Relax, said the teacher. But I am relaxed, I thought, as the teacher tried to gently move my resistant arms into a better shape for the posture we were learning.
Go to any T'ai Chi class, pick up any T'ai Chi book and you will be told that is important to relax. But what exactly does this mean? Is it the same as drinking 6 cans of Lager or half a bottle of wine whilst draped over the sofa after a day at work? No, this is approaching a state of collapse. Relaxing to the point of falling to floor is not what we're after.
We need to work with Gravity. Work with it, not against it. Instead of fighting to pull ourselves up, we surrender to the pull of Gravity. Drop tension, both in the mind and the body. Soften the tissues of the body. It is a process of transformation. We gain energy as we let go of tension. We are able to move more freely. We are supported by the Ground and are more stable.
The first posture of the short form provides a method. Stand with the heels touching, feet turned out slightly. Your weight is over the whole of your feet, not back on the heels or too far forwards on the balls. Arms hang loosely by your side, hands gently open, not clenched. Look straight ahead, a level gaze, not tilting up or down. the tongue touches the gum behind the front two teeth, as if trying to say " Luh " . The molar teeth touch gently and the mouth is lighty closed. Have an enigmatic, Mona Lisa smile. The eyes can be open, half open or closed.
The shoulders don't hold you up, so let them drop. The elbows are unlocked. Don't push the chest out or let it slump. Take a deep breath and sigh as you breathe out. Feel the chest relax. Don't pull in the stomach or clench the buttocks. Be aware of the hips and let go. The knees are not locked - tighten and let go a few times to get the feeling. Feel the ground beneath your feet and soften them, not pushing or trying to grab with your toes.
Breathing naturally through the nose, do not try to control the Breath. Imagine you have a flow of warm water down the front of the face, throat, chest, belly, hips, thighs, shins, flowing down into the Earth. Follow this down gently with your awareness. Soften downwards. Stand quietly for a minute of two to work with this. If you feel uncomfortable then stop. If dizzy, lie down and put your feet up higher than your head.
With practise I found that I had a better connection/root to the Ground and had dropped tension , especially in my upper body. My breathing deepened and my personal energy improved.
Relaxation is the foundation.