Tai Chi with Ian Sinclair – Episode 4
Hip, Legs, and Oh! What a Waist!
In the last lesson that i spoke about the importance of relaxing the waist in order to engage the abdominal muscles and the muscles of the lower back in order to allow for proper rotation.
When you relax the waist and property align the spine, it allows you to twist the waist and to expand and contract the lower belly. It enables you to engage the rectus abdominus muscles and the transferse abdominus. The muscles are important for stabilizing the waist and for generating internal power
One of the things that is really important about relaxing the waist and opening up the lower back is that it also allows us to relax the hips, the knees, the ankles, and the feet. It also helps to pressure off the neck, the shoulders and the upper back.
Of course, this is all very important for agility and mobility.
Let’s talk specifically about how it affects the the hips and the legs.
When you stand with the waist relaxed you are able to take the stress off of the hips. When the waist is tense, the pelvis is braced on the hips. That puts a torquing pressure on the knees and ankles, causing the feet to pronate or supinate.
When you open up the lower back and turn your feet parallel, about shoulder distance or hip distance apart, you can take a lot of tension out of the tailbone area, relaxing the buttock and hip muscles. This is important for mobility because it allows you to turn the pelvis without tilting the pelvis.
This way, you can learn to keep the femur in line with the foot, and move the pelvis around the hip joint.
This point is going to be very important later when we talk about balance and internal power.
All of this relaxing requires that you put a lot of weight in the thighs. When you take the stress off the back, waist, hips and other joint, this tension goes into the quadriceps.
Relaxing the waist will allow your movements to become light and agile, and simultaneously more balanced, rooted and powerful.
Relaxing the waist also strengthens the abdominal muscles. This may seem ironic, but when you think about how the tension in the lower back deactivates the lower abdominal muscles, then it makes sense that releasing the lower back will allow you to engage the lower abs. In the tai chi form, the lower abs are involved in every part of every movement.
A traditional tai chi routine, for instance, are a 20-40 minute thigh and abdominal workout.