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‘Connecting’ the Body.


What does ‘relax’ mean? Try holding your arm out in front of you, stretching it out ahead of you. Leaving it in that position, relax 1) your upper back, 2) your shoulder, 3) your armpit, and then 4) your elbow and wrist. Then, without moving even a millimetre, feel as though your arm is growing; with no visible movement, feel an extension at the tips of the fingers (without trying to physically extend), and grow your nails. Again with no visible movement, relax the muscles in your back, arm, and hand.

What is holding you in place? If you really managed to let go of your muscles, it will be the combination of all the relevant muscles supported by the various fascial ‘trains’ that hold your arm in place; your arm can feel relaxed and yet supported at the same time.

This is very much a case of ‘the whole is greater than the sum of the parts’, and because of this, because you are sharing the effort of holding up your arm and are no longer relying on one or two muscle groups, holding the arm in place is much less tiring and possibly no effort at all if everything is correctly in place.

Some implications Horizontal movement with a single arm can be achieved by moving the body alone, and the relaxed and connected sensation in the arm is retained throughout.

Beginners Even quite experienced tai chi and qigong practitioners sometimes lose this whole body connection when moving their arms.  Beginners find it particularly difficult. Beginners see the teacher’s arms and legs waving around in patterns in tai chi and qigong, and look to emulate those movements, copying only the arms and legs without seeing the central connection… lift this arm, push the other one down, turn the left foot inwards, turn the left hand up and the right hand down, bend the right elbow, etc. Hardly surprising when you start – what else is there to go on?

Ideally… A little simplistically, your arms move because your body moves; the ‘wholistic’ structure is therefore retained. Sometimes the arms need to go left and right simultaneously; that’s fine, the structure can still be retained.  This also applies to one arm up and one arm down, or both arms up or down. In this way, we can keep the concept of ‘the whole is greater than the sum of the parts’.

Training this concept…

Apart from building your energy (and improving the health of the body’s organs), Zhan Zhuang (Standing Qigong / Standing like a Tree / Standing Pole) is one of the best ways to learn how to create and experience this connection in the body.

The exercise is a piece of genius because, not only does it produce the results, it tells you where things are going wrong and which parts of your body you need to correct.

How does Zhan Zhuang do this? Discomfort and pain! When everything is working in the Zhan Zhuang position, you feel comfortable… well, actually, more than comfortable; you feel as though everything in your body is not only correctly connected, but as though you could continue to hold that position forever. When things are not quite right, things begin to lock up in certain areas, and those areas are specific to you – the discomfort depends entirely upon where you are not relaxed. 

Plumbing  That lack of relaxation might be because of an injury, stress, or poor posture, but, whatever the reason, it is what is sometimes referred to as a ‘blockage’ to your energy,

and it means that ‘the whole cannot be greater than the sum of the parts’, because the energy is not flowing smoothly in your body. You can easily compare this to the plumbing system of your house, or even a city; if the water flow is blocked by furred-up pipes in one part of the house/city, the flow will be reduced in other parts, and on top of that, there is a pressure build-up just before the furred-up part of the system.

Time for some de-furring…

______________________________________________ James Drewe teaches Taijiquan and Qigong in both London and in Kent and online. You will also find some free videos here on the subscription page of the website. Details of weekly classes can be found on the website, and there are classes for 2-person Taijiquan on one Saturday a month.

CONTACT: Email: Phone: 07836-710281 ______________________________________________

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