How to Relax in Tai Chi?

Discussion in 'Tai chi' started by Dottaichi, Nov 20, 2018.

  1. Dottaichi

    Dottaichi New Member

    Hi everyone,

    I'm a new poster here, nice to meet all of you [​IMG]. I wanted to share my own thoughts on how to Relax in Tai Chi, and would love to hear feedback.

    Relaxation & Tai Chi: Muscles
    Muscles that are under our conscious control are called voluntary muscles, and this is our Skeletal Muscles. In order to be in a relaxed state, we are teaching our skeletal muscles to not contract. We call this the Mind-Muscle Connection.

    We are already aware of what it means to have some of our Skeletal Muscles to be in a Relaxed state. In daily life, we use skeletal muscles in pairs: when one muscle contracts, the other muscle pair will be relaxed. In other words, a muscle that is not contracted is in a relaxed state.

    What if we could make both pairs of muscles relaxed? To me, having two pairs of muscles in a relaxed state is what we're aiming for in Tai Chi. From some discussion with friends, I understand that it's physically impossible to have two pairs of muscles being in total relaxation. However, the distinction that I'm trying to make here is that both pairs of muscles free from the Mind-Muscle connection. To do this, we would need to re-calibrate/re-condition our natural instincts to contract our muscles to stabilize ourselves. Instead, we just rely our body structure to support the weight of our body.

    One of the Tai Chi principles is to not use Brute Force (拙力). We want to develop our Body Awareness to experience relaxed Skeletal Muscles. That is, we are reconditioning our mind to refrain from giving instructions to contract our Muscles in our body (i.e. abstaining from transmitting instructions through our Central Nervous System to our muscles). We are re-calibrating our Mind-Muscle Connection.

    Many people unconsciously give instructions to our skeletal muscles to contract because we have been conditioned to stabilize our body with our muscles. As soon as our nerves transmits the signals to our Skeletal Muscles to contract, there is less room in our blood vessels, resulting in increased blood pressure and/or decreased blood circulation.

    In Tai Chi, we want to increase our blood flow without contracting our muscles. How do we do this? There are some pre-requisites that we have to achieve first, such as having a Stable Body Structure. With a Stable Body Structure, we can effectively put our body weight directly onto our bones/skeletons, so that our Skeletal Muscles don't need to bear our body weight.


    By being relaxed can we increase blood circulation. We can further leverage this by relying on Gravity to act on our body to increase our blood circulation.... though the prerequisite is that we have a Stable Body Structure... though this may be a topic for another time [​IMG]

    Hoping to improve my Tai Chi with everyone else here, so looking forward to any feedback. I've attempted to elaborate my understanding here (link removed), and also on my recent post here (link removed).

    Warm Regards,
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 20, 2018
  2. Xue Sheng

    Xue Sheng All weight is underside

    Its called sung.

    Also need to consider Yi Qi Li. Mind controls Qi (energy) and Qi controls Muscle. And there is also Sandao

    Practice the form, don't over think it, and it appears.

    However testing it against someone else who is using force it is a bit different. You have to use force to respond, but you are not trying to match their force, you are only using enough to feel and redirect their force. If you match it, your muscles get to tense and you have little room for movement and you end up wrestling

    Something from an old Blog post of mine. Posted March 2016

    Sandao; Yi , Qi, Shi and Yi, Qi, Li

    Sandao is 3 things: Shen (Spirit/Mind) Yi (Thoughts and intentions), and Shi (posture). And to nip this translation issue in the bud right now, Shen is translated as spirit but it has little to do with Spirituality or anything spiritual at all actually; Shen or spirit to the Chinese is “mind”. A mind which could also be a calm or focused mind, no erroneous thoughts, as one Zen Buddhist book I read called it “no monkey mind” types of thoughts while practicing. This leads to thoughts or Yi, thoughts and intentions. Your thoughts are about what you are doing and why you are doing it, not “I wonder if I left the stove on” or “I wonder if there is anything good on TV tonight” while doing your form or training. But here it is a bit different than Zen Meditation since you are not focusing on one thing, but talking about Sandao you are focusing on a bit more and one of those is Shi, (posture). Shi must be correct, comfortable and relaxed and without shi there is no flow of Qi (energy), which is where Li (muscles) come in because Qi controls Li. And that brings me once again back to Yi.

