* "Elbows down" does not necessarily mean pointed vertically, physically down. The elbows can be pointed horizontally and still be "pointed" down when the intention in the elbows is down and not up. Also, when there is relaxation in the shoulder, and when the elbows feel as if they are sinking or pulling down, this is "elbows down".
* Question: When I drop or relax the elbow, I feel a tugging or stretching at the elbow. Is this good or bad?
Answer: A good sign but a bad habit needs resolving. Drop the shoulder. Start the stretch from higher in the shoulder. This will relieve some of the tugging feeling and yield a deeper connection.
(For more on relaxing the shoulder see the Wujifa article, Methods for Understanding the Relaxed Shoulder or Song Jian 鬆肩.)* When adjustments to one's zhan zhuang structure are made on a tight, contracting body, the "natural" reaction is to contract more and more. When adjustments to one's zhan zhuang structure are made on a relaxed, expanding body, the "natural" reaction is to expand more and more.
(Maybe a better word than "natural" would be "habitual" , although when I'm receiving adjustments, my body appears to me to respond "naturally". I don't even notice the habit that is so deeply embedded that it now feels "natural". By extension, learning to stand and move in a more functional manner initially feels "un-natural".)* Some silk reeling details: The main opening (expanding) and closing (contracting) occurs at the groin (kua) and to a lesser degree at the opposite breast kua. For the "qi to shoulder" move, the arm raises, back expands and upper abdomen rolls in. For the "qi to waist" move, breath out and allow the arm to follow the sinking feeling. The opposite shoulder does not turn. Breathe with each motion. Follow the natural ebb and flow of the force of the breath. Don't force anything.
(This is one tip of many that I've learned over the years at Wujifa class. When I learned this first Chen Xiaowang silk reeling exercise at a seminar, I only learned the gross mechanical movement. I really appreciate being able to receive this kind of advance training at The School of Cultivation and Practice.)* Question: What to do with or about "back pain" where the muscle spasms and "locks" making moving difficult?
Answer: Remember, Chen Xiaowang says that shaking in stance is Qi hitting a block and trying to get through. Emotionally, a spasm is the body blocking something that is trying to get through, so the bottom line is to work with it, get into it, and to find out "why". Back pain provides you with a great learning opportunity. Don't medicate it to try to make it go away.
(I've had recurring bouts of muscle spasms in my upper and lower back over the last twenty years. I haven't had a spasm in a while since working on relaxing more deeply with Wujifa Zhan Zhuang. It's also taken me awhile to get over "freezing" in fear when I'd feel a spasm starting and to intentionally relax it. More recently, as I continue working on "widening and lengthening" my lower back, I can sometimes position myself to feel a "tugging"; what feels like a hard block (over the sacrum) suspended between two elastic bands. For me, relaxing (developing "song"), is a long-term and on-going project.)* "When one part moves, all parts move". I saw and understood now three different ways that people move when doing taichi and push hands:
- Disconnected, noodley, "Gumby"-like. The individual parts move but blockages (localized, chronically tense muscles) prevent integrated movement.
- Block-like. A misinterpretation of this statement where the torso is "locked down" as if in concrete.
- True meaning - a dynamic, holistic, integrated, free, unblocked, unimpeded, smooth movement. Not a conscious kinetic behavior, rather a spontaneous movement that looks like it's powered by the legs, directed by the waist and expressed in the fingers.
* People tend to see through the dualistic (yin-yang) "rose colored" glasses and by being so focused, they can't or don't see the underlying fulcrum on which the yin-yang is balanced.
* When you look at examples A, B, C, and D, (below) in yin-yang terms, you see that B needs more yang than C, which needs less yang to move the block. In D, moving the fulcrum yields the same result from a different point.
* A block lays on the ground. How much yin-yang does it have? As you practice stance, you begin to develop a little fulcrum under the block but movement is limited. As you develop your fulcrum, the amount of yin-yang power naturally increases. If you focus on yin-yang and your fulcrum is not developed, you will not have much internal power.
(What I get from this is that I can either practice and develop more and more yin and more and more yang or I can practice becoming the fulcrum and becoming that upon which yin-yang rests.* With the arm held in a standard zhan zhuang stance position (elbows at side, forearms parallel to floor, palms facing each other, fingers extended)...
For more on the Wujifa fulcrum see: Wujifa Triangles.)
Feel intention into the little finger - the qi moves along the bottom of the forearm.
Feel intention into the top finger - the qi moves along the top of the forearm.
Feel intention into the middle finger - the qi moves through the middle of the forearm.
Feel intention in all fingers - the forearm feels full.
Introductory article explaining this "Journal Notes" series: Zhan Zhuang Training Journal
Previous article in this series: Practice Non-Polarity: Journal Notes #30
Next article in this series: Zhan Zhuang Practice Time: Journal Notes #32
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And stop by The School of Cultivation and Practice.