More on Mindful Bouncing
As I said last week, bouncing in Tai Chi practice can be helpful for many reasons. I got some good questions from email readers, so I will try to clarify this some more.
When I refer to mindful bouncing I am focusing on the lower body – the upper legs and pelvis. This area is the main gather, storage, and release area of our body. We want to be able to deal with strong forces that approach us, neutralize them, and then send them on their way. This is most effectively trained through the use of bouncing.
Jumping is a good example of this. We compress the energy in the lower body, then at the appropriate time, release our body to move upward. Try this. Squat down a bit. Make sure to keep the upper body straight. This is the compression stage. Now with some force press downward on the feet and allow the upper body to expand upward into the jump.
Try a little squat and release, then a bigger squat with more release. If you really want to jump high, you would run, then press vigorously into your legs, and allow the explosion upward. Watch a high jumper to gain the idea.
I was just walking up a flight of stairs and realized I was practicing this sequence – gather, storage, release. I put a foot on the next higher stair, then gathered by putting weight on it, then released by pressing downward which allowed my body to rise up. Next time you climb stairs, use mindful awareness to feel this process play out.
When I was in high school, I threw the shot put. When I think about it now, I realize I was doing the same process – gather into the leg of the putting arm side, twist the torso to increase the storage, and then release.
Even walking, when done with mindfulness, follows this process. When exploring this idea of gather, store, and release, be sure to follow the four important points:
- Know Yourself (be mindful at all times).
- Do Your Best (feel good that you are making an effort to do your best always, and do not compare yourself with others).
- Don’t Overdo (easy to overdo if you lose mindfulness).
- Make a Little Progress Everyday (slow and steady wins the race).
I like to practice this bouncing technique by doing my form with a constant, little bounce. For instance when moving from one leg to the other, starting on the rear leg, sitting, bounce a little. Be sure to make sure the knee is going in the same direction that the toe is headed. Never let the knee extend further out than the toe. Note the fact that if you have the weight on a straight leg, you can’t bounce. Try it. You need the knee to have some flex to bounce.
Now as you move onto the other foot, bounce as you move, and when you arrive on the forward foot, bounce. As always, knee faces the direction of the toe, and do not extend the knee past the toe. Bounce through the whole form, even when kicking or standing on one leg. We need the joints to be well lubricated, the tendons and ligaments resilient and flexible, the muscles strong. All this can be trained – just follow the Four Important Points. Don’t let your mind wander. Focus and you will see clearly.