Thursday, 16 March 2017

Tai Chi Principles

Tai Chi Principles

Sung and Jing

Sung (sometimes spelt Song), pronounced ‘soong’, represents the most important principle to build into your practice of tai chi and qigong.

Sung has many meanings, such as to relax, to loosen, to open, to release tension. Sung, counter-intuitively describes an active state of relaxation. Not as some people think to relax like a ‘sack of potatoes’.

In the classes I teach I often use an analogy from archery of the perfectly tensioned bow. Not too slack. Not too tight. Just right. Full of potential energy just waiting for the archer to draw and release. Which brings us to a second, yet equally important principle, that pairs nicely with sung, called Jing.

Misty mountain lake – Tai Chi – Movement with stillness
Movement with Stillness

Jing, like sung, has many meanings, such as stillness, motionless, silent, quiet, peaceful, calm and tranquil. When applied to your practice of tai chi Jing describes a quiet mind. An anonymous Tang Dynasty Daoist classic called the Qingjing Jing – The Classic on Clarity and Tranquility –  describes the quality of jing as a mind free from worries and naturally at ease. One can also think about jing as mindfulness or being mindful.

One could say the mind must also have sung. We could also say, that without jing, a tranquil mind, we'll find it difficult to feel sung throughout our body. Each principle supports and relates to the other, like the balance of yin and yang, which together form the familiar diagram of tai chi.

Through our practice of the tai chi form, we begin to realise the meanings behind well known tai chi sayings, such as, ‘movement with stillness’ and ‘when the wind blows the whole tree moves’.

Pine Tree on a cliff edge - Tai chi - Sung
Sung - Tai Chi

Sung and Jing represent very real felt qualities. It can take a little time to get a feel for them. At first you may get a glimpse, just for a moment, as you practice your tai chi form. With some patient practice each day you'll find your feel for sung and jing grow quite naturally like the unfolding of a beautiful blossom.

What do sung and jing feel like? Well, remember the archer and bow analogy? As you get familiar with the movements of the form you can begin to release tension from your mind and in your body. As you find and release all those tensions you will feel your muscles, tendons and ligaments, all the joints in your body, begin to open, loosen and relax. You will have started to develop sung – active relaxation. Further more, as you practice your tai chi form each day you'll find that quality of sung carry into your day to day activities also.

Mountain landscape - Tai chi - Chen
Chen - Tai Chi

Many people find a tai chi class without ever hearing about, let alone getting the opportunity to practice the principles that underpin tai chi, specially, sung and jing. Without these principles, one's tai chi becomes just another set of physical movements or form of thoughtless exercise like so many that people do day to day.

With jing and sung present you'll realise how they relate to, and act as the key to unlock the door to the other tai chi principles: Chen - meaning to sink, to feel heavy, rooted to the earth; Huo - meaning suppleness, agility, elasticity and resilience; the controlled transfer of our weight from one leg to another; and the rhythm for the slow, continuous, flowing movements we aim for when we practice tai chi.

Bamboo grove - Tai chi - Huo
Huo - Tai Chi

As you get a feel for these principles you'll find the health benefits really begin to kick in. You'll feel more  at ease and alert, calm and focused, with more energy for your day to day tasks, have greater physical and mental strength, stability and balance. With your continued practise you feel a real sense of happiness, contentment and feeling uplifted.

Women enjoying her tai chi practise
Tai Chi - Feels Good

Tai chi ought to feel good. If you don't get to practise it you begin to miss it. Finding a good tai chi class can really help keep you motivated as you learn the movements and give you a great sense of camaraderie. A good tai chi class will have a happy and relaxed atmosphere with lots of laughter present. If you find a class like that you'll know the principles of Sung and Jing are present too.

If you have a friend who you think would benefit from coming to one of our classes please do share this page as a link on social media or email.

We look forward to seeing you : )