The following is an excerpt from my book Sunset Tai Chi: Simplified Tai Chi for Relaxation and Longevity.
This week, we complete the series on meditative shaking and pulsing! It has been five quick weeks of exploring the body through the movement of energy and the joints. Today, we do a quick overview of each of the steps we took, and then give some final words about the technique.
In the first part of our series, we introduced meditative shaking and pulsing as an alternative to the traditional western-style warm-ups. We talked about how this technique jumpstarts the energetic system and prepares our whole being for a great session of mind-body medicine such as Tai Chi. We also reviewed the movement types that you can create through the joints, and how gently you should be doing this exercise.
Remember the rule of thumb! If a joint is tense and you want to create isolated pulsing and pumping in it, you need to move the joint above that joint.
Fingers, Wrists and Elbows
In the second installment, we got right into the specific joint techniques, beginning with the upper limbs. We learned how to feel the difference between the sensations of the fingers, from the largest joints (the thumbs) to the smallest (the pinkies).
We covered pulsing through the wrists by focusing on the elbows, and explored all the different angles of motion the wrist has.
And then we discussed how to shake the elbows using the shoulders, and how they a very limited range of motions in comparison to the wrist.
Yin & Yang Layers in the Shoulders
We spent the entire third part of the series on finding all the various sensations and movements you can create in the shoulders by using this technique. Because there is no real joint "above" the shoulders, we shake them by gently pumping the feet against the floor.
Remember the important tip! Make the force of the pumping with the feet moves through the knees, and into the floor, not into the knees, which can be very painful and cause joint issues.
We went over the three postures you can take while pulsing the shoulders, and how to do each one most effectively.
Ankles, Knees and Hips
For part four in the meditative shaking series, we started from the ground and worked up, pulsing the ankles, knees, and hips. For the ankles, we went in-depth about the importance of proper weight distribution and and alignment for seeing results and avoiding injury.
When talking about the knees, we told you a cool trick you can do if you are an experienced practitioner and you have a wooden floor to practice on. (If you missed it, go check it out!)
And finally, we covered the hips, which also have three major postures similar to the shoulders. We went over each posture, and also mentioned that you can isolate one hip joint at a time if you wanted, just like you could do with the shoulders.
Spine, Neck, Jaw and Soft Tissue
For the last review of unique areas to pulse and shake, we covered the central joints of the body as well as the soft tissue. We told you a tip for dividing up the spine into three sections (lumbar, thoracic, and cervical are most helpful) to more effectively pulse all through the entire spine during your practice.
Remember our advice about the neck! You should be especially gentle with the neck, for two reasons. Not only is it of key importance to avoid injury in the neck, which can cause all sorts of problems, but secondly, many many people hold a lot of tension in the neck from years of being stressed, hunched over, or both. All of this tension will not go away in one day, so it is very important to take small steps and make gradual progress in the meditative pulsing and shaking of the neck.
We also reminded you that the jaw is a joint too, and showed you how to make pulsing motions in it.
And finally, we talked about how, with experience, one can move the shaking and pulsing energy from this practice not only into the joints, but also into the soft tissues, such as the muscles, fascia, skin, and even closer to the bones.
Sense the pulse, the pump, and the shaking throughout the whole body. Scan the joints. Some people like to pulse, pump, or shake gently and others like to pulse, pump, or shake a little more strongly. Most people will find that at various times they may enjoy the two methods mixed, the slow and the fast, according to the time and the need.
When you perform this mind/body prescription during sunset, allow the sun to warm your joints while drawing your aches and pains from the joints. When doing the meditative shaking, put your mind a few inches away from the joint you are working on. By putting the mind away from the joint, the impurities will be led away from the joint and the pulling energy of the setting sun will do the rest of the pulling and dissolving. When you practice the meditative shaking during sunset, you will experience a strong sensation that will be hard to achieve without the setting sun. This strong sensation is your guardian energy or what I call the energetic bubble. Do not wait only for this time of the day to perform the meditative shaking. This mind/body prescription needs to be performed at least twice a day.
Do the meditative shaking for three to five minutes every day. Remember that when performing the meditative shaking, keep breathing deeply through the nose, and keep the tongue touching the roof of the mouth except when pulsing the jaw. Once you finish the meditative shaking, you should stand still or sit on the edge of the chair, and for three to five minutes put your mind in your center of gravity energy center or lower energy center to allow the energy you built up to be led into the center and to strengthen and upgrade your lower energy center while still noticing the patches of heat throughout the joints. Lead your mind from the four gates, the tips of the fingers and toes, into the lower energy center. You can also nourish the bones by leading the energy from the patches of heat inward into the joints and from there you can then move into the bones.
Once you are comfortable with this mind/body prescription, bring in the other building blocks: the breath, mind, energy, and spirit. Evoke spirituality by putting the mind into the three forces: heaven, human, and earth. It is a process that is called 'unification of the three forces.' There are other ways to evoke spirituality. You can use your own religious symbols or you can use the spirit of nature, such as a tree. Your arms can be the branches and they are shaking and becoming loose, gently in the wind.
Many people will testify how comfortable on both physical and mental levels they feel after performing this meditative shaking. They also express how relaxed they feel after this mind/body prescription. Pulsing, pumping, bouncing, and shaking are part of natural movements and performing them allows us to connect to nature in a new, interesting, and energetic way. In my personal experience with some of my students, the meditative shaking may have the strong effect of increasing bone density, but it is not scientifically proven yet. Some individuals get some of this pulsing and pumping motions while performing 'embrace the tree' (Yi Chuan) standing meditation.
And that's the entire meditative shaking and pulsing series! See you all again next week!
Happy stretching, deep breathing, empty your mind, strengthen your energetic system, and evoke your spirit!