Raised Hands Practice
One of the basic forms that you learn as a beginner is Raised Hands Stance. This month we will take a look at a more advanced way to practice this form, allowing you to raise the level of energy in your practice of this form, as well as give you some practice principles to apply to all of your form practice.
To review the basic form, start from Preparation Form, inhale and step out to the right, heel first, foot 45° outward. At the same time turn your palms upward, and as you exhale and shift your weight to the right foot, circle the palms back and downward. Inhale and step up with the left foot, toes straight forward bringing the arms around in a gathering motion, then, exhale and sink until your left arm is 45° up from the elbow in front of you, the right arm farther back, palm facing the left elbow. Inhale and rise, the elbows going slightly out and up, as if resting on top of a ball. Exhale and sink, letting that ball contract, the elbows returning to the starting point. Most of the weight should be on the rear leg, and when you rise and sink, remain suspended, with no change in weight placement. A common error is to shift the weight toward the front leg when rising, and again to the rear leg when sinking.
To take this form to the next level, after gathering and beginning to sink into posture, exhale and let the energy sink all the way into the Earth, and bring the elbows slightly back toward you. The idea is to pull all the outside energy in and then let it sink all the way into the Earth. As the energy sinks down, feel it bring your posture with it. The sinking energy should be what makes your posture sink, the elbows come back.
From here, let it come back up and flow all the way to the tips of the fingers, as you inhale and rise. Let the arms extend slightly away from you as you do this, the weight shifting slightly forward. Feel the energy as it flows to the fingertips and pulls you forward. Again, it should be the flow that causes the posture to rise, the fingertips to move forward. You want your movement to become pure flow.
Next, let the energy sink back down to the Dan Tian as you settle into posture. This time however, you want to try and feel a point about two thirds of the way back, between the front and rear feet. You have to feel this point, and it will take a while for you to find it. At first you may want to shift slightly forward and backward, trying to feel where the posture "clicks into" the right spot. You want your posture to rest on this point, not on the back leg. This will feel entirely different than resting your weight on the back leg. When you finally can find this point, your motion up and down, expanding and contracting will stop, as you will feel as if you do not want to move at all. The expansion and contraction, rising and sinking will be purely on the level of energy flow, and physical motion will not be necessary.
This type of result is what you are after in all of your Taichi Forms. Remember that the Forms are only a guide to help you feel the energy flow, and only a means to an end. As the Taichi Classics say, you want to go from no form, to form, to no form. You come to Taichi knowing no forms. You do your beginning level practice, learning forms to help you regain your natural energy flow, but then, as you get to higher levels of practice, do more meditation to attain a true state of no form. That is the true goal of your Taichi practice, and why so much focus is placed in internal work in your Taichi training. Try and raise all of your form practice to this level.