Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Tai Chi Tuesday: Sitting, by Ben Sterling

There is so much good information in this posting I had to borrow it.

The article comes from Ben Sterling, who manages a website for Richard Clear of Clear's Tai Chi. You can find some of Richard Clear's videos on YouTube.

I had the opportunity to meet Shifu Clear in June. He truly is a good person and a great martial artist.


Sitting causes all kinds of health problems.

Even 4 hrs per day is far too much.

If you haven’t seen the articles and research that’s been making it’s way into the news and online then go read this:

Don’t worry I’ll wait. 

Forbes: Research Shows that the More You Sit, the Less You'll Live

Okay, so not sitting is obviously the first step.

...but we can do better than that.

Here’s the first 4 steps to standing properly.

1. Stand up tall with your feet close together.

2. Then relax and drop about an inch or two (no more) as if you were sitting down on a high stool.

3. Imagine there’s a small weight tied to your tailbone. so the tailbone sinks and the lower back relaxes, straightens and opens.

The more you actually feel the lower part of your spine open and stretch the better.

This may take some time. All that sitting has reduced the flexibility of your lower back. This creates the sharp curve most people have in their lower back. The weight of the upper body is all focused on a very small part of the spine.

Lift with your legs.

This principle is just as important when you're simply supporting your own body weight.

If you don't practice it all day every day then you are constantly putting too much stress on your lower back.

All that stress keeps adding up.

As you practice step 3 you will be able to relax your lower back more and more.

This will take all that stress off the lower back and move it down to your legs.

Your legs will complain at first.

...but this is what they're designed for and they'll get stronger.

As your legs get stronger you can relax them more and more.

When you relax your muscles your tendons and ligaments have to pick up the slack.

...and they'll get stronger and stronger...

...and then you'll be able to relax even more.

This is how 90-year-old Tai Chi masters stay mobile and active long after their muscular strength has faded.

4. Pretend there's a bungee cord attached to the crown of your head. Directly above your spine. 

The same relaxing, opening and stretching you felt in the lower back should be happening in your neck and upper back.

Relax and feel your flesh melting downwards as your spine is pulled gently upwards.

The goal is to take your entire spine from the top of your head to your tailbone and gently let gravity stretch and straighten it while you relax.

In Tai Chi they call this “the straight in the curve.” A slight curve throughout the entire length of your back without any sudden dips or bulges anywhere.

Wow, I didn’t mean to get so long-winded.

...but if you practice and make that posture a habit then you’ll get a lot more benefit out of standing than you would from simply not sitting.

If you feel like this puts too much stress on your knees then you are holding tension in them and/or they are not lined up properly.

- Let your knees relax
- Turn your toes slightly forward.
- Make sure your knees are NOT inside of your big toe. Ideally they should be directly over your middle toes and you may feel a very light spiral / twisting / corkscrew through your entire leg (not focused on the knee.)
- Build into this slowly. It will take time for your body to adjust and grow stronger.

So that’s a start...

...but we can do even better.

If you train yourself to stand in the Wu Chi posture you can get even more benefits:

-- It builds energy and circulates Chi.
-- It aligns your spinal column.
-- This Improves Respiratory and Vascular Circulation.
-- Increases blood oxygen levels in the body.
-- Enhances Proper Nervous System Function and Combats Neuropathy (loss of nerve function and feeling).
-- Properly standing in Wu Chi can aid in Alleviates Arthritis and Arthritis symptoms due to the the flow of Chi energy heating up the synovial fluid between the joints.
-- Enhances Mental Concentration and Focus 
-- Facilitates Recovery and healing time by helping you to relax the Internal Organs and the External Muscles while building and circulating the energy

Here’s an article on The 10 Keys to proper Wu Chi Posture:


Take these principles and make them a habit.

They should be present when your standing, Sitting or doing anything else you do during the day.

Ben Sterling

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