POSTED ON: Tuesday 06th December 2022
Tai chi and Yin-Yang together
How Yin-Yang philosophy and tai chi inform each other.
This post covers Yin-Yang theory, and how it relates to, and supports the students understanding of tai chi concepts.
The yin-yang theory states that all things in the universe are governed by opposing, yet interdependent forces.
Yin is stillness, or the shady, valley side of the mountain, the feminine, the colder aspect, or winter. Yin is also associated with the earthly energies and is typically represented by the colour black.
Yang is motion and includes the sunny side of the mountain, the masculine, the hotter aspect, or summer. Yang is also associated with the heavens and is typically depicted by the colour white.
The classic Yin-Yang or tai chi symbol depicts the two polar opposites as being intertwined with each other, not separated, mutually supporting, and as one fades away, or disappears, the other arises. The importance of the smaller circle containing the colour of the opposing energy, or force is that within each polar opposite lies the seed of growth potential inside it, so that one aspect can change into another.
Yin-Yang and change in tai chi.
In tai chi, an awareness of the Yin-Yang aspect of training is very important. How this manifests itself happens continuously and is nearly always in constant flux or change. In one moment if following a shift of weight, the leg becomes more solid and energised or substantial, due to the extra load imposed, then that leg is more yang, and the other leg more insubstantial, or yin.
When pressing the palm forward away from the body, the front (palm) of the hand is said to be yang (more active), and the back of the hand yin (more passive). However, during a rapid withdrawal of the hand, then the opposite becomes true, the back of the hand is yang, the front is yin.
The lower and upper body.
The lower half of the body is more substantial, solid, powerful or full and therefore yang, whilst the upper half is more empty, or lighter, thus is more yin. When moving to the right, the right side of the body is yang – more substantial, and the left side is more yin or insubstantial. These opposing aspects can change or transmute from one into another slowly during a gradual, smooth transition, or rapidly during a burst of energy, called fajing.
Awareness of and understanding the different states of the body leads to a greater overall state of balance and awareness of the Qi energy circulation at all times. A feeling of rooting and stability of the lower half of the body that is strong, stable and therefore substantial allows the upper half of the body to be light, flexible and able to rapidly respond to change, or yield, especially during combat conditions.
The continuous interchange between solid and empty, substantial and insubstantial is reflected, or demonstrated especially during the second routines of the Chen Style Tai Chi routines, called Canon Fist – Pao Chui. The requirements here are for rapid, explosive discharges of energy, fajing, primarily with the fists, but also for other parts of the body – the elbows, feet, central trunk. These movements all originate from a ‘sunken’, relaxed, solidly rooted posture and translate as a sudden shift of weight, a rapid rotation of the dantien (lower energy centre), and lightning fast transmissions of movement to the fist/elbow etc.
The Yin-Yang balance is rapidly changing here from one state to another during the fajing energy release. These differing states allow for the rapid channelling of Qi energy through the meridians to make the strikes more powerful. Here we could say that the Yin-Yang concepts in the tai chi body are the fast and the slow, the empty and the full, the relaxed and the solid, and all of the movements are cyclical, one following after the other. The Yin-Yang principal in tai chi here is that after hardness comes softness, and softness can then become hardness, the tai chi form itself should be trained into the body such that there is an outward appearance of calm and relaxation, with the inward spirit strong and stable.
Having this deeper understanding of how the Yin-Yang concepts are reflected in our tai chi routines deepens and informs your training in a powerful and practical way.