Saturday, May 18, 2013

Tuck Your Tailbone


A tai chi teacher will tell the students to "tuck your tailbone". What the heck does that mean? Our spine is an essential part of our posture and our health. When your teacher talks about your tailbone, it's about posture. However, I have seen students get into some really grotesque postures when learning about this.

I have developed a simple technique to help students understand this. This takes some sensitivity, so I don't even mention this to beginners. Beginners don't have the ability to understand or even sense what is happening to their bodies.

Start with a partner facing you. Stand in bow stance with most of your weight on the front leg. It doesn't matter if it is right or left bow stance.

For whichever foot is forward, bring the hand on the same side forward with the back of the hand facing your partner. Bring your other hand to the first one with the base of one hand connected to the base of the other. Press your hands gently forward with your partner pushing against your hands. The object of this is for your partner to match your force and keep you from moving. Be very cautions with this. Don't push too hard or you can hurt your back. Keep the forces balanced.

Now, slowly extend your tailbone and butt toward the rear. Another way to say this is to describe it as pulling in your lower lumbar vertebrae. Pay close attention and you will be able to feel where the force manifests in your lower spine. As you extend your tailbone, the force should move higher up your lower spine.

Now, reverse it and slowly pull in your tailbone and butt toward the front. This straightens your lower spine and "tucks your tailbone". You will find this time that the force moves down your spine. At some point, the force will disappear from your spine and travel down your back leg and into the ground. Your partner can now push harder and will not be able to move you.

This is what your teacher means by tucking the tailbone. You need to identify exactly what this means for each form during your forms practice. This improves your ability to deliver and receive force and it protects your back. And it's all because you tucked in your tailbone.

© 2013 Eric Borreson

Note: There is more about this topic in my article "Tai Chi Stepping".