Saturday, April 7, 2012

A Simple Exercise for Song (Relax and Loosen)

Song () means to loosen and relax. It means to open up your joints so the energy can flow. What does that really mean, though? It means to stretch the ligaments that hold our joints together. How do we do that? Here is a simple exercise to help you learn about song.

Look at your hands at the inside of your wrists. At the base of your palm, right where it joins with the wrist, there is a line, or fold, in the skin. You can usually see this line on both hands. Bring your hands together so that your hands are in a prayer position. Hold your hands together, palms facing each other, and align the two lines. Look at your finger tips. For many people, the fingertips will not be even. One hand is larger than the other. Note which hand is smaller. If they seem to be the same size, note which hand is your non-dominant hand.

Now, look at your smaller or non-dominant hand. Start with your little finger. Look at the first knuckle, the one closest to your palm. Visualize that joint is expanding and stretching. Keep your attention there for about 3 to 5 seconds. Move to the next joint on the little finger. Visualize that joint is expanding and stretching. Focus for about 3 to 5 seconds again. Move your attention to the last joint in the finger and repeat.

Move your attention to the next finger, the ring finger. Look at the first knuckle and do the same visualization. Follow this with the rest of the knuckles. Move to the middle finger, then the pointing finger, and then the thumb. Do the same visualization for each knuckle. Now, visualize your entire hand. Imagine that the whole hand is expanding, that it is growing with each heartbeat.

Now, line up your hands again from the line at your wrist. Most people find that their hand has grown a little bit. You certainly didn't increase the size of your bones in that short time. The increase has to come from the space between the bones, the joints. This is song.

Now the tricky part begins. Use this same technique for the rest of your body. Don't worry about the measuring or comparing here. You know it works. Open up your shoulder joints during your tai chi warmups. Focus on your shoulders while you do your forms. You may need to pause once in a while to bring your attention back to the shoulders. Continue this practice for the elbows, spine, hips, etc. You can use this technique for your entire body. With lots of practice, you can start to develop the ability to continuously maintain song throughout your body.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

© 2012 Eric Borreson


  1. Nice post. It does make you think. Just to let you know, I’ve practiced tai chi along with my other martial arts (Shotokan karate and kickboxing) for over 40 years: Practiced for so long that thinking about moves or positions or anything is not part of my tai chi; however, as I analyzed my technique pursuant to your "song" explanation, I see some of what you say is true, more so now as I've unconsciously learned to use the "song" techniques as you explained to stretch my joints as a result of years of abuse and arthritis. Bear in mind, before reading your blog, this stretching explanation resembles some of my karate influence that when incorporated in tai chi, I feel energized after my form. Some criticize me, saying my form is stiff and un-relaxed, ie stretching out my finger during cloud hands, reaching out during grasping swallow tail and so forth. Contrary to what they see, I’m neither stiff nor un-relaxed. If I can put it in an analogy, it’s like yoga stretching but in movement (well, kind-a-sort-a). Like you said, I’m opening up to allow good chi flow as well as keep my arthritis in check. Good job.

    Sensei Domi

  2. Sensei Domi, thanks for the comment. One of my goals with my blog is to make people aware of some of the things they should be learning. I think people learn faster that way.

  3. Man I like your post and it is so good and I am definitely going to save it. One thing to say the In-depth analysis this article has is truly remarkable. No one goes that extra mile these days? Bravo!! Just one more tip you can get a Translator for your Worldwide Audience !!!

  4. Marisa, online translations are available at

    Just enter the URL and you will usually get a fairly good translation.

  5. Mr Eric, Very valuable information throughout your blogs.
    Many thanks!

  6. Je me pose une question : devons nous contracter nos abdominaux en permanence pendant que nous respirons ?

  7. It is best to relax the abdominal muscles as you inhale. You can gently contract the abdominal as you exhale.

    From Google translate:
    Il est préférable de se détendre les muscles abdominaux que vous inspirez. Vous pouvez contracter la douceur abdominale que vous expirez.

  8. Okay, thank you.
    But how can my back be straight if I do not contract my abdominals?

  9. This post isn't about posture. I don't use my abdominal muscles to maintain my posture. The idea of Song is to let go of tension like that. Let your skeleton and ligaments hold you up with minimum effort from your muscles.

    Here's how to keep your spine straight while doing this exercise:
    1) Push your chin back slightly. This raises the crown of your head and straightens your upper spine.
    2) Bend your knees slightly and let your pelvis tilt forward a little bit. This straightens your lower spine. Visualize that you are going to sit on a tall chair and start to lower your weight. But only drop about an inch (a couple of centimeters). Your knees will bend and your buttocks will tuck in.