If you carefully study all the traditional Eastern schools of spiritual development, one thing you would notice is a common interest in a straightened spine. From the tranquil meditator to the defense art tai chi practitioner, people with the highest self-development all possess a straight spine. But why are why are so few able to maintain it and why is this so?
In the ancient records of the Taiji Classics that describe the principles of tai chi chuan, it is many times mentioned that a person must straighten and lengthen his spine. A central structural part of a human being is his spine. It is the structure will determine the quality of flow of his energy or whether this flow will be blocked. Blocked energy is like what happens when you kink a water hose. The water in the hose will be unable to flow freely and that blocked area of the hose will become much weaker faster than the rest of the hose.
Practitioners of Chinese medicine in Overland Park believe that a great surge of life force called chi moves up the spine and goes down through energy channels called meridians, which are located in front of the body. The flow of chi will be obstructed if the low back is swayed out, head is dropped, or the shoulders are hunched. Over time, this will result in compromised health, fatigue, or angry moods. This can be clearly seen in a person who feels ashamed or sad – his posture appears “droopy.” On the other side of the coin, a person filled with joyful enthusiasm may possess a certain glow around him and his posture will look straighter. In order to promote specific states of energy and structure, the solo tai chi form may be practiced with great mental intent and in a slow manner. Naturally, this is a practice that commands you to relax while you stand as straight as possible in order to enjoy smooth energy flow and beneficial geometry.
As with other holistic martial arts and disciplines, tai chi is designed to work with the gravitational force of the earth. Gravity pulls us downward in straight lines, attracting directly our center of gravity to the central mass of the earth. This phenomenon can be gleaned time and time again; unfortunately however, only a few of us have attempted to align our bodies with it! In regard to our own spiritual development and health (and martial art skill), tai chi tells us that aligning our bodies to the central mass of the earth is of significant importance. Even if a person suffers from severe osteoporosis or scoliosis, this knowledge will benefit him tremendously in the straightening of his spine. But, most people are lazy and aren’t keen in exerting effort needed to practice this on a regular basis.
According to the Taoists, when meditating, a straight spine can help in the growth of a person’s “spirit” or “shen.” Some of our chi change into “shen” as it flows throughout our body. To promote this process, the ancient record on meditation and tai chi suggest that one must gently elevate the head’s vertex or top back towards the sky. And with shoulders down, the chest need to relax inward. The coccyx or the tail end of the vertebrae should be tucked slightly under and every part of the body should relax downward. When practicing meditation or tai chi for the first time, people who have lived with bad posture most of their lives might find this change extremely difficult. Attempting to practice it into their everyday life might be even harder. Most will make excuses that an injury or their job made them that way, which may or may not be true. Others may rely on an outside source such as a chiropractor to “repair” their problem. Still, they are unaware that the ability to change directly lies within themselves and all they need is a little patience, self-discipline and desire. Persevering in this alone will only make their spirit and mind stronger. Then, all of a sudden, the intransigence slowly gives way to acceptance and it becomes easier and easier. At this point in time, the person may experience very fast improvements in spiritual growth and vitality. A master tai chi instructor may help keep the student motivated and be able to rectify his or her postural adjustments.
So, the first thing you need to do when practicing tai chi is to adjust your geometry, which is the ability to cause your energy to flow smoothly whether you’re practicing it to facilitate your martial arts skill, spiritual development or health. Take into account that at first, this will all feel uncomfortable and weird. But realize that is only natural and part of the process that eventually will decrease with the passing of time. Your body will get accustomed to this when your mind perseveres. You’ll then be able to enjoy great progress in your performance and life!