Monday Morning Tai Chi Training Tip # 354
Meditation- Yoga and Tai Chi
The process of meditation in yoga and tai chi are quite similar – to build up energy in the lower belly, and send it up to the top of the head, refining it along the way. In yoga, the energy of the body is generally balanced and manipulated through hatha yoga, which is the form of yoga most people are familiar with. In tai chi, we use the Form to accomplish the same end.
After the body is opened and balanced, the intention then moves this energy up the back or along the spine. In yoga, the lower body is separated and closed off by sitting in the crossed legged position (lotus), while in tai chi we generally use a standing posture to integrate the legs with the upper body.
Most forms of yogic meditation are transcendental (moving beyond the normal physical/mental self ), while the goal of most forms of tai chi standing are designed to experience your true Self.
Now I know I will get lots of feedback about these ideas, but this has been my experience. I studied and taught yoga back in the early 1970’s with Master Subramuniya, and Swami Vishnudevanda. Other people will have other ideas, I’m sure. It is the same with tai chi. We should only speak from our own experience, not replaying what we have heard and read.
Imagination Becomes Reality
T.T. Liang, one of America’s great Tai Chi teachers, used the phrase “Imagination Becomes Reality”. He even wrote a book using that title. Master Liang was still teaching at age 100! That idea has directed my practice and teaching for decades. Let me explain.
Yi – Chi – Jing is a vital concept in Tai Chi practice. Yi represents the mind. This is the thinking mind as opposed to the instinctual mind. Chi is energy in any and all of its forms, but especially the energy as it manifests in the body. And Jing is how the energy expresses itself in the body.
An example: Say you want to lift something. You first get the idea that you want to lift the object. This is Yi or the mind deciding it wants to lift.
Next, the mind directs the body to gather and focus energy for the task. Is the object heavy, a strange shape, sharp edged, etc? The body must prepare for the action in a different way depending on the task. The mind decides how much energy the body needs to complete the task and the body starts to gather the resources for the job. This is the Chi phase.
Finally, the object gets lifted. This is the Jing phase.
If the object is heavy, one has to build up more Chi in order to lift it. The mind directs this build up, on a conscious or unconscious level. Experience helps with this knowledge. We prepare the muscles to do just the right amount of effort. One of the ways people hurt themselves doing tasks is if he or she expects the load to be light, for instance, and the body is not well prepared for the task. This Yi-Chi-Jing idea is especially important in push hands and martial applications. We want to spend just the right amount of energy to get the job done – not too much and not too little.
Every move in Tai Chi goes through this three part cycle.We can also use this idea to condition (yang), or relax (yin) the body during our practice. If you have a good imagination (Yi), you can increase the Chi by imagining resistance (being under water, or having the space filled with honey), and your body will go through the same psycho/physical changes as if it was real. We can build up muscles, stretch connective tissues, improve balance, etc. This idea also improves martial ability, and is important in the meditative aspects of Tai Chi.