In Tai Chi Chuan, it is of utmost importance to maintain balance naturally and relaxed while working with the gravity and without fighting it.
“Sinking” has to do with this.
And Central Equilibrium has something to do with it as well.
You need to sink down your strength, all the way down the legs to the sole of your feet, while maintaining the integrity of the centreline. I like to describe this as letting the gravity stack your body from down and up.
You see, the common person will hold up the body by using tensions in the upper body. Tensions in places as in the chest and in the neck. To keep balance, he or she, will keep this tension in the upper body while shifting around the balance in small points underneath the feet. Thus their upper body has strength, their feet have weakness. Their balance is forced and unstable.
The strength of their upper body is made up by tensions. The balance in their feet is forced.
This is the “common” way people stand, walk and move around, in daily life, on a daily basis. Every day, all of the time.
In Tai Chi, however, you will gain another type of balance. You will do this by actively and consciously releasing the tension in the upper body and the legs, while letting your legs and feet take care of the weight of the whole body, and while letting your whole feet stay flat on the ground.
This is not the same as rooting. Letting the strength sink down while relaxing the legs and feet is only the beginning of understanding rooting, the basic prerequisite to develop real roots.
But to understand real balance, don’t forget to get a good sense of the vertical alignment, and learn how it feels to maintain the vertical centreline.
While keeping alignment, gravity is important. Don’t try to rise up, stretch or feel tall. The body will take care of this and let you stand erect by itself if you just allow it to. In the Tai Chi classics, it is said that you should feel like “the head is attached to a string above”. But this is also something, a feeling, you can achieve just by letting gravity work through you body without forcing the alignment.
So you really need to trust your body to take care of the gravity by itself. Again: This will result in the gravity stacking your body aligned by itself, from the feet and up.
Through your practice to relax and to drop down your strength down to the feet, you will gain a natural stability and gradually develop rooting. And later, when you have developed this, and if people try to push you, they will feel like they were pushing against a sturdy wall or against a mountain.
Unlike them, you won’t keep your balance by holding it up using tensions kept in the chest. Instead, even if they push against your chest, it’s your feet that they are trying to push. And your legs. Because your balance, and the strength of your balance, will be arranged from the sole of the foot, aligned and connected, up through the leg.
You won’t need to force any of this stability, the ability to become unmovable. The natural alignment through working with the gravity and not against it will be enough.
As a bonus, here is a New Years gift to you: A good illustration of how to work with alignment and gravity. Working with your own body through the stillness in standing, as well in movement while working through the postures of your form is not very different from the skill you see here. I hope you will be inspired.
Please find more inspiration for your Tai Chi through this blog by this video with another balancing act: