The Second Pillar for a Successful Qigong or Tai Chi Practice
The second concept to keep in mind for establishing a solid and powerful Qigong or Tai Chi Practice is “align”. It is very important to understand the proper alignments of each posture whether it be standing, seated, or even lying down.
Improper alignment can actually do more harm than good by putting unnecessary strain on tendons, ligaments, and joints. Proper alignment stacks the bones so your body can rest in its easiest state, which is good from both a physical and energetic standpoint.
Make sure you understand what the proper alignments should be for each posture of your form, and then check yourself periodically to see if you are maintaining those alignments.
For Tai Chi practitioners in particular it is important to understand the concept of the “Five Bows”. The Five Bows concept teaches proper alignment and integration of the body when standing in Wuji, which is the posture that essentially all Tai Chi forms begin and end.
I found a good explanation of the Five Bows on the Tao of Tai Chi website. I have copied the description below for your convenience.
Five Bows & Tai Chi Practice
In Taijiquan, the upper and lower limbs and the trunk of the body are considered as the five bows:
- Two bows of the lower limbs with the leg and hips as the tips of the bow, the knees as the handle of the bow.
- Two bows of the upper limbs with the shoulders as the tips pf the bow, the elbows as the handle of the bow.
- The bow at the trunk with the lowest vertebra [coccyx] and the thoracic vertebra (where the shoulders meet the spine) as the tips of the bow, the waist as the handle of the bow.
The word “storing” means the inter-relation between the handles of the five bows. In order words, always concentrate on keeping the elbows down, imagine the knees as always directed upwards, and combine with the torso methods of loosening the shoulders, protecting the upper abdomen, etc.
Store the four handles of the above and below at the waist, in order to form the body as a fully stretched bow. This fully stretched bow then uses the waist as the handle of the bow. the knees and the elbows as the tips of the bow. Thus, the upper and the lower limbs, and the trunk of the body must operate as a unit in order to complete the whole process of “storing up” of energy.