Tai Chi Notes, March 24, 2020

Mar 24 2020 Published by under Uncategorized

Not much to say this week: no class, and I’m still feeling like I have a low-grade cold so I’m restricting what I’m doing. Trying to stretch and walk around a little more, because my back was starting to give ever the slightest twinge; presumably I can do that in meetings, since they’re not in conference rooms these days, and since they usually don’t require me to be staring at my screen. In general, though, I’m still feeling like my spine is potentially a little freer in interesting ways; hopefully I’ll be able to hold onto that feeling until I get better and start practicing again.

Damo posted a video about Building Immunity in Qi Gong; unsurprisingly, he leads off by saying that Qi Gong just isn’t going to do magic for you in the short term (he says that yes, it helps, but it helps because you’ve been doing it!), and then goes into his usual theoretical analysis. There is one exercise he gives about two thirds of the way through that I might try working into things, though.

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Tai Chi Notes, March 18, 2020

Mar 18 2020 Published by under Uncategorized

We actually had Tai Chi class on Saturday; not as many people, and I kept my distance more than normal, but it happened. But even then the Tuesday class had already been cancelled, and now we have a shelter in place order from the government, so no classes for the indefinite future. My teacher is putting up a series of videos of health-related exercises, I should give that a look.

What I was supposed to be doing on Saturday through Monday was going to a local Lotus Neigong course on the Ji Ben Qi Gong. But it got cancelled, as did Damo’s upcoming course in April. Joyce and Rick (the local teachers) ran a two-hour class over Zoom on Sunday morning, though, which was very nice of them. And pretty brutal; I feel like I did in part of it manage to relax in ways that helped increase the stretch of some of the exercises and reduce the pain? And something Rick said made me think that I have more work to do around relaxing in my Kua.

Also, right at the beginning Joyce said something that was related to my worries last week that Neigong practice might be not the best idea when I have a cold. She said that it’s potentially dangerous when you’re sick: internal work has the potential to move bad stuff further inside your body. So you want to stick with surface level stuff, or on exercises that are about expelling stuff (Dao Yins, I guess).

And I am feeling a bit off again; so, for now, no Wu Ji. And even when I do a little bit of Silk Reeling to stay active during the work day, I can feel stuff inside that I’m not completely comfortable with; on the balance, I think it’s still probably a good idea, but I’m not completely sure? (Hmm, maybe I should just do basic stretches instead.) I’m still doing a little bit of meditation, but I’m using this as an excuse to do the “focus on the tip of your nose” thing from The Mind Illuminated, hopefully that’s surface enough!

The frustrating thing is that I also feel like my back and neck are potentially starting to open up, they’re giving these faint tickles that feel good. So I’m really curious what progress I might be able to make if I were able to practice! But I just don’t think it’s the right time for that; hopefully I’ll be able to at least avoid regressing too much until I do feel better…

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Tai Chi Notes, March 10, 2020

Mar 10 2020 Published by under Uncategorized

Not the best week for Tai Chi, unfortunately: I started feeling like I might be coming down with something on Thursday evening, so I skipped my Wu Ji practice for the rest of the week, and I skipped most of Tai Chi on Saturday, only going in for the Jian bit. And I skipped Tai Chi tonight, too.

Fortunately, the cold or whatever it is hasn’t been too bad; I think I’ll start venturing out in the world again tomorrow, and I probably would have actually gone into work instead of working at home yesterday and today if it wasn’t for the COVID scare. And hopefully I’ll be able to go to a Lotus Nei Gong course from Saturday through Monday; focusing on the Ji Ben Qi Gong, which I would like to learn better.

Anyways, during the Jian practice, in the hop near the end, you should keep your sword angled up, in the direction where you’ll be thrusting it next; also, the hop should be a little bit forward.

On Sunday I at least did Silk Reeling at home. And one thing I noticed there: in exercises where I’m moving forward and back some (e.g. during shoulder rotations), there’s more room to open my Kua than I’ve been doing. And I think that’s what I should do, that my teacher might say that I’d been collapsing my back knee slightly? Keeping my Kua open more requires me to maintain a bit of an active stretch, which I think is probably good?

