Principle Two

Chi flows through the body constantly, yet we limit it and prevent it. To maximise the energy flowing through the body we keep all the joints flexed and open, the muscles relaxed and the mind quiet.

It is said that in the 12th Century Chang San Feng observed a Crane fighting with a snake. He observed how each used circular movement to ward off the attacks of the other. This natural circular movement, became the foundation of Tai Chi, largely as we know it today. The movement is rounded and never rigid, the body is relaxed and the joints open.

In martial applications of Tai Chi, the body remains flexible in order to divert or return energy from the opponent, rather than resist with rigidity and strength. In non-martial forms we work with the flow of energy, or chi. Chi flows through open joints. By locking out any of the joints we prevent the flow of Chi. We keep the fingers, wrists, and elbows unlocked. Keep the shoulders down, as we raise the shoulders we bring tension into the shoulders and neck. Open up the hips, unlock the knees and ankles. The joints should be gentle flexed, neither stretched open nor bent closed. If you twist the spine, the chi is blocked, like twisting a hosepipe the water cannot flow. When you turn, do not turn beyond the line of the knee, because going further will twist the spine. Turn the feet, to open up the hip, and allow the body to turn further.

The muscles should be relaxed so that the curve is maintained without tension. The openness should be natural and without effort. Tai Chi movement is circular and never straight. The movement is natural and flowing. Try to find the natural curve, relaxation and flow in every movement.

“We learn the path of least resistance, to flow like a river. Avoid rigidity in our lives, be open to different approaches, different ways.”

In life Tai Chi teaches us to go with the flow, to be open minded and to be flexible. Water is a good example because it flows around blockages rather than fighting them. In any difficult situation it is easy to become defensive and respond negatively, to fight back or resist, alternatively we can be responsive and try to view the situation more clearly. Life can be seen as a series of obstacles to overcome or as opportunities to learn and grow. Going with the flow, does not mean avoiding problems but looking on them as opportunities for growth. By becoming more open minded we allow ourselves to accept that there are other ways and views, neither right nor wrong, just different. Open mindedness is the basis of change. Being open to new possibilities and being curious is the foundation of growth.

Practical exercises
1. Turn your body, in waving hands and then twist a little further, feel the tension in the small of the back.
2. Relax the shoulders, take a full breath feeling the chest expand. Repeat, with the shoulders lifted up and feel how hard it is to take a full breath.
3. Observe your body as you go through the form, noticing any tension. Review that part of the form and find an alternative which is relaxed.