Principle #2 & 3 Assignment
Part 1. Read the material below.
Principle #2: The head should be suspended upward, chect held in, back straightened to the last vertebrae, shoulder sunk and elbows lowered.
The spine can be divided into five parts. Starting from the top of the spine, there is the cervical region of the spine, the top seven vertebrae. The thoracic spine is the twelve vertebrae in the middle of the spine. The ribs are connected to them. The lumbar spine is the five lower vertebrae. Below the lumbar spine is the sacrum and the coccyx at the bottom. The sacrum and coccyx are really fused pieces of bone. The coccyx is often referred to as a tailbone.
In Tai Chi the spine is kept straight. Straight means vertical but does not mean “stiff”, or in a locked position. You’ll notice that the spine is naturally curved. The cervical spine curves inward, the thoracic curves outward, the lumbar, inward. The sacrum spine and coccyx follow, out and in.
In Tai Chi, the crown of the head is gently extended upward while the tailbone is relaxed downward. Those two positinings, crown up and tailbone down, help to energize the spine. There is an energy upward and and energy downward. As a result, there is an enlivened energy in the middle. This energy is like that of a glow light after the ends are drawn in opposite directions.
In addition, the Tan Tien may be thought of as being craddled by the lumbar spine. Thus, there is a direct connection between the spine and the Tan Tien, the seas of chi.
Master Lee says, “Keep the shoulder and hips level and torso perpendicular to the floor as you turn your waist.”
Explanation: Think of a balance scale. The spine is the frame that supports the arms. Keeping the spine straight helps maintain one’s balance. The legs are the base of the scale, and the shoulder width stance supports the frame. Reducing the amount of physical exertion and friction necessary to move on a relaxed manner.
What is the significance of the chest held in? This helps the chi to return to the Tan Tien. This is more to do with opening the back so as to create a connection between the arms and the spine, possible from the accupuncture point T11.
What is the significance of the shoulders sunk and elbows lowered? For one reason, it is difficult to relax the back with your shoulders tense. Since the elbows are connected to the shoulders lowering your elbows helps relax your shoulders. Keep in mind that lowering your elbows does not mean holding to pinning them to your torso. That would give you the opposite result.
Principle # 3: Breathe naturally and easily through the nose.
Master Jou explains, “A strong foundation is the key to building a lasting structure . . . applying the basic principles, your tai chi will get better and better as yoi conitnue to refine it,” he continues, “To begin to understand the roots of taijiquan.”
According to Mast Jou, the word “tu na” can be broken into two parts, “tu” is “the exhalation of carbon dioxide,” and “na” is “the inhalation of fresh air.” Exercises such as Tai Chi combine “tu na” and physical movement to “prevent and cure illness.”
He continues, “There are about eight different types of breathing. Some methods are spontaneous, like natural breath and natural deep breathing, sighing and inhaling extra air for more energy. Other methods require special practice, like alternate breathing, pre- and post- birth breathing, abdominal breathing and cleansing ans tonic breathing. The ultimate breath is referred to as “tortoise breath. . .
Of those, pre-birth breathing is likebreathing before a fetus is born; it is considered “yang.” Post-birth breathing occurs when air is brought into the lungs, which is “yin.” The diaphragm is the divider between the two.”
The sound of the breathing is called, “The Song of Heng and Ha.”
Master Yang points out that there are eight key words for air breathing. This is the progression for beginners:
1. Calm and silent- mind is calm and breathing is silent.
2. Slender-the breath becomes like a tiny stream.
3. Deep-draw air in and down to your abdomen, moving the diaphragm down.
4. Long-keep breath as long as you can. This does not mean to hold your breath, but relax your lungs and meditative mind.
5. Continuous-breath smooth, natural and, most importantly, continuous. When you stop breathing, your body becomes tense. Continuous breathing will help you relax.
6. Uniform- Bretahing is affected by your emotion. Regulate your emotion.
7. Slow-Slow down your mind. Take time with your breathing. Don’t rush the inhalation or exhalation. Take it easy; be natural.
8. Soft- When you breath easy and soft, it makes you relaxed and leads to a deeper meditative mind.
Master Kuo says, “Study the way the body breathes. If you want the breath to flow smoothly and easily, then breathing should be long and precise. If your bretahing is heavy, then you wond becomes rough and short and the flow of chi is disrupted. In addition, never allow the stomach muscle to become tight, as this will prevent the movement of chi.”
Master Kuo also says, “When the breath is smooth and light, the whole body contains the idea of emptiness. To inhale is to close, to roll, to collect. To exhale is to open, to release, to strike.”
Master Lee is a little less esoteric, he advises:
“1. Breathe through the nose
2. When you breath in, expand you abdomen. When you breath out, relax.
3. Center your bretahing around the tan tien.
4. The only way to exercise the diaphragm is by bretahing. Proper muscle relaxation will help remove obstacles that preveent the diaphragm from functioning well.
5. Don’t force breathing to fit into form and movement. Form and movement must follow the rhythym of breathing and not vice versa.
6. Do not foce breathing at any time. The humna body is so perfectly synchronized, the need for oxygen and rate if delivery is automatically regulated. “
Part 2. Apply the ideas to your daily activities and Tai Chi practice.
a. Throughout the study period and when you practice your Tai Chi, pay attention to your spine. What are your tendencies regarding how your body carries your spine? Does your spine lean? Does it carry tension? If so, where? Work on alleviating any discomfort you find. Are you able to sit for an extended period of time without having to adjust your spine? Find your spine’s natural comfortable position without it collapsing. Feel that balance. During your day and during practice.
b. Do the same for your breath. Discover and explore your natural breathing. What does your natural breath feel like? Is it fast or slow? Thin, shallow, or brisk? Do you sometime hold your breath or force it out? Or, is your breath comfortable? Are you able to breath deeply without forcing your breathing to occur? Study your breathing throughout your day. Focus on your breathing during your Tai Chi practice.
c. In a journal discuss discoveries and insights you had about your spine and your breathing as you went about your daily activities and during your Tai Chi practice. Submit your assignment before the next Zoom lecture class.