The Importance of Posture and Breath
By Rosemary Palmer
Posture cannot be emphasised enough.
It is essential, not just for Tai Chi but for general well-being. If the body is aligned we feel good and vitality increases - why? Lifting the head through the baihui point, located at the crown of the head, raises Shen (spirit) for spiritual and emotional balance. From this point the body is aligned.
We are subject to the natural pull of gravity therefore by sinking the breath and relaxing through the joints; the weight of the body will sink through the legs and feet and connect to the earth. However to achieve this, the body must hang in balance. If the bony weights of the body are not balanced muscles must be used to support and compensate for structural strain. This makes us feel tired and instead of being ready for anything we become fatigued and need rest. Therefore to relieve the tensions on the body it is important to align properly from the baihui through to the yongchuan point (approximately the middle of the sole of the foot).
Breathing also is affected by posture as it is a muscular activity. When we cannot breathe deeply the muscles cannot relax because they are not receiving sufficient oxygen. The muscles also constrict the blood vessels so circulation is affected as well, again giving a feeling of tiredness. The body must be in balance to function properly.
With good posture movement becomes balanced. The body is dynamic, in constant motion, even in sleep. The basis for movement is Yin and Yang Ė the opposing but complimentary forces of nature. When we walk, we walk with a spirally action. When a leg goes forward the opposite arm does likewise. This is natural movement of the body. We donít have to think about it. The spiral comes from the bodyís centre; it is dynamic balance of opposing moving parts. For the body to move comfortably and easily posture must be correct.The Breath
The breath should be natural, relaxed, continuous and without any force, as to force the breath is unnatural, uncomfortable and can be dangerous. Usually when we begin to learn Tai Chi we have to remember to breath. Often we are concentrating so much we find we hold our breath. According to the Way of the Dao we are but part of nature and when we breathe we inhale the spirit of the universe. So how do we breathe in Tai Chi? The breath should be smooth and circular. By breathing through the nose we reduce the risk of picking up airborne germs and by breathing diaphragmatically we maximise the circulation of blood to the organs. There is no erratic breath as sometimes occurs when breathing out through the mouth. The tongue rests on the upper palate to enhance saliva, which is often referred to as the "golden elixir of immortality" and the Tai Chi form should not commence until your breathing is comfortable and relaxed.
We seek serenity in movement, active outside, calm within, the slower the movements are performed the better, as this is conducive to deeper breathing and enables the intrinsic energy to sink to the dantian.
Remember the Dao is a philosophy of polarities in balance, Yin and Yang, not one of embattled contradiction.