Saturday, July 9, 2011

Wuji Posture in Tai Chi (Taiji)

A foundation of traditional Chinese thought is a belief in a universe full of energy called qi. In the beginning, the universe was an endless void known as wuji. The taiji classics say that wuji gives birth to yin and yang, which are expressed as taiji. Yin and yang are represented by the double fish symbol.

Yin and yang are the all, representing the opposites that exist throughout the universe. All opposites are aspects of yin and yang. Light and dark, day and night, earth and sky, water and fire, and female and male are typical aspects.

We practice taiji to develop our ability to understand and use yin and yang. In traditional qi gong and taiji practice, the wuji posture is used as a resting position before beginning your practice. It symbolically represents the “great emptiness” of the original universal void.

External Physical Aspects and Body Posture
The external is the yang. To stand in wuji, begin with your feet apart about the width of your hips or shoulders. Gently rock back and forth and side to side to feel the weight shift. Take a moment to make sure your weight is evenly distributed on the three balance points of each foot, the ball of the foot, the point at the base of the little toe, and at the heel. Be aware of your weight on your feet and allow your weight to sink down into the ground on each exhale.

Relax in the wuji posture for a few moments. Stand as still as a tree and pay attention to any sensations you feel. Do not try to change anything. Just pay attention to the sensations. Progressively relax your body from the top down. Don’t go limp, but focus on eliminating any unnecessary tension.

Relax your entire body and loosen all your joints. Be sure that your knees are not locked. Adjust your posture so that your weight is supported by your skeleton. Look forward and relax your eyes without focusing on anything. Relax your jaw, neck, and shoulders, and all the other places where you build up tension during the day. Relax your arms and hands, allowing them to hang loosely at your sides. Gradually allow your breath to deepen. Allow it to expand your diaphragm. Don't overdo it and force your breath, but be sure to completely fill and empty your lungs.

Internal Mental Aspects and Flow of Qi
The internal is ying. Let your mind travel through your body. Open all your joints by visualizing them expanding and loosening. Visualize a string, or thread, connecting the top of your head with the heavens. The string lifts from the bai hui point at the crown of the head and pulls down at the hui yin in the middle of your perineum. Imagine the string stretching your spine, opening up the space between the vertebrae.

Standing in wuji is the ideal posture to help you sense the flow of qi. Use your breathing as a point of mental focus. Use this time as a short meditation to calm your mind and body. As you stand, let your mind follow your breathing. When your mind wanders, bring it back to your breathing. Let the calmness empty your mind of other things. An empty, calm mind can better sense the flow of qi.

As you stand still, become aware of any feelings of comfort or discomfort. Be aware of any muscular tension. Do not be judgmental. There is no right or wrong. The goal is to develop your ability to sense what is happening in your body. Awareness of your body develops your self-awareness.

All the places where qi is not flowing become apparent. Areas of poor qi flow become uncomfortable or even painful. Discomfort during standing reveals places where your body is not functioning properly. Your natural instincts are to move when you are uncomfortable. Move your body to eliminate painful postures, but try to maintain the wuji posture when you are merely uncomfortable.

Instead of moving, bring your attention to any point of tension or pain and imagine that your breath is entering and leaving your body at that point, Let your breath carry away the tension and pain. With every inhale, visualize bringing healing qi into your body at the place where you have tension. With every exhale, visualize expelling stagnant qi. Allow the healing qi to eliminate the discomfort.

Another method to eliminate the discomfort is to image the discomfort dropping through your body toward the ground. Allow it to fall through your feet and into the ground. When the discomfort leaves your body, it should be replaced by a feeling of comfort.

Daily Practice
Try to stand in wuji for a few moments every day. It seems very simple, but it can be very difficult the first few times you try this. The time will drag on seemingly forever. Boredom will drive you crazy. Be persistent and these feelings will pass. Over a period of several weeks, gradually increase the amount of time you spend standing. Remember though, quality is more important than quantity. Do not force yourself to stand when you are distracted.

Regular practice helps to balance your yin and yang, your internal and external. The balance of yin and yang helps you become more aware of the connection between your body and mind and improves your taiji.

This was originally published in the June issue of Yang Sheng magazine.

© 2011 Eric Borreson


  1. I have always used mindfulness to become part of
    the moment of doing something and fully engaging.
    For instance, when drinking tea or coffee, fully
    become aware of all aspects of the preparation,
    pouring, and drinking without thinking of
    something else. Just be present, its a great
    exercise and then return to the breath when

  2. Jill, thanks for the comment. Mindfulness is something we can all work on in all aspects of our lives. It's easy to become forgetful and just move on autopilot.