Tai Chi – How does it work? Part 4
“Sink the chest and raise the back”
When tai chi students (and some teachers) are told to “sink the chest and raise the back” they often make the mistake of thinking that this means they should slouch or hunch over. This is not what it means.
It is possible to relax the chest so that the ribs hang loosely from the spine, while the back remains erect and relaxed. It will seem like a brilliant revelation to some students when they discover that they can relax the front of the chest without tilting the back.
Sinking the chest also helps students to move the breath into the lower belly, rather than holding tension and air in the upper body as most people do. By holding tension in the chest and upper back we can inhibit the breath, and prevent the natural flow of energy and power from the legs to the upper extremities. If, however, we can let go of that tension in the chest and upper back, we can free ourselves not only to be physically powerful, but also to let go of attachment to certain emotional patterns which develop when tension is held in the chest, back and solar plexus.
Sinking the chest and raising the back is necessary if one is to be agile, fit, relaxed and efficient. It is also necessary if we are to breath correctly with the lower belly, and turn from the waist.
This skill is also essential for martial artists who wish to be able to express true internal power and let go of the dependance on brute force.