If you've never "actually read" any of our newsletters before
you deleted them ... this is one you absolutely should read.
This issue of our FREE Weekly Ezine Newsletter only has one article:
KNEE HEALTH. 100's OF HOURS GO INTO EACH WEEK'S "FREE" EZINE.
NOTE: in the above image the man is "leaning into" the movement (darker blue axis line),
and has departed from desired up/down Vertical Axis or Alignment (lighter green axis line).
When we "lean" into a movement, the tailbone extends out, and we are not "relaxing" or
"sinking" into the hips. This tilts the pelvis down and makes the knees feel a pressure
as if we were "squatting" rather than relaxing and sinking down into the hips. See below
images and videos for more information, and also exercises to "feel" this rather than just
"thinking" about it. If a picture is worth a thousand words, "feeling" techniques and
sensations is worth a million words ... and the below SHORT videos enable you to
"feel" it, if you participate with them.
KNEE PROBLEMS: HOW DO WE AVOID THEM?
Sifu and brilliant Tai Chi journalist/writer Violet Li
released an article this month on this issue, entitled:
This article offers several great ideas on knee protection
from a renowned grandmaster.
This is an issue we've been planning to cover for some time.
Thank you Violet Li for bringing this issue to our attention,
and for your ongoing brilliant work.
We Begin with the Best of the Best Exhibiting
Perfect Tai Chi Vertical Axis & Filling and Emptying Technique
Grandmaster Hong Yijiao - US All Tai Chi Forms Grand Champion
Okay, Now that We've Seen What it SHOULD Look Like ...
HOW Do We Actually Achieve the Mechanics to Make It Happen?
NOTE: You have to "feel it" to "get it." Thinking about it
is just not enough. The below videos will help you do just that.
Below we expand on this "Knee Health" issue with
teaching techniques and
video support experiences, so that you can not only learn valuable ways to discuss how to avoid knee injury (and improve Tai Chi performance), but also video support to give you "experiences" to enable you and your students (if you teach) to "feel" the sensations within to shift stances and protect the knees.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, to "feel" the internal sensations of the techniques is worth a million. So, the below techniques and video experiences can be valuable assets, not only to new students, but to experienced Tai Chi'ers and to teachers.
Three important simple solutions to this (and a 4th valuable suggestion), and
teach it "effectively" to new and experienced students:
#1) VERTICAL AXIS/VERTICAL ALIGNMENT OF 3 DAN TIENS
After viewing video, move on through below article for deeper explanations and exercises on this ...
"Sinking Your Qi"
|#2) NEVER PIVOT/MOVE A FULL FOOT, ALWAYS EMPTY IT BEFORE PIVOTING
After viewing video, move on through below article for deeper explanations and exercises on this ...
"Filling & Emptying, Vertical Axis
|#3) MAKE YOUR TAI CHI WARM UP KNEE ROTATIONS "OVALS" not "CIRCLES"
Move on through below article for a larger version of this image (right) and deeper explanations on this ...
Read on ... a larger readable image of above graphic is below in article
|#4) The "Sinking" that Saves Our Knees, Starts in the Mind, Not the Body
PREPARING OUR STATE OF CONSCIOUSNESS -- NEI GONG MEDITATION
After viewing video, move on through below article for deeper explanations on this ...
"Sitting Qigong - Nei Gong Meditation"
Reading a good book that has "idiot" in the title, is way more intelligent then missing out on a good book that has idiot in the title, don't you think?
See above video for what the world's top experts in Tai Chi said about this book.
Below find detailed explanations of the above
easy/profound ways to protect your knees
and to explain this to new students, if you teach ...
First of all, realize that Tai Chi is very low impact, and the risk of injury is minimal, and the benefits are great. So, don't freak out over this issue :-) However, the knees are something we want to care for in our Tai Chi practice, because we want to do Tai Chi for the rest of our lives.
#1) VERTICAL AXIS/VERTICAL ALIGNMENT TEACHER / ENTHUSIAST TIP:
The MOST IMPORTANT THING TO TELL NEW STUDENTS (and old students if you haven't told them this yet.)
Tai Chi should NEVER HURT. STUDENTS, If anything you do hurts talk to your instructor to find out why, and to find a solution. Lessen the depth of your movements, or make your warm up rotations smaller (or more "oval," see below) ... until they no longer hurt.
