As the New Year starts, let’s begin with Preparation Form, the first of the Single Forms. All of your practices are contained within Preparation Form, once you get to a level that you can practice it properly. In the beginning, you mainly want to use this form for two things.
First, you do Preparation at the beginning of your practice in order to go from being a "regular person" to being a "Taichi person". What exactly does this mean? At first you must learn to clear the mind of all of the routine thoughts that distract you and keep you from having a calm, concentrated and clear mind. This is very difficult for everyone and takes a lot of practice in order to be able to achieve this, so do not be discouraged if it takes a while.
You also need to do the same for your body. Mentally, you need to start at the top and check that the crown-point is suspended. Relax the eyes, make sure the tongue is curled up, lightly touching the roof of the mouth. The teeth should be very lightly touching together, mouth also relaxed. Let go of any tension in the neck and make sure the shoulders are dropped and relaxed. Let go of any tension in the chest, release the muscles in your stomach and totally relax the spine. Relax and open the pelvic area, make sure that the knees are slightly bent. Relax the ankles and feel the soles of the feet connect to the Earth.
Once you can get to a relaxed state, then you can begin to inhale and rise and exhale and sink. Feel as if you are riding on a Taichi Ball, letting it lift you as you inhale, and lower you as you exhale. Keep it relaxed and light so that you are not putting any stress on your hips, knees, ankles or feet. In other words, float on the energy rather than physically lifting yourself up and down. When you get here you are a "Taichi person" and ready to begin practice.
Second, you use the form to take you out of the Taichi state. When you finish your practice, you again return to Preparation Form. Now, you want to focus on the Dan Tian area. During your practice, you will have generated energy, much like an electrical generator generates electricity. If you just stop practice, you will let all of that energy just dissipate. Like the electricity from a generator that gets stored in a battery, you want to focus on the Dan Tian and bring all of the energy back here to store in your "battery".
To do this, imagine that you have a Taichi Ball that is centered on your Dan Tian area. Close your eyes and try and feel this ball and then begin to shrink it into the Dan Tian area. Keep letting the ball shrink, until it is the smallest point that you can imagine. Go very slowly and carefully, taking your time. Continue to relax and then disconnect your tongue and open your eyes to finish.
As you can see, Preparation is extremely import to a successful start and end to your practice. The better you can get at this form, the more you will be prepared to practice properly and have the maximum results from your efforts. Ending you practice you will keep all the energy you have generated and carry it with you. Over time you will then be able to increase both the density and vibration of your Chi.
In a future article we will talk about more advanced ways to practice this form so that you can see how all that you need is really contained in this one form when practiced properly at a higher level.