Tonight I felt simultaneously tired and tense. I turned down a job, and was all worried about upsetting the friend who offered it to me, and finishing a web project that’s over my head, and prioritizing the clients that are all reappearing at once, and grieving my boyfriend’s upcoming seven-week trip to France. So I needed to clear out my stress, but I’ve done strong Vinyasa (and DDR) for six days running, so I wanted something restorative. Like a massage.
I went to Tai Chi at Greenhouse, which I’ve been meaning to do since… always. It’s just one of those things that sounds great to have done, but never quite inspires me to get there. The Thursday class is for new beginners, so it was my day.
The instructor, Jon, was perfect — giving a brief what, why, and how of Tai Chi in general, but soon getting into movement. He said when working with energy, it’s better to just watch and try to copy the movements, than to intellectually memorize and reenact them. Mirroring gets us out of our heads and into the Dan Tien, the main storehouse of energy (just below and behind your navel). The main principle is to relax completely, and follow the Dan Tien.
There were two concepts that would be great as themes for yoga classes:
- Welcoming the ground, versus pushing away from it. When he said this, and I felt my feet spread and tailbone drop, my lower back became completely relaxed. In yoga, there is a lot of lifting up and pressing away from the floor, in the standing and balancing poses. We are supposed to have an equal energy of rooting, or grounding, but I’ve never felt it as much; it’s one of those clichéd phrases I have started to tune out. Feeling grounded is somewhat obvious in the seated or inverted poses of course, but I still understood it more as “bones and flesh against the floor due to gravity.” This phrase “welcoming the ground” was much more effectual — I get it now — and physically widespread. It would be good to approach the standing poses with this idea; they can become very aggressive and agitating if we’re only practicing lifting, pressing, stretching and holding.
- Left and right; moving completely from one to the other. We took a slow walk in a circle, to start. Then, Jon had us shift our weight completely to one foot before moving the other. Everyone became much slower, and quieter. The free leg became much lighter and more agile. He said this complete transfer of weight lets the free leg empty, a nice image. My Russian friends call it “sharking” when you shuffle your feet as you walk. This walk was the opposite, boldly moving from one discrete foot to the other. 100% weight in one leg, he said; find the tailbone right over the weighted foot. (In other stances, it was a 70/30 split.) Finding full stability in one leg is one thing, but I’m curious to feel the free leg empty in various one-legged yoga poses or transitions.
I couldn’t help but make metaphors with life, about how we react and move. So if you see me staring at your butt on the subway platform, I promise I’m just watching the way you walk.