    Another important part of movement is Yi, Qi, Li. Once again Yi is thoughts and intentions and it is your Yi that controls your Qi, energy (more on my thoughts on qi in a minute) and it is your Qi that controls Li, muscles. And with that Yi is now made up of 2 thoughts; your Shi and your qi and those are related because without proper shi the qi will not flow properly, not move well, and you will be tense and basically getting in your own way of things like proper application and Fajin, but fajin is the stuff of another post. As you progress you also have to think about your opponent so now there are 3 thoughts that Yi is concerned with; Shi, Qi and the opponent. The focus on the opponent is getting into the martial side of things and it is there to assist you in in understanding how those slow movements, in Taijiquan, or Circle walking in Bagua, or Santi Shi in Xingyiquan are doing and how any of this translates to being used, at speed, if needed for self-defense. And it is here that Shi becomes very important in maintaining proper structure and relaxation for the delivery of power (striking power) to where it is needed, and how to get it there from your root (also important but stuff another post).

    Now my thoughts on Qi; I do not see it as mystical energy or anything special or anything outside of science for that matter. However I do like the simple Chinese description that goes “Strong Qi you are healthy, weak qi you are sick, no qi you are dead”. Qi, to me, is no different than the energy it takes to move your muscles by electrical impulse, not magic, just normal body processes.
    axelb and Dottaichi like this.
  3. aaradia

    aaradia Choy Li Fut and Yang Tai Chi Chuan Student Moderator Supporter

    Mod note: again, links removed. Please feel free to post your further thoughts/ posts here on MAP. Just like you did with the main post here. Or how Xue Sheng re-posted from a blog here as well.

    If you are going to use MAP to direct people to your website, then MAP would appreciate your contacting Mitch or Simon for advertising rates. That would be used to help keep MAP running. A fair trade really. :)

    I look forward to your further posts on here. :)
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2018
  4. Dottaichi

    Dottaichi New Member

    Hi aaradia, thanks for removing the links, and my apologies about missing the link/rules post.

    Content of discussion was already in the opening post, so still looking forward to the discussions :)

  5. Dan Bian

    Dan Bian Neither Dan, nor Brian

    Ooooo, juicy :)

    In everyday life, as we go about our business, we build up excess tension in our muscles whether this be from over exertion, or poor efficiency of movement.
    In order for Tai Chi to "work" (whether as a martial art, or as means of meditation, or just to get some general health benefits from it) we need to actively work towards releasing this excess tension in muscles, so that any movement we make, whether in Tai Chi, or simply opening a door, or carrying a box, we only use the force necessary to complete the task.

    This ties in with the idea of ting-jin, that of listening to our partner - whether our partner is another human in push-hands, or a heavy door that we want to open; from contact we feel and gauge the required level of force to interact with our opponent.

    As we finish our movement, we actively release the tension that we have just used to complete our task.

    In our school, we begin by learning this process through the standing-post postures (zhan zhuang).

    Holding which ever posture you wish, breath in and bring the mind to the tension in the face and neck. On the out breath, release that tension. And again, on the in breath, bring the awareness to the shoulders, on the outbreath release the tension there-in. So on, and so forth.

    • Face & Neck
    • Shoulders
    • Chest
    • Belly
    • Hips
    • Knees
    • Ankles

    Once we get an understand of how to accomplish this "softening the core" in the static standing postures, we then carry it over into form practice;
    First, hold each posture and go through the "softening the core" sequence, to become aware of any unique spots of tension in particular postures.
    Second, complete a full sequence of "softening the core" as you perform each movement. This makes your form particularly slow, as each posture will last 7 breathes.

    We also start to apply the same "softening the core" practice during tuishou practice, first in basic, compliant patterns, and then into more freestyle wrestling/grappling practice.

    Softening the Core is the Yin aspect of our Neigong, in that it is the internal practice that we should be trying to engage at all times, not just in Tai Chi practice, but in every day life.
    The Yang aspect of our Neigong is the 9-Circles sequence, a method of opening the joints and releasing tension with a set of physical exercises (which, again, integrate the Softening the Core practice).

    To us, the quality of Standing Post practice is not measure in how long one can hold a posture for. Forcing yourself to hold out just a little longer, just a little longer, is contrary to our purpose, because you end up using tension to try and hold the posture against the fatigue of the muscles.
    Instead, we try to build up the number of reps of Softening the core that can be completed comfortably without starting to tense up.
    Dottaichi likes this.

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