tai chi expand and release

Carnival Balloon Game

When I began my tai chi journey I would often use the image of the carnival water gun game as an analogy to understand how to form each tai chi posture. In the balloon water race game, each person sits at a table pointing a water gun at a plastic clown head or other toy-like figures. You aim the water gun at the mouth opening and when the bell rings shoot water into the mouth to inflate the balloon. The balloon is attached behind the toy head on a pipe. The first one to fill the balloon with air and pops the balloon wins the game. I was not thinking of the speed or winning the game, I was watching the balloon from the start to finish of the game. The balloon starts out hanging deflated attached to the pipe opening and as the game began the water would somehow force air into the balloon. The balloon would form and fill with air to its maximum and the winner's balloon would expand and pop.

While practicing my Tai Chi form I would imagine water or air slowly entering my body at the bottom of my weighted foot to form each Tai Chi posture. I used the air/water visualization to help me to guide my chi. I remember my teacher telling me to be sure to release the chi and not contain it. The energy must be breathed in and released in all directions, out the top of the head, fingers, skin, palms, feet, back, front, etc. To release the energy out and then allow new chi(energy) from above and around me to pass through the top of my head and released through my body down deep into the earth. There are many points to be aware of while releasing energy including breathing, relaxation, momentum, structure, etc. Through the years this has always been something I have practiced. One recent revelation has been the importance of the eyelids.

Up until recently whenever I practiced my Tai Chi form I would close my eyes. It could be for one posture or several at a time. I have been doing this for years and it has helped me to internalize and enhance each movement. It was a way that helped me perform each posture by moving each joint separately. This has gone on for several years and has always been a part of my learning process. I was unable to feel what needed to be happening during my form unless I closed my eyes and internally visualized what needed to happen. Recently I had one of those 'aha' moments and realized the role the eyelids play in releasing energy. They must be open at all times throughout the form.

William C.C. Chen would say something like "When you breathe out and relax your body let your eyelids become very heavy, sleepy and relaxed. When you breathe in and your breath forms each posture lets your eyelids become open and fully awake". I have done this for quite some time but never realized the importance. I believe the eyelids play an integral part in releasing energy in tai chi and should always be active to receive the full health benefit of the art.

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