The funny thing about Thursday is that I actually felt like I had a really good Nei Gong practice over lunch; but I also felt relaxed and open in a way which somehow fit with the ache that was the start of being sick. And, similarly, doing Silk Reeling on Sunday felt good but also left me feeling vulnerable. It’s nice to think that this internal work helps protect from disease, but I don’t have any real reason to believe that that’s the case, and it almost seemed like it opened me up to disease moving around this week a little more. Dunno…

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Tai Chi Notes, March 3, 2020

Mar 03 2020 Published by under Uncategorized

I guess I am writing the notes this week after all, but they’re short. I was googling for Lotus Wu Ji images, and I ran across this one; what struck me there was that Damo spread his arms significantly wider than I’m used to doing. So I tried that, and wow, it felt super different. Less different a few days later, now that I’m used to it, but still, maintaining a bit of a stretch seems like a good idea. Probably means that I should stand a little farther apart, too, to get more of a stretch on my legs as well.

Anyways, I’ve been good about doing my practice on the trip. I was actually hoping to get up to 30 minutes of Wu Ji every day; didn’t manage that, though, I wasn’t consistently doing it at a time when I wasn’t tired. (I find it noticeably harder to keep up Wu Ji if I’m tired or have eaten recently.) But I did 30 minutes some days, at least. And I did about 30 minutes of seated meditation, so that’s good. I only did Tai Chi once, on Sunday; did some Silk Reeling, some Lao Jia first form (3 times), some second form (2 times, I think?), 30 minutes of Wu Ji, and the Ji Ben Qi Gong during that session, which added up to a good session.

Might be starting to get little tingles around my live gate? Would be nice if it opened up… And I’m hoping that the Nei Gong seminars I’m planning to go to in March and April aren’t canceled because of Coronavirus, but who knows.

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Tai Chi Notes, February 25, 2020

Feb 25 2020 Published by under Uncategorized

I was sick on Thursday (probably food poisoning), so no practice that day. And I actually managed to wrench my back that evening; my guess is that I might have been slightly overdoing it with the hip rotations, and then lying down and doing a bit of the lying down in a slightly awkward position made some muscle suddenly quite unhappy? Fortunately, my back was getting noticeably better on Saturday, so I went to Tai Chi class; I did Silk Reeling (and noted that, indeed, hip rotations didn’t feel good), skipped the Lao Jia first form, and did the Jian and the Xin Jia first form very gently. Basically, I thought the Silk Reeling would help and that moving in general would help, and I wanted to make sure that I was keeping up with the Jian, but I didn’t want to strain anything.

Which worked fine, I didn’t sense any signs of problems (other than the hip rotations, which I skipped). In the Jian, I learned one move, and one thing I’d gotten wrong in the previous week’s move: in the move where you hop and then go up at an angle, the blade is horizontal, even during the hop. And in the Xin Jia Cover the Hand Punch, your left palm should be up, not forward.

And fortunately, my back continued to feel better on Sunday and Monday (almost back to normal on Monday, actually); yay for fast recovery. I skipped all of my routines while I was sick, but I started the meditation up again; seated meditation actually felt surprisingly good, I continue to think I might be making progress there.

Unfortunately, I also learned that I’m going to have to be out of town tomorrow through next Wednesday; so I skipped Tai Chi tonight, and I’ll probably skip this post entirely next week. And I’m extra glad went to class on Saturday, skipping two weeks of Jian wouldn’t have been good! I should at least be able to keep my meditation up while I’m out, though I doubt I’ll be able to practice the form; who knows about Silk Reeling or Ji Ben Qi Gong.

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Tai Chi Notes, February 18, 2020

Feb 18 2020 Published by under Uncategorized

Not much to report this week. I noticed on Saturday when doing Wu Ji that my right hand seems a little lower than my left. I played around with it some on Sunday, and I think I figured out a fix: if I shift my hips left while keeping my shoulders it the same position horizontally then that lowers my left shoulder and my left hand. Probably should also help with my head tilt, too?

When going through the form on Sunday, I noticed my balance a little off while stepping forward in Jing Gang; I was leading a bit with my torso, but I think actually I should make sure my back foot propels my hips with my torso coming along for the ride.

