Tai Chi – Engaging your Waist

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Your waist is the centre of your balance, movement and perception; it pulls everything together and allows all parts of your body to function as one instead of separately. It is the master of all movement and functions like an axel in a wheel, all parts of your body are powered by and move around it. In new students of tai chi the function of the waist is usually separate if not totally absent, movement instead coming from many areas, generally the legs, shoulders and wrist. This makes it hard to coordinate the movements of the form and relax; since movement is being generated by so many different areas it becomes difficult to move them all as one in a balanced way.

Learning to engage your waist during practice will affect a number of areas within your forms, only when your waist is the centre of creation for all movement can your upper body truly relax, proper waist movement allows the upper body to become soft and pliable because you do not need to use the muscles in your arms and shoulders to generate the energy. This allows the upper body to become fully yin, for the energy to transfer properly and for improved circulation and chi flow.

Engaging your waist also serves as a connection between your hands and feet, all parts of your body move and are controlled by the energy generated by it. This movement is similar to a mathematical compass; one point of the compass presses into one spot of a piece of paper, the end with the pencil then moves around this point drawing a circle. Our limbs are moved in a similar way by our waist movement, because the waist movement is always the centre of the circle, a very small movement of our waist creates a big movement of the arms and legs, similar to the movement of the compass. Learning to move in this way allows us to develop smaller circles within our form which generate large circles in our external movement, creating a spiral within which the energy travels.

Learning to use your Waist

To learn how to use your waist properly during your practice first stand with your feet parallel, knees slightly bent, shoulder width apart and raise your right arm so that your wrist is in front of you. By turning your waist only, move your right wrist to the left hand side of your body, and then move it back to the right hand side again. Do not use the muscles in your arm or shoulder to do this; they are only there for support to hold the arm up. Do the movement again and observe how a very small turn of your waist makes a big movement with your wrist.

Try again only this time moving your wrist from your shoulder height to your waist height and back again, and then see if you can move your arm in large circles. Once comfortable with this you can use two arms, circle one high and one low, both of them passing on one side and swapping the movement with each other as in cloud hands. Notice how as the right hip moves forward it pushes the right wrist to the left, and at the same time the left hip is drawing back moving the left wrist to the left of your body.

Through doing this you can learn to move your arms anywhere you want independent of your upper body. In the same way you can study how your waist movement affects your legs and feet. Notice how you can move your feet by turning your waist; observe how when turning your feet with your waist the movements become one where usually it is separate.

Applying your Waist to your Whole Form

All movement within your forms should be generated by your waist, start at very obvious postures where this interaction is easy to see such as grasping birds tail, single whip and cloud hands. Notice how these postures can be performed just by the waist and how relaxed your upper body becomes when you do it this way. Be careful not to be caught in the illusion that the arms are moving in the forms, their movement is actually very small, the main movement is really coming form your waist. Look at grasping birds tail, observe how with leg and waist movements you can complete the whole posture without engaging your arms and shoulders.

Work through your whole form now, not as something that has to be done by a certain time but as something that is interesting, investigate, experiment, look and see what is really going on there. Ask yourself how you can make optimum use of your energy and movement by performing the smallest movement possible. Once your waist is the axel and your body the wheel, everything will be pulled together, will unify and become one.

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This article was written by Stephen Procter, instructor from Tai Chi Health for Life, Australian College of Tai Chi & Qi Gong and Meditation Instructor from Meditation in the Shire, Kirrawee NSW, Australia. If you wish to post this article on another website or in a publication please respect the author and reference / link back to this website, thank you

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