Thursday, September 6, 2012

Stand for your health

   As often as possible, choose to stand rather than sit.  Most chairs are not good for your back.  How often have you gotten up from a chair and felt sore or stiff in your lower back or hips?  Standing helps restore your body to it's natural state of balance.  But most of us aren't comfortable when we stand because, over time, we've developed poor postural habits.  We've forgotten how to stand comfortably.  We lock our knees and push our hips forward.  These two things put a tremendous strain on your lower back so standing becomes uncomfortable and we head for the closest chair.
   To stand comfortably, imagine you are going to "perch" on the edge of a high stool.  I say "perch" because your torso will remain upright (rather than lean forward, which we do when we sit in a  chair).    Bend your knees a little and think of your hip bones aiming straight down.  Your knees release forward and your hips release back  When you come up off that high stool, stop before you lock your knees back.  Ideally, this positions your hips under your shoulders.  Having this alignment and maintaining that little "release" in your knees and hips will help you stand with ease and can help prevent and relieve lower back pain. 
   Whenever you stand, have your weight balanced between your legs and through the bottoms of your feet. 
   In all my classes I have a "standing" assignment:  I ask students to practice standing comfortably, as often as possible.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Strive for continuous movement in your practice.

Tonight I reminded students to try to perform the sequence of t'ai chi ch'uan postures as continuous movement.  This is challenging.  Each move has it's individual qualities but when the moves are "strung together", they appear to be one continuous movement. We are challenged to stay with each move to it's completion, before starting the next move.  If you are performing "Ward Off Right" but you are thinking ahead to the next move, "Ward Off Left", the tendency is to blur one move into the other.  By not being fully present, it's easy to miss the distinct qualities of each move.  After completing a move, we don't stop or pause before starting the next move.  A master teacher wrote (and I paraphrase), "The t'ai chi ch'uan form, made up of individual moves, is like a string of pearls.  When you look at a string of pearls, you don't think, 'What a beautiful pearl, pearl, pearl, pearl, pearl.'  You see it as a whole, beautiful string of pearls."  Your practice will have more "flow" if you strive to stay fully present throughout each move.