And, both tonight and (to some extent) last Tuesday, I noticed another odd thing about the first Jing Gang: when placing your left foot down after raising it, I’d been lowering my hands down in a circular motion, but my teacher seems to be moving his hands backwards there but not lowering them until he starts shifting his weight forward. I need to think about that.

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Tai Chi Notes, February 11, 2020

Feb 11 2020 Published by under Uncategorized

I was on a work trip last week; I didn’t manage to do my extra practice on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but I did at least manage to do some Wu Ji and some seated meditation every day. Though, at the end, the sessions were depressingly short; I did manage to get back to a reasonable length this weekend, though.

Lots of notes this week. I listened to a podcast which talked about having a posture like sitting in a chair while doing the form, which I think is the same thing that my teacher talks about when he says to tuck your tailbone during various of the moves; and, for whatever reason, that got me to try that more, and it clicked in a way it hasn’t before. Especially while doing the Oblique Posture, but also in Step Back with Spiraling Forearms.

While doing Spine Stretch, I’ve normally been leading with my neck, but now I think I’m overemphasizing that – stretching your neck is important, but I think I want to stretch my whole spine evenly. So I’d been slightly overweighting stretching my neck and slightly underweighting stretching my lower back.

Some things that caught me in my teacher’s discussion of the first form on Saturday: in Embrace the Knee, roll back your shoulders a bit while opening your chest before doing the embrace. But after the other Oblique Posture (where you’re going into Flash the Back), don’t roll your shoulders back and also don’t lean forward, just relax and stay rooted while reaching forward. And in the transition from Small Catching and Striking to Embrace the Knee and Push the Mountain, you should relax and let your left hand come down to meet your right hand in an X while turning; then open up your arms with your palms down while continuing to relax.

We had the monthly class on Sunday, and restarted the second form, and I had questions about more details. In the second shake at the start, don’t shift your weight to the left; instead, stay on the right foot but turn to the left, and then almost immediately after that jump to the left foot. In Turning Around Jing Gang, in the second sweep, don’t sweep your right foot all the way around on the ground; instead, start lifting it pretty early and also lift your right hand at about the same time. And in Downward Body-Stroke Fist, it’s okay if your left foot is turned in farther than your knee: just make sure that your knee is open instead of locked, and that it’s pressing in to the side, in the direction where your foot is pointed.

We started the Double Dao; I’m not optimistic at my ability to learn that one… But I also don’t mind not learning it well the first time.

And in the Xin Jia section of the Sunday class, a couple of places early on are chops with the left hand: after White Crane when turning towards Oblique Posture, and after the second Oblique Posture when moving your hands down right before the move where you protect your face. (In that one, your right hand turns over and down into a fist, while your left hand chops it.) Also, right after the Oblique Posture (both times), when moving your hands forward, raise your knee and have the left hand stretching out a bit further in front of the right: they should match your shoulders. The idea is that somebody‚Äôs grabbing at your knee: you push their head down with your hands and hit them with your knee. Unfortunately, we didn’t go over the whole Xin Jia first form; we started the Xin Jia second form, but went through it extremely briefly, there’s no way I’ll manage to learn that.

In class tonight, I was embarrassed to discover that, when doing the wrist stretch silk reeling exercise, my hand was pointing the wrong way while stretching it open: my fingers should be pointing out instead of in. Also, I want to think a little more about the timing when moving my arms during the first Jing Gang while standing on one leg; and I should probably move my left hand down a little bit in the part of that move where you do an uppercut. And some fellow students and I went over the second form a little bit tonight as well, that definitely helped.

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Tai Chi Notes, February 2, 2020

Feb 02 2020 Published by under Uncategorized

I’m on a work trip this week, so I’ll put out the post early; hopefully I’ll at least do my Wu Ji and my sitting meditation regularly while I’m there, but it’s easier to write the post from home.

I’ve noticed my body getting more relaxed when I do my sitting meditation: I start by trying to relax the muscles around my chest, and it feels that that’s less of a point of tension than it had been. And in general stuff feels more sinky while I’m sitting? Today in particular, I was sitting for 30 minutes, and without me trying to move it there, my attention ended up at my Dantian 15 or 20 minutes of the way through that, to the extent that, when I was doing a body scan of my head or neck, I felt like I had to reach up to do that.

