The following is an excerpt from my book Sunset Tai Chi: Simplified Tai Chi for Relaxation and Longevity.
Western exercise starts with warming up by increasing the heart rate to saturate the muscles with blood and oxygen. Therefore, we can say that Western warm-ups focus first on the heart and muscles. On the other hand, Eastern exercise starts by charging and igniting the energetic system and then the rest of the body. You can charge the energetic system in more than one way.
One of the ways to jumpstart the energetic system is by creating a gentle movement in the joints or in the ligaments. This skill of isolating the ligaments and creating movements in them is actually part of our natural day-to-day physical behavior. It happens whenever we use our arms and hands. It is helpful to refine this skill and train our ability to isolate this skill in whatever part of the body we choose.
In order to achieve this isolation, we need to first understand the various physical motions, and second, be able to put into actions these motions: pulsing, pumping, and shaking. Each of these words is important because each one affects the body and the energy differently, which creates different sensations and experiences.
Pulsing can be created though gentle up and down movements or gentle in and out motions, and with small side to side movements. It is a great way to loosen up. Pumping is a stronger movement than pulsing, although the actions of up and down, in and out, and side to side are similar. Shaking combines side to side first and then some in and out motion with a gentle up and down. All three have a gentle rotation that can be added to each one while they are happening.
You need to understand that each one is different and over time, you will experience the differences as well. This exercise (meditative shaking) will activate your energetic system, remove some stagnation, and can also serve as a good warm-up. Even if you only have five minutes, doing this meditation will go a long way.
When you shake, you may notice that the fingers are tense. This next piece of information is essential for loosening this tension. Move the joint above the one you want to isolate. For example, if you want to loosen the finger joints, shake the wrist, but put your mind on the fingers. Try to isolate this gentle movement in your joints, rather than moving the muscles or tendons. To loosen the wrist, move the elbow. Remember, your jaw is a joint as well. When practiced correctly, you will begin to feel patches of warmth in your joints and some warmth in your internal organs or lower energy center.
Next week, we will give you the how-to for shaking the upper limb joints: fingers, wrists, elbows, and shoulders!
Happy stretching, deep breathing, empty your mind, strengthen your energetic system, and evoke your spirit!