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Unconscious Muscle Tension

For most of us, our body is in a constant state of tug-of-war with itself, as muscles use tension to counterbalance other muscles that are carrying excessive tension to begin with. This state of affairs is analogous to driving a car with the emergency break on. It limits our range of expression, creates wear and tear, drains our energy, and makes living and moving seem more difficult than it needs to. This tension usually exists below the level of conscious awareness, so that we do not even realize that we are carrying it, nor are we in touch with what it feels like to truly relax.

Where does this unconscious tension come from? From every negative emotion you have ever felt and not fully expressed. From every stress-inducing situation that did not come to a complete and speedy resolution. From every impulse you have ever had to control the way you appear to other people.

How can we release it? Through somatic therapy and emotional release modalities: somatic experiencing, yoga, hypnotherapy, biofeedback, acupuncture, massage, breathwork, meditation, qigong.

And, of course, tai chi.

 
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Posted by on January 13, 2014 in Stress

 

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When Do You Turn Your Tai Chi Off?

While practicing, you are relaxed, aligned, your movements are smooth, deliberate. In other words, you are actively maintaining your tai chi composure.

The question is, when do you stop?

Do you turn your tai chi on when you practice the form, and turn it off when you stop? Do you turn it off when class is over? Or when you get interrupted or distracted?

Why turn it off deliberately at all? Why not at least try to keep it on all the time?

 
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Posted by on December 22, 2013 in Tai Chi Practice

 

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Non-Volitional Movement

An experiment: sit or stand erect, and let your arms hang by your sides.  Lift them upwards swiftly, so that they are straight overhead.  Do this a couple of times and notice how your shoulders and trapezius engage with tension to create this motion.

Now let your arms hang by your sides, completely relaxed.  Let your shoulders and arms become lighter and lighter, until they are so light that they begin to float.  Let them to continue to float upwards, consciously relaxing your shoulders, moving as slowly and steadily as they can, barely overcoming the pull of gravity, until they are straight overhead, or as high as they can go without creating tension in your shoulders.

If you can feel a difference between these two types of movement, then you are experiencing the contrast between volitional and non-volitional movement.  Volitional movement is how most of us move most of the time, by creating tension through exertion.  Non-volitional movement is willed but not forced, intended but not demanded.

Your tai chi practice should cultivate non-volitional movement and avoid volitional movement as much as possible.

 
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Posted by on September 23, 2012 in Exercise, Tai Chi Practice

 

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