Monday, April 2, 2012

What the Tuck

One of the primary tenets of both Taiji and ILC is that you need to keep your center of gravity (i.e. the dantian) on the line that connects the centers of your feet (i.e. the bubbling well) - doing this keeps your weight in the center of your feet and keeps you balanced. As you shift your weight from one foot to the other, the dantian moves along that line and, at the extremes, your weight is on one foot with the dantian over the bubbling well.

The issue of the tuck comes up as you sink down or rise up. This issue showed up once again in my last ILC class as we were going over one of the basic exercises - absorb/project. In this exercise, you stand in either the Horse stance or the Archer stance and, without shifting your weight, sink down (absorb) and then rise up (project).

Without getting too detailed, you absorb by relaxing the yin muscles - the back of the legs (i.e. hamstrings) and the front of the torso - which causes you to sink down. As you sink down you need to keep your body aligned such that your dantian is still on the line between the centers of your feet and this is where problems come up. It's easy to keep your weight in the center of your feet while letting your hips move backwards so that your butt is sticking out, in which case your dantian is no where near between the centers of your feet.

To keep the proper alignment, you need to tuck the tailbone, which simply means relaxing your lower back and allowing the hips to roll under the torso and is often described as the same move as 'sitting on a tall bench'. When I sit on a tall bench, I can feel the effect but it's been difficult for me to actually do this while absorbing in the Archer stance. Over time, I've come to realize that I've been trying to push my tailbone into place with my glutes, which actually tightens up the lower back and prevents me from doing the move properly. I've further realized that instead of pushing from behind I needed to pull from the front, essentially drawing my crotch upwards using my ab muscles, and that's done the trick. In ILC terms, I was trying to use the yang muscles (glutes) in a move that's based on the yin muscles (abs).

I still need to figure out when my dantian is actually on the center line, which requires a level of awareness that I don't have but it feels like it's a step in the right direction.

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