Tai chi Y2D356: opened lungs

This morning I couldn’t sleep past about 4:15 am. It’s unusual for me to be done with tai chi by 5am, usually I’m just getting started at this point. And yet I woke with such energy and focus that it was stupid to remain in bed. My efforts to go to bed at an earlier hour have been rewarded — by popping awake reliably at 3:30 in the morning. I may have to change my caffeination routines.

Last night I met up with a former student. It was good to see him in physical health and in possession of his faculties. I got the sense that he’s drifting a bit, trying to find s way in the world, but there are a lot of people in their 20s having trouble with that. He’s taken up yoga, though, and it suits him quite well. And i feel confident that he will gradually find his way, in part through some form of personal practice. It was a reminder of the real benefits that come from practice of a tradition. As a result, partly from seeing how he benefits from this work, this morning I was prompted to try doing a sun salutation between my two qi gong routines.

Ah!

There are places on the body where tai chi, at least in the routines I practice, doesn’t seem to reach. I’m thinking of the upper line of the chest, around the collar bones; and the hinge-line between the legs and the lower body; and the top to bottom flexibility of the spine. Many of these are laces that the yogic sun salutation does reach — although in my limited experience of yoga there are other places it doesn’t quite touch.

But together? I was heaving like a bellows for air at the end of that short pair of sun salutations. Supporting my bulky body off the ground in a low plank is not easy. And yet. And yet, it must be admitted that I felt more open and energized and alive as a result of this addition or change to my routine. The opening of the physical body with yoga, and ‘attacking’ different points of stiffness, and working against (or out of alignment with) the normal set of stretches that tai chi imposes — it was refreshing, and invigorating. My lungs opened up in powerful new ways.

It wasn’t just that I was breathing from the belly, which is good. It was that I was also breathing from a strong new rhythm, a different rhythm than I’m used to. The result was a really top-notch sequence of Eight Pieces of Silk, because my breathwork was running differently — but in a way that simultaneously felt more natural — than it usually does.

This carried over into the tai chi form. I have to say, the only part of my practice that disappointed me today were the spins: the half-spin after Golden Pheasants and the kicks; and the full spin just before Windmill Kick. Everything else was running on the residue of the yogic breathwork, still hanging around after two sun salutations; for some reason, though, the spins felt like my feet were too sticky or too heavy, and I couldn’t quite maintain balance through the turn while also coming to a stop at the end.

I’m not yet sure if I’ll continue during the yoga as part of my morning routine, but it definitely deserves a revisitation in the near future.

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