10 Essentials – #5 – Sink the shoulders and droop the elbows
The 10 essentials are as follows:
1 – Empty, lively, pushing up and energetic
2 – Hold in the chest, pull up the back
3 – Relax the waist
4 – Separate empty and full
5 – Sink the shoulders and droop the elbows
6 – Use intent rather than force
7 – Synchronize upper and lower body
8 – Match up inner and outer
9 – Continuous, without interruption
10 – Seek the stillness in motion
#5 – Sink the shoulders and droop the elbows
When we start to connect the whole body and begin to connect with whole body qi flow, there are a few gates that must be opened to permit this flow and one of them is the shoulder. I often stress to my students, you are extremely unlikely to feel qi in the hands if your shoulders are activated. It is also impossible to achieve song without loosing the shoulders.
My take on this essential is actually – droop the elbows to sink the shoulders.
To accomplish this I use the visualization of having bowling balls attached and hanging from your elbows. If you can get your elbows to feel this heavy then your shoulders will never be activated! When the shoulders are not activated, they will be loose and qi can flow freely to the elbow or back towards the GV.
Keeping the shoulders un-activated is a long term challenge to say the least. It is interesting to watch students struggle with this concept when doing certain qigong or weapons forms when the arms are raised overhead, yet there is a way do so. You just have to be conscious of the goal and make the internal adjustments… constantly and consistently.
Again this is a long tern challenge, it took me over three years to loose my shoulders, but when you do, there’s an unbelievable reward. I remember practicing one day and I was performing wave hands like clouds when I saw these arms and hands floating around in front of me. I literally could not feel my own arms and hands! That was the day I changed my perception of “wave hands like clouds” to “cloud hands.”
Remember this – There are no shoulders in Tai Chi