Monday Morning Tai Chi Training Tip – #322
Sink the Elbows
One of the Tips readers wrote to ask me about the meaning of “Sink the Elbows”. Let me share my take on this “Important Point”.
Firstly, for form smoothness and harmony, we need to express yin and yang in our body during practice. Yin translates into sinking and gathering the weight of the body into the legs for stability and storage of energy for future release. Yang means that the upper body feels light, flexible, and open for releasing and channeling this stored energy. The lower dantien (around the belly button) is the dividing line.
Imagine you had a bottle of liquid. When it sits on its base, it is stable. Then turn it upside down and set it on its top – unstable. Think about a tight rope walker. He carries a heavyish pole, arms held close to the torso, which helps him to sink his weight onto the wire.
When we do our form, we don’t use a pole to help us root – we use our imagination. Instead of imagining a pole, we imagine heavy weights hanging from our elbows and shoulders, and allow this sinking feeing to make us more rooted. If you lift your shoulders and elbows upwards, you should experience the center of gravity move upwards, making the body less stable. Try it out Stand solidly and imagine weights hanging down from your elbows and shoulders and feel how that feels. Then raise your elbows out from your body and draw your shoulders up towards your ears, and feel how that feels. Notice the difference?
One other important point about sinking elbows. Tai Chi Chuan is a martial art. Amoung the benefits of Tai Chi form practice is that it trains the body for self defense. You might not want to think about self defense, but that is what each and every part of each and every movement pantomimes. There are places on the body that are more sensitive and vulnerable than others, like the face, center line on the front of the body, and believe it or not, the arm pit, especially on the left under arm. It is an direct opening to the heart. One can die from a blow to this area.
So, it is especially important to protect this area, and that is one of the main reasons we sink the elbows – to keep them close to the body, but of course, one does not want to squeeze the elbows tightly into the body which would restrict movement. Imagine you are holding a small ball, like a tennis ball, in your arm pit as you do the form. If you have a tennis ball, try it out. Do the form with the ball held softly in the arm pit. Can you do it?
Thanks to the person who emailed me that question. I appreciate questions and comments. It helps me to check if I am being clear with the sharing of what I mean.