All of the following points are important for practicing Equestrian Tai Chi. Please try to remind yourself of them constantly and continually refer back to this page in order to really learn them, so that these points become inherent in your practice.
Posture and alignments – Good posture is necessary for practicing Equestrian Tai Chi.
- Lift your head from the back so that it opens the vertebrae in your neck, lifting your head in this way also prevents you from jutting your chin out. The traditional image, is that you should feel as though you are suspended from above, by a string like a puppet.
- Have the tip of your tongue gently resting just above where your gums join your teeth. This is to encourage you to breathe through your nose. It encourages the production of saliva and will stop your mouth from drying out. It also prevents you from biting your tongue, should your horse move suddenly.
- Remember to keep your whole back erect, so that your posture is balanced on your horse. Lifting your back also helps you to open your midriff so that you can relax your diaphragm, breathe more deeply and relax your belly.
- Your shoulders and elbows should be dropped and relaxed. This allows your shoulder blades to be mobile and it also makes them lively and connected. Your wrists and hands need to be relaxed.
- Your armpits need to be open, the traditional image is to imagine you have an egg (or a table tennis ball if you prefer!) under your armpits. This will prevent you from keeping your arms too close to your body. Your Chi flows through your armpits (and everywhere else), so if your arms are held too close to your body, your Chi will not flow as smoothly.
Practice in a relaxed way, don’t become tired.
- Practice slowly in a relaxed manner.
- Practice the movements enough that they become familiar, but not so much that you become tired, this is in accordance with the Taoist principle of doing everything naturally.
- At the beginning, you should of course work a little harder to learn and stabilise the movements, usually eight to ten repetitions every time you practice will do this.
- Remember to stop and be quiet and still after you have practiced a set of movements, so that your body becomes familiar with the flow of energy and your energy pathways open more easily.
Focus of your mind
- The focus of your attention as you practice the movements, should lightly be on your main energy centre, this is called your Tantien and it is located inside your body three of four inches below your navel.
- It is the same place where you should feel your centre of gravity when you are balanced and secure in the saddle.
- When you practice the movements, it is important to breath naturally and easily, never forcing the breath.
- Do not try to breathe in time to the movements.
- Do not try to breathe with your horse.
Sealing your Chi at the end of your practice
This is a very important part of your practice and is regarded as being almost as important as doing the exercises themselves.
When you have finished your practice session, you should “Seal your Chi”. This means that you should let your body go quiet so that the new energy flow stabilises and the energy is absorbed into your Tantien. The Tantien is the main energy storage point in your body; think of it as a rechargeable battery. (In Traditional Chinese Medical Theory, it is your main energetic centre, it is located in the centre of your body, a few inches below your navel. When we practice Tai Chi and Chi Gung, our internal energy circulates in our body and then we store it in our Tantien.)
At the end of your practice, bring both hands down to let both palms rest on your abdomen one palm over the other. Let your mind go quiet so that you can feel your breathing and the pumping of your blood. They may feel a little more elevated than usual.
Allow your breath and your blood flow to become quiet and let all the sensations you feel moving around you come to rest in your Tantien. All these feelings plus the blood flow, plus the breathing are manifestations of your energy. Again, let them come to rest in your Tantien.
When you feel that you have absorbed as much as possible into your Tantien, if you like you can rub your arms and legs a little. Any energy you feel now is available for you to use for the rest of the day.