Relax the shoulders in Taiji and Qigong
by Adam Mizner
One of the fundamental principles of taijiquan for martial arts and taiji for health is to relax and sink the shoulders. It is so fundamental that it is listed in Yang Cheng Fu’s famous ten points and the principle is shared in all qigong styles.
Yang Cheng Fu’s 10 Points
1- Head upright to let the Shen 神 [spirit of vitality] rise to the top of the head.
2- Sink the chest and pluck up the back.
3- Song 松 [Relax] the Yao 腰 [lower back/waist].
4- Differentiate between insubstantial and substantial.
5- Sink the shoulders and drop the elbows.
6- Use the Yi 意 [intention] instead of Li 力 [brute force].
7- Coordinate the upper and lower parts of the body.
8- Harmonize the internal and external.
9- Move with continuity.
10- Move with tranquility [Seek stillness in movement].
Besides the obvious martial arts benefits of keeping the shoulders relaxed and sunk in daily life and health gains are truly profound. After all, what happens to our shoulders when we are stressed? They rise up and tense up and we begin to wear them like earrings! Once our shoulders are up and tight then we begin to stress mentally, the breath rises in the body and we manifest the qualities of anger without even knowing it.
I have noticed within myself that sometimes even before I realize I am stressed or fixating on something that is unskillful I can recognize that my shoulders are rising. Seeing this all we need to do is consciously relax the shoulders, song and let them sink back to the natural position. In doing this the stress of the mind fades away with the dropping of the shoulders. The mind can lead the body and the body can lead the mind, the two are intimately connected. This is a truth I find we can use both ways to live a more healthy and peaceful life with the load off and our shoulders down.
The video above talks about this principle which is so vital for taiji, qigong and health, and shows a simple awareness practice of how to counter and relax stress and tension at any time.
Naturally the release of tension and stress can and should be practiced throughout the body, but the shoulders are special trouble makers and deserve extra attention.
The video below demonstrates the five song exercises developed by master Huang Sheng Shyan, these are some of the best methods for releasing stress and tension from the body and mind and particularly the shoulders. The five song exercises as well as many other direct methods for achieving relaxation and release in tai chi chuan and qigong are taught in detail in the Discover Taiji online training program.