Don’t lose you balance
One of the big longterm benefits of Tai Chi is that it helps us improve our balance. Especially as we get older, it becomes harder and harder to maintain good balance and if we don’t deliberately focus on improving it, we will lose it. That leads to a higher rate of falls which, together with lower bone density, leads to more fractures and secondary health risks.
Improving balance in Tai Chi is not about standing on one leg and kicking – although we occasionally do that as well. Much more than that, it is about building a stable base on the ground from which all other movements originate, whether we are practicing a form or just going about our daily lives.
Push into the ground
To improve the balance of our stance, we start by getting rooted. Rather than struggling to balance the upper parts or our body, we try to push our feet into the ground. We remember the eight points and we try to sink them into the ground as deeply as we can and get ‘rooted’.
An extreme example of this is when we try to balance on one leg. Try focusing on your upper body and balancing that, and you will find it pretty hard. Then try to forget about your upper body and instead focus solely on pushing your standing leg down as much as you can (while lowering your hips) and you will find balancing a lot easier.
If you want to go up, you need to put your focus in pushing down!
Like a pyramid
Once you have laid the foundation through rooting, the second important piece is to build a strong base to stand on.
Make sure that your knees are in a straight line with your toes at any time. You can visually check this as you practice. Your knees need to be pointing straight to your toes or just be covering them visually.
Now make also sure, that you have a little outward tension on your knees. Don’t let them drop inside. Feel like you have little rubber bands that pull your knees outward. You want to feel like a pyramid, that has a pointy top and then consistently grows outward and larger towards the bottom.
Think of tent lines. The first step in pitching a tent is to firmly lock it to the ground with the base tent nails. That still doesn’t provide maximum stability though. In the second step you now need to take the lines on the tent skin and pull them outwards where you fix them in the ground to maintain proper tension.
Be a tent that has proper tension. Don’t be a soggy tent without stabilizing lines that will fall apart at the first blow of wind or leak as the raindrops fall.
Keeping your knees in line with your toes is essential for stability, but it is also critical to keep your knees healthy and avoid injury. Remember: avoid torque or tilt on your knees!
Stability creates confidence. Confidence creates calmness.