Straight walls start with a level foundation. The upper surface of your foundation needs to support your walls and roof. Straight vertical walls are strong and support your roof safely. The point where each board or block of the walls rests on the foundation needs to be level. All of the blocks on the first level of the foundation need to be at the same height and perfectly level to provide a firm solid base to support the wall. If the top of the foundation is sloppy left and right, front and back, slightly twisty, or bumpy up and down, it will be difficult to attach the blocks or beams of your wall to the foundation securely. So, the very first step in building the strong walls and roof of your house lies in not only creating a strong foundation but making sure that the top of the foundation is level, flat, and firm.
Building the foundation of your Tai Chi, Qi Gong, and Kung Fu practice means not only building the strength and flexibility of your legs but also the skill of creating a base with your hips and pelvis. Your hips and pelvis can create a level solid foundation. The foundation of a modern house is almost always a rectangle of concrete or stone that rises a foot or more above the ground. The entire foundation is finished to be level, even, and smooth, so you can attach boards or blocks to it and build your wall upward. Imagine your pelvis is like the concrete rectangle of the foundation. In particular, imagine the sides of your pelvis the “iliac crests” and the top of the sacrum are the top of your foundation. For many reasons, all three of these elements can be tilted or twisted in many different ways. Almost always this tilting of the pelvic components is the result of scar tissue or tension or both.
Chiropractors make their fortunes relieving these conditions and the pain their misalignment creates. So do massage practitioners, acupuncturists, and sports medicine people. For some fortunate people without prior injuries, bad habits, or excess tension, it can be relatively easy to level and balance their pelvis. For most of us however, leveling your pelvis and keeping them leveled while you step, shift your weight, and turn your hips requires continual practice supplemented by stretching and breathing exercises. In my case, I needed to heal my pelvis, hips, and spine from being broken and whiplashed. This required a long term effort and which is why I understand the process intimately.
Gaining the ability to keep your hips level gives you a level foundation upon which you can erect your spine. The first thing everyone does when they stand up is erect their spines. This is the process of becoming upright and standing erect. As we stand, we pluck up our backs and unfurl our spines upward. If we are fortunate, we can open our spines fully, stand up straight, and balance our heads evenly on top of our necks with minimal tension or strain. Often becoming fully erect takes some time as our bodies shift from being seated or prone into a vertically aligned state. Particularly after a period of inactivity it is easy to be stuck part way open, in a slouched or semi erect posture. Because our spine is not fully opened nerves, tendons, and ligaments can easily be pinched or impaired. If we are feeling mental or emotional pain or stress, related muscular tension can also inhibit the full opening of our spine. As we try to relax and open our spines by practicing good posture and deep breathing and relaxation it often becomes apparent that our pelvis is also tilted and twisted. You might think you are standing upright and straight but the more you become aware of your actual posture you may realize that actually everything, every part of your body is actually pulled somewhat out of its proper place and position by a network of tension, scar tissue, and stiffness. All of this is the source of those “aches and pains”. Leveling your hips, straightening your spine, leveling your shoulders, lifting and balancing your head and then relaxing everything feels fantastic and opens your energy and blood flow while relieving tension, pain, and stress. If your spine and back are tense, a great way to start is by sinking and leveling your hips and lifting and leveling your head. If your keep lifting your head and sinking your hips, this places a gentle stretch on your entire spine. Move, breathe, and relax while lifting your head and sinking your hips and gradually you can unwind and release all of the tension in between the top of your head and the tip or your tailbone.
By leveling your hips, shoulders, and head, and strengthening and lengthening your spine, you connect and unify the entire structure of your upper body. Connecting and solidifying your center mass like this builds your power for striking or throwing and makes you more resistant to blows and grappling.
This art of posture is found in all the classical arts we teach including Qigong, Tai Chi Chuan, Northern Shalin, Xing Yi Quan, Ba Gua Zhang, San Huang Pao Chui, and Lan Shou Quan.