Tai Chi is not meant to be a masochistic endeavor of "enduring pain," it is a high level physical engineering science to find the lowest impact, least damaging, and most comfortable way to move through our lives.
I want to repeat this, because it is so very important that
I emphasize it in my book
and videos, and in ALL my classes. Tell students: TAI CHI SHOULD
The most common Tai Chi strain on the knees is from when the body leans over the knee, leaving the upper body (the 3 dan tiens) out of alignment and vertical axis (see photo image at the top of this newsletter, and then videos and exercise below).
"Horse Stance and Resistance Free Motion"
If we adjust the movement to "move from the dan tien" rather than moving from the head, it will relieve pressure on the knee (note: here and throughout the rest of this article, dan tien references mean "lower dan tien" in upper pelvis)
. Most of us in the modern world often naturally move "from the head" when not paying attention, because the world is living in its head more than its body, and is always in a hurry, causing us to lean into movements. So again if we move "from the dan tien" and the body is in vertical alignment up and down from head to dan tien, rather than leaning into movements ... the knee problem usually goes away.
The pressure relieves when we let go of moving from the head,
and remember to move "from the dan tien".
I'LL PROVE THIS TO YOU ...
share this exercise with students if you teach ...
With your weight on your left leg (full leg) and your right heel out at a 45 degree angle in front, roll onto that right foot as you move/sink into that right leg (fill the right leg) and let the head go just an inch or so ahead of the dan tien ... you'll feel the pressure in your knee, as your head leans, going out of its Vertical Axis.
Now, sink back into the left leg (fill the left leg) again, and again move into, filling the right leg in front at a 45 degree angle as you did before ... BUT THIS TIME ... move from the dan tien, not the head ... feel the difference? The head stays in alignment.
now there is NO pressure in the knee!
When we sink into a leg moving from the dan tien, the sacrum or tailbone relaxes down and under (the spine aligns, and the 3 dan tiens are in alignment: upper/head, middle/heart, lower/upper pelvis). When we move from the head, the tailbone goes a tiny bit out, which takes us out of Vertical Axis (3 dan tien alignment) and that little bit of non-alignment ads pressure to the knee. Not a lot. Just a bit, but over thousands of repetitions of our Tai Chi forms, ads up to what may become knee discomfort over time.
Don't dismiss this book as "too basic," because as in this knee issue, often times these little
"basic" nuances can have BIG
"Sometimes Chinese culture can be difficult to explain. Sifu Bill Douglas successfully uses American culture
to explain the art of T'ai Chi Chuan. He simplifies
difficult concepts, making them easier to understand.
This book takes the best parts of T'ai Chi and makes them understandable [to Westerners] without
requiring a grounding in Chinese culture and history."
Sifu Yijiao Hong, USA All-Tai Chi Grand Champion
and USA Team member; Certified International
Coach and Judge, International Wushu Federation
"Visionary! If you only buy one book on T'ai Chi, then this is the book. This book is all you ever needed to know to change your life. I have taught T'ai Chi for several decades myself, yet I have now read Bill's book from cover to cover seven times, and still get something new from it each time."
-- Dr. Michael Steward Sr., D.MA, Ph.D., MA, Senior Coach for Team USA, Inductee of the World Sports Medicine and World Martial Arts Hall of Fame
The Complete Idiot's Guide to T'ai Chi & Qigong
" is renowned for providing a FIRM FOUNDATION upon which any Tai Chi or Qigong style or form can be built. It also deeply explores the "consciousness" and "energy" aspect of Tai Chi and Qigong, which in reality is THE most basic foundational element to a lifelong high level Tai Chi or Qigong journey.
4.3 out of 5 stars on Amazon, with over 80 reviews:
83% of reviews are 5/4 out of 5 star ratings
MORE INSIGHTS ON
PROTECTING THE KNEES ...
When doing your Tai Chi Warm Ups, I think all styles do them ... the one where you move back and forth, side to side, filling and emptying one leg and the other back and forth ... is where you can often notice this bad habit many modern students often have.
When we move from our head, it is not a lot, and we may absolutely "think" we are "moving from our dan tien" BUT as you sink back and forth from one leg to the other ... if your knee hurts or twinges ... then it is most likely that your head got a 1/4 inch or 1/2 inch or so
ahead of your dan tien ... which means your tailbone is out behind you a bit, resulting in your hips tilting down, and your knees feeling like you are "squatting" a bit, which results in knee pressure.
