Movement of the spinal column during Tai Chi

A number of people have come up to me to say they had issues with their backs, and are not able to twist the spine much, if at all. Which made me wonder, just how much does the spine really twist while doing Tai Chi? So I went to a Tai Chi forum on Linked in, and was rewarded with this video by Bruce Ching.

Our spines are pretty amazing in all the ways they move. Forward and back, bending right and left, twisting to the right and left, it’s no wonder so many people have back issues. But in doing our forms, if we adhere to the principle of keeping the shoulders aligned over the hips, we keep the twisting to a minimum.

Body Alignment chartThis chart, and my apologies to whomever created this for not giving you credit, shows how the spine also stays in a vertical line while doing our forms correctly.

This makes me think that as a beginner we should be most aware of our posture, especially if we already have back issues. The more correctly we align our posture, keeping vertical when we step out, turning the hips with the waist when we turn to the side, the better our backs will feel. Which will make it easier for us to continue our practice. So if your back is hurting while practicing Tai Chi, have your teacher, or a physical or massage therapist watch you while you do your forms. They should be able to advise where you are bending or twisting further than your body appreciates and how to fix the movement. Remember that what we feel our bodies are doing, is not what it looks like to others. If you don’t have someone to watch you, then take a video of yourself, you may be amazed at how your body is moving as compared to what your mind thinks you are doing.

For a really in-depth look at the movements of the body please check out this very scientific paper on Spinal Engine and Waist Power from Taijiquan Viewpoint by C.P. Ong.

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