Taiji Day 286: knees

There’s no denying that I feel better doing tai chi every day — my skin and my eyes look better, my joints and bones don’t creak, I have less build-up of tension and stress in my body in some ways, and I have a means of getting rid of that which does accumulate.

The one area that still creaks quite a lot are my knees.  And I’m wondering how concerned I should be.  There are three moves that put particular stress on my knees — the movement called Carrying Milk to Heaven, which is basically a deep-knee bend with swinging arms; the movement called sink into the earth, which is a deep knee bend without swinging arms; and the movement in the form called Snake Creeps Down, which is a deep knee bend with a waist-twisting strike with the hand folded into a Buddha’s teacup.

These are the moves where I hear my knees creaking most.  And I think I have to figure out how to take care of my knees.  Part of it is keeping track of my food and my weight loss plans more carefully — if I didn’t weigh 300 pounds, I’d be putting less pressure on them.  But I also have to go back to the drawing, diagrams and the Tai  Chi Classics (There really is a book called that), to see if the issues of knees are a problem.  The Way of Energy may also have something to say about it.

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One comment

  1. Andrew–A teacher I deeply respect who spent a long time in China, Bruce Kumar Frantzis, told a group of us once that the low postures of tai chi such as “snake creeps down” are really only safe for very athletic folks or for the Chinese. He said that their patellar tendons are much thicker than ours and their knees, from their constant use of squatting from infancy, are generally stronger than ours. I have watched one well known tai chi teacher use this pose for a publicity shot, since it is a show-offy pose, but I really think it is a bad idea to make it the face or test of tai chi. I once had a student come to my class asking for the secrets of doing just this one posture, and left when I recommended that he do it relatively high up. This is the way that Dr. Paul Lam, creator of “Tai Chi for Arthritis”, teaches it. He had us focus more on the interesting coordination of both arms moving together and the upside down torqueing of the beak hand. Bruce also stresses that the twisting in the legs should be primarily in the kwa and thighs, perhaps in the connective tissues around the ankles and lower shins, but that any twisting going through the knees needs to go through the back of the knees. Always check when doing a posture, is my knee over my foot? I’m 6’5″, 230#, and have to be constantly vigilant to keep my knees from deteriorating. Good luck!

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