I also noticed that it’s getting easier for me to sit in full lotus: that had been starting to get comfortable with my legs crossed one way, but today it was comfortable for 30 minutes with my legs crossed the other way. I was a little disconcerted to notice fairly dark blotches on the sole of my foot at the end of it, but they disappeared basically as soon as I uncrossed my legs, and I assume that that actually has been happening for a while (and maybe even when I sit in half lotus), I just happened to not have socks on today so I could see it. (Because my feet felt fine, it was purely visual.)

The sinking feeling is happening a little more than it had been when doing Wu Ji as well, I think? I’m not 100% sure, that one has had some level of sinking for a while. But it does seem like I’m getting more of a lasting sunk / relaxed feeling. Still not particularly close again to a breakthrough or anything, though.

Some notes from the Saturday Tai Chi class: in Small Catching and Striking, when you put your right hand under the left one after the shoulder strike, you shouldn’t just use your hand, use your Dantian as well and kind of fold in your body a bit. And I should keep in mind the application for the push to the left after Kick with Two Feet up: I’m sort of sweeping with my right foot while pushing to the left, with my left leg solid, to get uproot and throw my opponent.

And I was also wondering about one chopping move in the Jian form, where you shift your weight at the same time as stomping down; that seems very different from the bare-hand form, where you’re always supposed to act like you’re on thin ice. My teacher’s explanation of that is that, with weapons, your opponent will be farther away so you don’t have to worry as much about having your feet swept, and hence don’t have to be quite as cautious.

My local(ish) Lotus Nei Gong teachers are giving a course in March on the Ji Ben Qi Gong, which is a set that I’ve tried to learn from a book and that I do practice once a week; hopefully I’ll be able to go through that, it’ll be good to learn it in person, I’m sure there will be tons of aspects of it where I can improve.

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Tai Chi Notes, January 28, 2020

Jan 28 2020 Published by under Uncategorized

Some notes from Saturday class: in Dantian Change, when you’re preparing to draw the silk, your left arm should go farther forward under your right arm, so you can draw it back more. (And I think I should also be turning my hips more there.) And in Xin Jia, when doing Jing Gang the first and second times, there’s a place a little before you’re about to move forward, where your right hand goes back and down; your wrist should be curved in a little bit instead of curved back, so it can be relaxed and let you do a little flash of Fa Jin before moving forward.

When doing seated meditation, I’ve started experimenting with doing a Full Lotus instead of a Half Lotus. On one side, it’s reasonably comfortable; on the other side, though, I definitely feel off: a little off balance, a twinge in one knee, and one foot doesn’t want to stay up. Seems close enough to be worth working on, though.

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Tai Chi Notes, January 21, 2020

Jan 21 2020 Published by under Uncategorized

I’d been feeling like I wasn’t making progress on my Live Gate, and my lower back felt like it wasn’t at all flexible, which made me think that it was still compressed, that I still had lingering aspects of my back problems. So I started doing Spine Stretches a couple of times a day, and I asked my teacher about it on Saturday, and he recommended doing Hip Rotations, so I added that in as well. And, to my surprise, things actually started feeling better on Sunday – maybe a little bit better while doing Wu Ji, but also when walking around that evening, it felt like I had a little bit of space and energy in my back? Hopefully that wasn’t a fluke and things will continue to feel good. (And hopefully I’ll make progress in my Wu Ji…)

My teacher went over my form on Saturday. In the first Jing Gang, when stepping back, I should look forward; and, practicing on Sunday, to my surprise that actually helped me keep my balance, I think it put me in a more compressed / lowered body shape? In the reverse Oblique Posture (before Angled Body Fist), my right arm is going too far back, and I should tuck my tailbone more. In Feel Out the Tall Horse, I should spiral more with my right hand, and have my right hand pointed a little more to the right instead of straight forward, in line with my right foot. And in Grab and Tuck Robe, I should make sure my right knee is over my right foot instead of inside, and tuck my tailbone more.

And one thing that came up this evening: near the end, when going from Swing the Leg to Head-On Cannon, I should do a Cai.

Did 30 minutes of Wu Ji for the last three days (I was working from home on Monday, so it was easier to do a little more time); nothing particularly interested happened, but I’m trying to keep the possibility open.

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