Monday Morning Tai Chi Training Tip # 267
Tai Chi to Ward Off Loneliness
In these times of stay home and social distancing, community is so important for one’s sanity and well being. The feeling of loneliness can break one’s heart. For the last three months, a small group of Tai Chi players have been meeting in Chetzemoka Park (keeping our distance) five times a week and working on a deeper understanding of the physical and mental aspects of Tai Chi Chuan. We all come away from practice with renewed hope and vigor. Thanks to all who participate. The following is one aspect we had been focusing on last week. We also made a major change to the form for Park practice. More about that next week.
Sinking Elbows Exercise
I can not stress strongly enough how important it is to “sink the elbows”. It is one of Yang’s Essential points. But like everything else in Tai Chi and life, don’t take advice and instruction without experiencing it for your self. The process for discovery is:
Encounter the advice.
There are many sources of new information about Tai Chi practice – books, internet, schools, friends.
Figure out what it actually means.
Some of the advice is metaphoric and clothed in symbolism. Others may be quite simple and plain.
Try it out.
Figure out ways to experiment in as many different ways as you can to test the advice to see if you understand and can translate this into your mind and body.
Incorporate the result.
After you have proof tested the premises, incorporate it into your form and make it your own.
This week in the park, we played around with sinking the elbows. The most basic principle is that when you shift the weight on one leg in order to step with the other leg, the elbow on the solid side gets heavier, making that leg even more solid. Another is the angle relationship of the elbow to shoulder and torso. Here is an exercise to test out for yourself what feels best and natural.
Note: Be sure not to have any preconceived ideas about what the result should be. Stay open and feel what happens.
1. Stand in left foot bow stance (left foot forward). The right hand is in front of the center/right side of the chest level, like Left Brush Knee. Feel how that feels in your arm, shoulder, and upper torso.
2. Press the elbow tightly against you ribs, leaving the hand in the same place. How does that feel. Then relax, keeping the hand in the same place.
3. Gradually raise the elbow upward, keeping the hand in the same place. Take your time, feeling results as the elbow raises. Do this as high as possible, at least until the elbow is parallel to the ground. How does that feel.
4. Keeping the hand in the same place, relax back to where you feel the most comfortable. For a majority of people it is near the body, elbow pointing downward. Try this a few times at different times of the day to compare results. Do it again, but this time put the right foot forward and use the left hand. Compare the results.
5. Now do the same exercise starting with the left foot forward and using the left hand. It involves some very different dynamics. Then do it with the right foot and right hand. Feel what happens.
If you are an instructor, do this exercise with your students. Their eyes usually light up. Feel free to email me your results and any interesting observations: firstname.lastname@example.org.
P.S. When doing this exercise, if you can feel tightness in any of your joints or muscles, it is a sign that your energy is being cut off and building up at that place. Figure out how to let that go and allow the energy to flow unimpeded.