Have you ever stood in front of the mirror and really analyzed the body that you depend on each day? Have you thanked it and given it your best effort? Have a look at what it needs from you!
Feet: weight on feet (equal to both feet), position of feet on floor (forward, turned in, turned out), Balance of weight (forward on toes, on bubbling spring – K1- or middle of foot, on heel, on outside of foot, on inside of foot).
Ankles: Alignment of ankle bones, position of arches
Knees: Alignment of knees – turn in, out, sway back or hyperextend, bent, tension of lower leg muscles (peroneus, tibials, gastrocnemius)
Hips: Alignment of hips, forward tilt of pelvis, backward arch of lower back and pelvis, turnout of legs at hip, forward swing of leg with a walking step swings like a hinge or hip rotates to bring leg around or back twists to move hip and leg to bring the leg forward.
Spine: Vertebrae compressed, expanded, flexible. Spine straight, any excessive curvatures or protruding vertebra.
Shoulder blades: Sunken, present, highly visible.
Belly: Flat, sunken, swollen, straight
Chest: Lifted, arched back, sunken
Shoulders: Aligned, relaxed, aligned over hips-knees-ankles. Separated from the neck and head.
Neck: Relaxed with skull balanced loosely on top, jaw in straight alignment, ears over shoulders
Head: Alignment of skull of top of neck – no tilts sideways, forward or backward
Arms: Loosely at sides, hands dropped to hang with thumb facing forward
Turn Sideways and notice if the ears, shoulders, hips, knees and ankles all make a straight line. Take a little walk and notice if you shift weight from side to side or walk straight in the middle of the body. Do you swing your leg through to take the step, or does the hip swing around to bring the leg to take a step? Do your arms swing? Do you walk fast or slow? Is your stride long, short, moderate?
Make some notes for yourself, and take a few minutes to decide how you can best serve your body. What changes could you make with your mind? With your body? With your energy or spirit? What will you need help with?
Tai Chi is an incredible way to balance the muscles, tendons, fascia, and ligaments. The moving meditation allows for all of the systems to work together to produce the movement and support each other. Other activities that move quickly and require specific skills in an area, like running, swinging a club or racquet, pushing on a pedal, etc. help build strength and endurance. However, it is through the balanced, slow and precise movement of Tai Chi that the body is able to do its own healing and its own perfection of balance for itself. This is the time that you are able to thank your body for all that it does for you throughout your day and night.
In order to make a change in the body, it must develop a new movement pattern that is all encompassing and coordinated. Unhealthy or nonsupporting movement patterns need to be released so that new, supporting patterns can be established and strengthened. In order to make such changes the body needs time with each movement. To change a muscle position you need to hold it in the new position for at least 30 seconds. Tendons, which hold muscle to bone, need 1 minute to make a change. Ligaments, which hold bone to bone, need two minutes to make a change. And, Fascia, which is the membrane covering the muscle, needs at least 5 minutes to make a change.
Tai Chi’s slow, repetitive nature allows the body time to adjust. It allows the Tendon Guard Reflex, that holds us tight for a fight or flight reaction to stress, to relax and open up. Fear and anxiety can be replaced with confidence and security. The full body movement that accompanies each movement pattern allows the Tendon Guard Reflex to integrate into the movement in a supported way that allows the body the confidence to release old, hindering patterns of movement. Deep breathing, lymph drainage, open circulation, and body awareness allows the body to easily adapt and internalize the new movement patterns.
Tai Chi is life-long learning. It is the gift you give yourself that embraces youthfulness and longevity. Your body thanks you in return by supporting you with strength, flexibility, confidence and energy. Enjoy each moment you give yourself to embrace Tai Chi and its hidden powers.
After some time with Tai Chi go back to the check lists above. Re-evaluate your posture. Do you walk with a moderate stride, with a leg that swings through and supports your balance in the center? Are your hips, ankles, knees, ears, shoulders all parallel and are they all in alignment with each other? How does your spine feel? Can you separate it and bring lengthening to your back, neck and head? Do you have an openness in your joints? Do you stand supported in your feet? Do you feel relaxed when moving? Can you turn your head to shoulder check in the car? Hopefully your answers have shifted and you can answer “yes” to all of these evaluations. And then, Celebrate your Success