Sinking the qi is a common term in taiji, but many people find it very confusing. Sinking the qi simply refers to using your breath to help relax and calm the mind and body. A big part of sinking is developing song (松), or relax and loosen, and jing (精), or mental quietness, in your practice. Following the principle of song means to relax your body, without going limp, and loosening up the muscles, tendons, and joints. Tight muscles and joints block the flow of energy. Jing means to focus your mind on your forms and avoid distractions. Proper breathing helps with both of these principles.
In this sense of the word sink, it means to relax the hips and waist, lower the pelvis bones, and allow your body to settle. Let your shoulders sink away from your neck. Use your intention to lower your elbows to relax the shoulders. Avoid overextending your arms. Keep them slightly bent and hold them in a curve, with your armpits slightly open. Allow your skeleton to support your body. This allows your weight and energy to sink from the upper body toward the lower abdomen.
Breathing Helps With Sinking
Taiji movements generally alternate between gathering (storing) energy and delivering that energy. Every form in taiji has an associated inhale and exhale. In general, inhale during movements that are up and in (opening movements) and movements that store energy. Inhale during movements that expand your chest, such as with the open hands movement in Sun style. Also, inhale during movements that create an insubstantial (unweighted) movement, such as when doing a roll back. Inhaling during opening stores the energy, like drawing a bow, and brings in the qi.
Exhale during movements that are down and out (closing movements) and movement that deliver energy. Exhale during movements that compress your chest, such as with the close hands movement in Sun style. Also exhale during movements that create a substantial (weighted) movement, such as when doing a push or press. Exhaling during closing delivers the energy and sends the qi.
As you exhale, allow your body to sink. As you step, allow your weight to settle down onto your substantial leg. Visualize that your spine is stretching and the qi is flowing through your leg down into the earth. This helps improve your balance and strengthen your legs. Stronger muscles strengthen the joints and tendons and improve your joint health.
© 2013 Eric Borreson