Okay, you've "read" the above formula for how the body reacts, and you may now have it "in your head." That's only the FIRST STEP. Now, be SURE to also view my book's videos above, and please DON'T JUST WATCH THEM, because if you do, you're still only "in your head." When you view the videos, please stand up and participate in the experience. If you do, you will "feel" the above concepts on a cellular, muscular, and sensory level. This is the DEEPEST kind of learning. Book/word/brain learning is only a door. FEELING and experiencing the sensations inside your body is the REAL learning.
I placed the above videos for you to enjoy for this reason. Another FREE service from WorldTaiChiDay.org. Our newsletter's motto "FREE does not mean worthless."
|When I had the great pleasure of meeting Tai Chi Master Henry Look in San Francisco, he explained all of this to me.
Master Look was a building engineer, and saw Tai Chi as a high level human physical engineering science, where small adjustments have big impacts.
So today, in my classes, I encourage students feeling knee discomfort to first make foot adjustments ...
Often "opening the stance" on the foot of the leg where the knee hurts will solve the problem. But, if that doesn't, then the next step is doing the above to observe and see if moving from the dan tien consciously relieves the problem.
|Remembering to "relax" and "sink into the movement" and "move from the
dan tien" and not the head always
solves this problem for me. (See videos)
I'm 60 years old, and because of my career I do Tai Chi several times a day most days of the week, and have for
nearly 40 years now (at times teaching 19 classes per week) ... and my knees
-- Bill Douglas, Founder of
World Tai Chi & Qigong Day
User-friendly video tips that can help avoid Tai Chi knee injury:
The above video shows how as we "fill" and "empty" each leg, as we sink into the leg we are filling, letting the tailbone relax down as we sink (resulting in the pelvis tilting up) as we transition from Tai Chi posture to Tai Chi posture ... we maintain our postural alignment of the 3 dan tiens, and it illustrates how this takes tremendous stress off the body (including the knees). NOTE: When teaching, I tell students to exhale, relax, and "let the tailbone relax down" rather than telling them to "tilt the pelvis up." I am always encouraging them to "let go" and "relax" into the postures.
As I said above the tailbone "sinking" and "relaxing down" has the EFFECT of tilting the pelvis up, but a student will tighten and "pull" the pelvis up if you say it in a way like "tilting the pelvis up." Tension in the core inhibits the relaxation and letting go in the hips that promotes a good safe stance. Words like "sinking" and "letting go" therefore are preferable to "tilt pelvis up" which denotes action/control, whereas the other terms help students release internally and mentally.
The POETRY of Tai Chi teaching
A big part of my book's success in teaching people brand new to Tai Chi deep Tai Chi concepts in a way "they can get," is the poetry of the explanations. As Tai Chi teachers we should "listen to our bodies" when practicing our Tai Chi and Qigong, and "feel" the sensations, and then strive to explain these concepts not so much in ancient Chinese terminology as more in "common phrases" to help students "feel" rather than "think." The goal of a true poet is to enable a reader to "feel" what the poet is feeling when they write the lines. Tai Chi teaching at its highest is to teach in terminology that most enables students to "feel" what we "feel" inside ourselves when we play Tai Chi ... not to work their brain all the time trying to learn ancient terminology.
If you read Sifu/journalist Violet Li's article, linked at the top of this newsletter (and you should), you will know that grandmaster Chen spoke of "Sitting Kuas" how the hips relax, allowing the pelvis to tilt properly, and taking pressure off the knees. If you didn't read the article, after playing with these videos here, be sure to go back and read it. These videos here will help you "feel" the grandmaster's important insights in Sifu Violet's brilliant article.
In my below videos from my book, "The Complete Idiot's Guide to T'ai Chi & Qigong" (4th edition, Penguin Books), I address this in more accessible/ modern language which may help you or students "get" or "feel" what the grandmaster was talking about in the article. Note in the above and below video I spend a great deal of time talking about "sinking" and letting the spine elongate, and the tail bone relaxing down. The "state of mind" we are in when we do Tai Chi is an important first step, and Nei Gong Meditation can have a big impact (scroll up to top for video).
