We know that posture is important for health – but the knowledge may not be sufficient for us to change. Posture is a long-term effect of the way we move and how we stand/sit. Tai Chi is an ideal system to practice postural improvement. Moving slowly in upright postures we have time to feel our body position and refine it. We start to identify with the ‘correct feeling’ as we move and this awareness of the ‘correct feeling’ grows naturally. We develop it in our Tai Chi practice and we apply it when we go for walks and when we move about at home or work. The correct position is based on awareness of the vertical and is built from the ground up: hips above feet, torso above hips and head above torso. The focus on verticality is based on standing positions where we line ourself up with gravity – the basic environmental force.
As we learn more about Tai Chi movement we build our awareness of body mechanics.
- The foundation of Tai Chi mechanics is the stance which is proportioned to be stable and allow free movement. We can fully shift our body weight into one leg and step forward or backwards into our stance. In the practice of stance and stepping we work with the structure of the hips and sacrum which later develop into the ‘energy centre’ of the body.
- The expression of Tai Chi mechanics is in the arms and hands which develop effortless power that emanates from the stance and transfers through the spine. This effortless feeling in the arms/hands comes from developing the structure of our upper back and shoulders and learning to link them to the lower body to make a unified whole.
- Correct practice of Tai Chi builds our ability to feel how we position our bones and joints and to smooth out postural issues. These are often in the stress points of the spine: the lower back/sacrum/hip axis or the upper-back/neck/shoulder axis.
Later we add in more subtle aspects of alignment. We learn how to ‘pull down the sacrum’, open the legs from our hips and move our legs with hip/knee/ankle/foot alignment. We learn to raise the spine, ’tuck in the chin’ to release our shoulders and to move our arms with shoulder/elbow/wrist/hand alignment.