Tai Chi Y3D3: Perturb the Breath

This morning, I found myself doing Eight Pieces of Silk first, rather than Five Golden Coins.

I’ve been pretty disciplined about doing FGC first every time. This is a mistake that I haven’t done in a while.  To my delight, though, it was a great way of perturbing the breath.  See, I’ve done the same routine now for two years, and back then I was having more than a little difficulty.  You can see it in the day 3 entry from year one, and in the day three entry from year two.  Year one was all about re-locating the rhythm of the form, and being challenged by the breathwork as I tried to integrate what I was then learning from Jason Miller with what I’d learned years before as a new tai chi student.  Year two was about recognizing a place where breathwork broke down.

And I note, today, that cloud hands was difficult today.  It’s actually just before cloud hands that I had difficulty on the first run-through of the form.  It’s at that point that I stopped, returned to starting position and began again.  When I search the archive, Cloud Hands pops up with some regularity, as a place where my form has a tendency to get noticed, but never quite fixed. Since I stopped and started again, it went better the second time, but it’s still not a great piece of my form-work.

So, here’s a thing to work on: the sequence of Golden Pheasants into the kicks and spin, followed by the movements that lead into cloud hands.  Again.  I wonder why I haven’t ever fixed this particular sequence before? Because it’s clearly out of whack.

Coming back to the title of today’s post… So, what happens when you do forms out of your traditional order?

You breathe differently.  In my case, I was gasping for breath. And it became clear that by doing the form in a particular order each time, that I was setting myself up to move through the three forms in a particular rhythm of breath. My body has gotten used to doing this stuff a given way.  Doing it out of order forced my body to adjust, which it did pretty rapidly this morning. But the first few movements of the form were rough, until I found my rhythm.  Perturb the breath by moving out of the standard order of your form’s operations, and you change the learning experience. Change the learning experience, discover a challenge.

I think the goal is to find the rhythm with whatever form I happen to do first, but to change which form comes first on which days, so that I learn how to move into whichever form I happen to need.

Today at Noon, Eastern Standard Time, is the Vernal Equinox — Huh. I thought it was tomorrow. Poetry links: The hymn of the vernal equinox, and the sonnet.

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