A = Alignment
Before we move in Tai Chi practice, we check in with our alignment, find our center — standing shoulder width (wu chi) stance. I ask students to do a mental body check before moving. For example: feeling our feet connected to Mother Earth; knees bent and tailbone dropped; breathing from the belly (the lower dantien); feeling the chest soften and the heart open; relaxing the shoulders; allowing the head to feel light, “… as if being hung by a strand of pearls.” [a famous Tai Chi saying]
How does this relate to everyday life? Well … what if we were in alignment with what we desire, stayed more in our center than on the outskirts of what everyone else was doing. Aligning within first, knowing the outside will follow. Too often I hear people say, “I’ll be happy when…” Let’s be happy now, there are so many things to be appreciative in life, drinking water, a cozy bed, food in our bellies, and the list goes on and on. I invite you to create your own list mentally or write it down. Remind yourself, when you are having moments of feeling off. For when we are more in alignment from within, our chi flows naturally.
B = Breath
In Tai Chi, breathing is done from the lower dantien (Buddha belly breathing). I like to visualize my core as an inner tube, each time I breathe in the inner tube expands, and when I exhale it releases. Tai Chi breathing is very aerobic—reason being—is that most of us do not take deep breaths during our day, we become shallow. [pun intended :-]
Relating breath to everyday is simple. I remind students to breathe when they are in class and invite them to take conscious breaths throughout their day. Think about it, we breathe more than 17,000 times a day, how often to you take the time to be present when you breathe? Wouldn’t it benefit you to take some deep breaths before that next meeting? When you need to have a tough conversation with a loved one? Or how about breathing deeply when you are outside connecting with nature? I invite you to experience it for yourself, and see how you feel.
C = Consciousness
The big C in life. How often are you with yourself? I mean, do you sometimes have those days when you’re driving home from a long day, and all of the sudden you realize you’re in the driveway? And, then you wonder … how did I get here? That is the opposite of consciousness. Being conscious is mentally being there for yourself and when another person is in front of you. You could say it another way, expanding your awareness to your present surroundings.
Tai Chi is a moving meditation, being present with each movement as you feel your breath and alignment is what we practice every class. We may begin again, and again throughout class, coming back to our breath—which I believe is the easiest way to connect consciously and again, expanding our awareness.
In Tai Chi and in life, I believe these ABCs are a great everyday practice to keep our chi flowing. When you mentally find yourself in the past or the future, take yourself lightly, don’t beat yourself up and begin again. Remember we breathe more than 17,000 breaths a day, giving you that many chances to connect with your ABCs.
It doesn’t matter how times you fall out of alignment, it’s how quickly you can come back to your center, connecting your consciousness through breathing and expanding your awareness of the present moment, again and again.