Tai Chi - Quality of Movement

Quality of Movement

  • So what exactly causes things to go wrong? What are the factors that damage or inhibit the flow of chi in the body? Emotional pressures, lifestyle, poor diet and a general lack of rapport with the natural environment are all important influences. Also, the natural harmony between the internal family of organs can be upset by injury to the organs or even to the tissues, bones and muscles through which their channels flow. Conversely, tension, bad posture or habitually awkward movements affecting the channels can eventually be transferred back to the organs themselves.


  • For instance those who work for long periods slumped over a desk or keyboard often develop a stagnation or deficiency of energy in the chest area, thereby weakening the lungs and making them susceptible to common respiratory diseases such as colds or flu. Those who stand for long periods may suffer from hip and back pain, again due to long term congestion of energy in those areas and within the kidneys as well. The repetitive strain of our daily working routine can place great demands on our health. Correct alignment of the body is essential, therefore, for the smooth flow of chi. Such alignment is a fundamental principle of tai chi practice.


  • It is for this reason that other forms of exercise fall short of tai chi in terms of lasting results. Studies clearly show, for example, that tai chi is more effective than aerobics in reducing high blood pressure. In other words, it is the nontensile quality of movement, rather than the quantity of repetitions that counts in any given exercise session. And that is also why - for all its promise and rich potential - tai chi's benefits will only ever accrue if the movements themselves express this precise quality of relaxation and calm. To this end, once you have learned the mechanics of the form from Part One, you can start to focus on certain refinements. Begin by trying to be aware of what is going on in your body - for instance, really learning to relax those arms! Saying it is one thing, but achieving it is quite another. Always visualize the tension and rightness of the muscles and sinews melting away and dissolving as you work. This allows the chi to flow through the arms and hands. The importance of this principle cannot be overemphasized. Drop your shoulders! Let your hands float! Remind yourself to do this constantly, every day and every time you practice tai chi, and your movements will soon become smooth and graceful.


  • However, do not forget that the pursuit of gracefulness is not at an end in itself. If taken to extremes, it can result in your tai chi becoming weak and monotonous, without any kind of energy at all. At its best, tai chi combines relaxation with movement - and this is what creates the energy. Stillness with tension on the other hand merely produces stagnation; and the form should never be done so slowly or ponderously that it leads to this kind of malaise.


  • With this in mind it is essential that you keep moving. A common error among beginners is to pause or even in some cases to pose at the conclusion of each movement. This kind of tai chi often goes with an irregular stop-start kind of rhythm in which individual movements are rushed, only to result in "lifeless" pause at the finish of each one. Make sure you do not become a poser! Keep the movements gradual, smooth and, above all, fluent - like a floating cloud or a running stream, always in motion.