground.

Movement, in the form of stepping, calls the Yung Chuan point into play. Shift all the weight onto the leg that will support the body during stepping, and make sure to align all the above centers with the bottom of the foot. You now have five points in a straight line, each supported by the center below it. If you keep this awareness firmly in mind, and sink the weight down to the bottom for root, your balance will certainly be firm.

When stepping, keep the five center alignment until the stepping heel touches forward, or the toe touches backward. Then, and only then, should you shift the weight. When shifting the weight onto the supporting foot, be sure to roll up on to the toe of the soon to be stepping foot to make sure you have come into full alignment.

When using empty step, either on toe or heel, e.g. Raise Hands or Stork Spreads It’s Wings, line all five points on the standing foot.

This essential element – alignment of the energy centers – is more profound than it appears. Do your entire form with just this in mind and I’m sure you will increase your pleasure and performance.

For more information, please contact me at michael@gilmanstudio.com.

Best Wishes,

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