In my book's video support below, I explain in simple ways how you or your students (if you teach) can "feel" how this feels via "sinking" and the "tailbone relaxing down as the knees bend."
A SIMPLE TEACHING TECHNIQUE:
Have new students stand with their feet shoulder width apart, and their eyes closed (because when eyes are open, students are "thinking." When their eyes are closed they are "feeling." Thinking is left brain/Yang/analytical, while "feeling" is right brain/Yin/experiential. Tai Chi & Qigong are "internal" or Yin arts -- most profoundly understood in a Yin, internal, "experiential way."
Now, have them take a few deep breaths, and relax as they stand with their feet apart. Now have them place the back of their hand on their lower back, lumbar/sacral vertebrae area. With eyes closed, have them lock their knees straight, and notice how that pushes their behind out a bit and creates more curve in their lower backs.
With eyes still closed, and back of hand still on sacral/lumbar lower back area ... now have them (eyes still closed) let their knees bend slightly ... and feel how the tail bone "relaxes under" and they lose some of the curve in their lower backs. [I recommend, if you are a teacher to actually do this yourself before teaching it, because if you FEEL it yourself you will teach it at a whole deeper effective level.]
ANOTHER STUDENT/SENSORY "FEELING"
Have students stand with their back to a smooth wall, with their heels touching the baseboard of the wall behind them.
Have them slip a hand behind their lower back to feel the space between their lower back and wall. Now, have them let their knees bend slightly, and allow their tailbone to relax down and under. Have them feel how much less space there is between their lower back and the wall now.
Encourage them to practice this, breathing full breaths, and on the exhale letting their tailbone relax down, their spine elongate ... and in time their lower back will lose a lot of that curve, and be closer to the wall (see photo with yellow line above).
Also, as they practice "sinking" and "allowing the spine to elongate" (see below videos) will foster this in time.
TEACHERS: NOTICE HOW I'M ALWAYS TRYING TO GET STUDENTS "OUT OF THEIR HEADS" AND INTO THE BODIES .... "feeling" what I'm explaining, rather than just mentally explaining it to them.
This makes a huge difference.
#2) KNEE HEALTH: Do not move a leg that is FULL.
Always empty a leg before pivoting, or moving it
In the first video in this article you saw grandmaster Hong Yijao demonstrating this perfectly. Now, below is a video support that can help you "feel" how to do it yourself, and if you teach, how to effectively break it down so students can "get it."
Filling Left Leg to Pivot Empty Right Foot
#3) KNEE HEALTH: One Last Knee Protection Tip ...
Moving Qigong Tai Chi Warm Ups often include "knee rotations." If you or anyone in your classes experiences recurring knee discomfort, one adjustment to make is this.
When rolling out your knees, rather than going in "circles" rotate in long ovals (front to back) to minimize "side to side" rotation of the knees. When knees rotate sideways, it puts a lot more stress on them, the knees aren't really designed to do that (go side to side) ... they are designed to move front to back.
#4) KNEE HEALTH: Our "State of Consciousness" Sets the Stage
for How We "Sink" or "Relax" into Postures.
This "state of our consciousness" when doing Tai Chi is an often
overlooked or at least "underlooked" aspect of Tai Chi.
A couple of years ago, I got an email from a man in England who had gotten my Tai Chi & Qigong DVD: "Anthology of T'ai Chi & Qigong: The Prescription for the Future" a couple of years before. He wrote:
"I had to email you to tell you about this. I had ordered your
Tai Chi & Qigong DVD a couple of years ago, and had only
gotten it to learn Tai Chi movements, so I skipped past the
"Sitting Qigong [Nei Gong] Meditation, and went straight to
the movements. But, this week for some reason it came to
me that I should try the Sitting Qigong Meditation, so I turned
it on, sat in a comfortable chair, and drifted into the meditation.
I just had to tell you, it was AMAZING how much difference it
made in the quality of my Moving Qigong Warm Ups and my
Tai Chi practice, after first experiencing the Meditation."
-- Tai Chi student from the United Kingdom
Our minds are naturally in the Beta Brainwave, or "busy brainwave" state, which is how we operate in the world, driving cars, balancing checkbooks, and in the digital world we spend more and more of our time in. This is the Yang state of mind, or control state of mind.
