Monday Morning Tai Chi Training Tip # 357
Tai Chi Meditative Sequence
Most students approach Tai Chi with the final goal being health of mind and body and use Tai Chi as a meditative art. Every instructor has his or her own sequence to follow. Mine is fairly straight forward I believe. Here is a rather typical sequence I offer to students. It certainly isn’t the only one.
Start with standing naturally. Feet shoulder width apart, knees soft and not squatting. Arms hang to the sides of the thighs. Eyes either closed softly, or lids half open and gaze at the tip of the nose. Just stand for a few minutes. Don’t force yourself to stand too long in the beginning. Breathe naturally, in and out through the nose. You are learning to observe how the mind controls the body.
Taking charge of the breath. Using natural stance described above, use belly breathing, where the focus is on the expansion and contraction of the lower dantien (area just below the belly button). After you feel comfortable with belly breathing, take more control of the length of the inhale and exhale. For instance, breathe in to the count of four, transition (like holding but no effort, just feel the fullness), exhale to the count of four. Experiment with different lengths of inhale, transition, and exhale. Experiment with post-birth and pre-birth breathing. When we were forming inside the mother, the mother breathed for us. Our belly accepted the blood from the mother. Inhale, belly sucks in and contracts. Then we exhaled out through our belly. Belly expands. Pre-birth breathing. After we were born, we breathed on our own, Belly expands on inhale, contracts on exhale.
Increase inner strength and focus. Once you are comfortable with natural stance and a beginning control of breath, we now incorporate the image of post stance to increase the benefits of standing. Using the same shoulder width stance, we squat down some (any depth is fine as long as the knees don’t extend past the toes). The arms move from hanging to the sides to holding a ball or a post in front of the body. The upper arms just hang, while the palms face either the chest or upper belly, creating a round shape between the arms and the upper body. The palms feel as if they were lightly holding an object. Feel the energy against the palms and the torso. Use natural breathing, so one feels the ball want to expand as you inhale and contract as you exhale. Do this for a few minutes. When you are finished with post stance, let the arms return to hanging down and just relax.
Moving. There are an infinite variety of exercises to train the mind/body relationship. Tai Chi Chuan is one of them. After learning to be comfortable with the standing exercises, we then use the form to meditate with. Start with one movement – Ward Off Left, for instance, and use it as a way to focus. Then add to that Ward Off Right. Feel how they link, understand what you are doing at all moments in this sequence. Match the breath. Make sure the base is correctly placed in order to apply each move and step without losing root.
Sequence moves. There are several movements that are sequential in nature, moves like Brush Knee, Clouds Hands, Parting the Horse’s Mane, Fair Lady. These are easier to find the links and let the energy flow. Play, have fun while you meditate. Don’t make it a chore.
So to recap. First, just stand comfortably and naturally. Look inside and feel what you are doing. Next, take the Tai Chi stance (Horse Riding Stance). Take control of the breath. Next, take one move and explore it as a moving meditation. Finally, explore the moving sequences, being sure to stay present in mind and body.