Updated: May 14, 2021
By Joe Eber
One of the hardest things to in life is to let go: letting go of toxic situations; letting go of bad habits; letting go of negative self-beliefs. Just as in life, in tai chi letting go is a major hurdle towards self-improvement. It’s the letting go of tension; letting go of limiting beliefs; and above all letting go of
holding. Holding is tensing the muscles so that they don’t relax and let go. One of the primary objectives of tai chi posture is the ability to let the body weight sink to the feet so that we can root and issue power from our legs. Also, holding our muscles inhibits our ability to turn fluidly, to step lively, and to react quickly. So why can’t we just let go? When we were toddlers and we started walking we were still loose and relaxed. But we walked awkwardly, looking very much like little chimps. So we learned to stand up and walk upright. But, to do that we quickly learned that we had to tense certain muscles to keep us upright. We learned this so well that it became a belief that if we let go, we would fall. As adults, even when we want to let go, there is a part of us that rejects this notion, still believing that we need to hold our muscles to be securely upright. Letting go, then, is more than just physically letting go. There is a mental component that needs to be recognized. I’ve had a number of students that had a real hard time bending their hip joints (quas) and letting go their ham strings and quads. Physically, of course they can do it, but there is something mental that stops them. Some people get it right away, and some people take years, and then, some people never get it.
So, what is letting go? How do you know when you have let go? The easiest way to start out is to put weight on your legs and feel your hamstrings. Can you jiggle your hamstrings? If your weight is on your left leg, can you move the hamstrings of that leg so that the hamstrings are completely loose? Then, poke your quads. Are they rock solid? Then you still have a way to go. You want them to soften. This takes time and practice. Also, are your quas hollow and soft? Poke the crease between your thigh and your hip bone. Do you feel a stiffness or hardness, or do your fingers feel like there is almost no resistance. What you’re looking for is what you feel when you’re sitting in a chair. When you sit in a chair, your hamstrings are completely loose, your quads are soft, and your qua is bent or creased and soft. The difference between standing and sitting is that when sitting the chair holds up your body weight, whereas when you’re standing you have to allow that weight to drop to your feet and let the ground support you. When your legs can let go, then your back will let go as well. In fact, your feet will even begin to soften too. If you are serious about your tai chi then you need to work on letting go. Without it, your understanding and ability in tai chi will be limited.
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