OUR BODY CANNOT TRULY RELAX AND LET GO ... UNTIL THE MIND DOES
The Alpha Brainwave states is the meditative state, where we "let go" of thinking/controlling things ... and we open to "feeling" our state of being.
This is the Yin, internal state of consciousness.
3 dan tiens (upper/mind, middle/heart, lower/physical), must "let go" in order for the
body to truly let go. The mind and body are not separate things, they are one,
and "sinking" and "letting go" have their seed/root in our state of consciousness.
"To see things in the seed.
That is genius."
-- Lao Tzu.
When learning Tai Chi at first, we always do it with that Beta, busy, Yang (external) mind, because we're trying to remember where to put hands and feet, etc. But, in time, as we repeat our movements dozens, hundreds, thousands of times, we begin to "feel" our movements rather than controlling them, and this is when our mind drifts into that sensory experiential Alpha Yin (internal) Meditative state of consciousness.
"I just turned 60 years old, and have been doing Tai Chi
(often several times a day) for nearly 40 years now ... I'm
always a bit stunned when younger teachers do not just
dismiss my insights into the "internal" journey of Tai Chi
... but actually attack it, and attack me as a human
being. There are some things I could only become aware
of by experiencing it over 4 decades ... that experience is
a gift, not an attack. As practitioners or teachers, if we see
new information as challenges to who we are, then it shuts
the spigot of the possibility of constant awakening."
-- Bill Douglas, Founder of World Tai Chi & Qigong Day
NOW, Sitting Qigong, or Nei Gong Internal Meditation experiences can enable us to feel this state of consciousness more deeply, and also more quickly in our Tai Chi journey.
Why does this matter so much? When my son was in high school he played baseball. I remember going to the batting cages to watch the boys practice batting. I remember the coaches standing outside the cage, yelling to the boys, "RELAX! Relax in there!"
I could see in their eyes they were perplexed by this command. What did it mean? They were wondering. They thought they WERE relaxed. When I began Tai Chi and Qigong, I realize now, I did not know what it meant to relax, either. We live on a surface level, until we go deeper into another state of mind, where we are not "thinking" about relaxing, we are "feeling the layers within" letting go and relaxing in stages.
Try this below Sitting Qigong - Nei Gong energy work meditation to get a flavor of what I'm talking about, and what the man from England was talking about. Don't go into it trying to "analyze" it, but rather sit back, close your eyes, and go on a journey of internal awareness and letting go. You can't "think" about meditation and get it, you have to "freefall" into it.
Sitting Qigong - Nei Gong Energy Meditation
It begins with an important introduction into the energetic nature of our being. This is an important aspect, because if our left brain/Yang consciousness cannot understand this, it cannot "let go" and have the experience. The meditation will start immediately after the intro, do not skip the intro.
We put a TON of work into last Saturday's FREE Ezine Magazine ... and we believe it had some fascinating articles ... but our stats showed a really low readership ...
So, we're giving you another chance to check it out.
Have some fun with it, we believe you'll find the articles interesting.
Tai Chi is a profound "physical" technology, but it "isn't all just about physical movement" there is a whole universe of mind-body science to explore, and our below article does a bit of that. It is fun and interesting to explore beyond the borders of what we know ... that is the fuel of growth and expansion, which is what Tai Chi and Qigong foster in our lives ... expansion.
If you do find the below newsletter interesting, please tell your friends about it, share it on Facebook, Twitter, etc. etc.
Here's the link to last week's Ezine:
World Tai Chi & QG Day- Liverpool; The Beatles, Australia & India
In this issue ... articles on ...
Research on Tai Chi treating Fibromyalgia / Chronic Pain
Mystery of the Upper Dan Tien
* The Pituitary Pineal Gland
The Akashic Record
Misconceptions about Buddhism
Click below for newsletter:
Get your World Tai Chi & Qigong Day PROMO CODE DISCOUNT on enrollment in upcoming "Symposium for Integrative Health Tai Chi Retreat"!
, and use PROMO Code: WLDTCQ
Just for the record: WorldTaiChiDay.org has no financial interest in the above Tai Chi retreat, we just, as always work to keep the global Tai Chi & Qigong and Mind Body family of multi-style events and organizations that can benefit anyone interested in Tai Chi or Qigong, or who practices any style.
-- Bill, World Tai Chi & Qigong Day