Saturday, January 25, 2014

How Do We Properly Tilt the Pelvis (Revisited)?

A couple of months ago, I wrote an article called "Tilt the Pelvis". I had an interesting conversation with a friend about the terminology I used to describe this movement. She graciously explained a better way to describe it (thanks Kate!). You can read my original article here.

We agree that the phrase "tilt the pelvis" is often misinterpreted and used to put students into an unnatural position. I have used the word "grotesque" to describe some of what I have seen.

Kate prefers to use the term "gently round the tailbone" and says that it is all about opening and closing the kuas. As we sink and deliver energy at the end of a tai chi form, the kuas close. This works to gently round the tailbone, or tuck the tailbone. As we start to open up as we move into the next form, we open the kuas and our posture changes. Combine this with the idea of sinking the qi by our breath and we develop a natural movement that gently rounds the tailbone.

I found another interesting explanation online in an article by Tu-Ky Lam. You can read the whole article here. In that article, he says,
"If we can pull our lumbar spine in correctly (for only 2mm – 3mm), we can feel that it connects our upper body to the leg that supports our body weight more. When we move, it moves as well – from the substantial leg (that supports more body weight) to the insubstantial one. It firms up our body at the start and the finish of a move, (moves back to its normal position in the middle), and makes our movements relaxed and yet strong. We need to pull in our lumbar spine in this manner to produce more power. If we can feel that our skeleton is firm and well connected and our strength is greatly increased, we have got it right. Without this feeling, we are not there yet. If we have lower back pain or strain in our knees, we are overdoing it."
As always, let me know what you think.

© 2014 Eric Borreson

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Tai Chi for the 21st Century

What happens when a poet also practices tai chi? These are not my words. They are from a video by my friend, Paul Read, the Teapotmonk. He kindly allowed me to share this here. 

 Grace & Strength
In the Tai Chi Form

Just as the space between words shape the phrase...
Just as the space between musical notes shape the song...
So too, we crave the presence of space

In time, we learn that it is the emptiness between the postures that defines them.
So... before you begin...
Before anything else...Feel
o Feel the air circulate between your fingers
o Feel your weight fall to the soles of your feet
o Feel your joints open
o Feel your muscles soften
o Feel your breath move...

Then, and only then...Let
o Let the outside step in, and let the movement begin by itself
o Let what is inside reach out
o Let your arms ride the waves...

Night and Day
o Enjoy the Yang
o But remember the sweet taste of Yin
o For in nature...

... in nature there are no straight lines
o They serve no purpose here...
o Where everything is circular
o So... Find the curve and join with your breath

Follow the cycles of your breath
o Follow the curves of nature
o Follow the breeze
o Follow, follow, follow
o ... and learn that...

When you rise up, sink down first...
o Turn left before moving right
o Step back before moving forward
o Let your body do the work...

o When you really need to be hard
o When softness has completed its turn
o When the Yang in you surges to the surface...

Look Deeper...
o For strength comes not from tension
o But from the interplay of opposites
o The embracing of contrasts
o From silence and space and ...

Balance & Breath
... there is tremendous strength in grace

You can see the video directly on YouTube. Click here.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Blogging Update (I Need Help)

Now that we are beginning a new year, it's time to look back on how we got here. I have been blogging for about 3 1/2 years. My goal since the beginning has been to help people find ways to change their lives. I am happy to say that my reach is continuing to grow.

I am really interested in starting a dialogue with my readers about the direction you want this to go. I need some help developing my blog to make sure that I am delivering what people are looking for. I placed several questions at the end. Please comment below or contact me directly.

Blogging sites provide reports on the top articles and demographics on page visits. Here are some of the things I learned from the latest usage reports:

Top Articles
I have posted nearly 200 articles since I started writing. The top articles, ranked by pageviews, are:

Here are two articles from 2013 that didn't get many readers the first time around. I think they are worth a few minutes of your time.

Readers use many different platforms, browsers, and operating systems to reach my blog. Most of that hasn't changed very much since the beginning. However, there has been a large change as the use of mobile devices, like smart phones and tablets, has increased in 2013.
Year                 Desktop          Mobile
2010                95%                 5%
2011                96%                 4%
2012                92%                 7%
2013                85%                 15%

The change has been really dramatic in 2013. A quarterly breakdown of the data shows that mobile usage has more than doubled from 9% of page views in the first quarter to 19% in the fourth quarter.
Year                 Desktop          Mobile
2013 (Q1)            91%                 9%
2013 (Q2)            86%                 14%
2013 (Q3)            82%                 18%
2013 (Q4)            81%                 19%

I started blogging regularly in July 2010. I have seen steady growth since then. My blog has served 73,736 pageviews (through the end of 2013).
Year     Pageviews
2010    618
2011    8310
2012    26,487
2013    38,321

I have had visitors come from 135 nations. I am so happy to be able to share this with so many people all around the world. The most common nations of the visitors are:
US              56.1%
UK             10.5%
Canada       5.8%
Australia     3.2%
Singapore    2.2%
All others    22.2%

About 85% of the visitors found my site through a Google search. I am continually learning about how Google search works. For about 3 years, I posted a new article about every week. Late in 2013, I ran out of time and energy for a while and started reusing articles. Google noticed. The number of people finding my blog through a Google search fell by almost half from September to December. Don't mess with Google.

About 5% of the visitors came through another search site, from an email update, a news feed, or a permanent link on someone's web page. The remaining 10% find my site through some kind of social media link.

Of that 10% that find my articles through social media, the top sources are:
Facebook     62%
LinkedIn      20%
Twitter         17%
Google+      2%

These numbers reflect the amount of time and effort I place into each. I spend more time on Facebook than the others so I get more visitors from there.

Help Me, Please
I am considering adding other social media sites, like Youtube, Tumblr, or Pinterest. I would love to hear from anyone that has experience with these. Please leave a comment or contact me directly. What kind of viewership do you get? Are they effective at reaching people? My time is limited. Where are the best places to find readers?

Do you have any ideas on whether I should make changes to my blog based on the increase in mobile readship? How can I make the content or presentation different?

I have seen other blogs that place a Paypal link and ask for donations. What do you think about this practice? Would you be offended if I asked for donations to support my training expenses? Is this effective? Do you have any ideas on this topic?

If you are interested in submitting an article for for publication on this blog, please let me know. We can discuss content and my editorial policy. Contact me at

Looking forward to another great year in 2014. A big thank you to all the people that read my blog and especially to those that comment on the blog or provide other feedback.

© 2014 Eric Borreson

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Lucky Eights

Tai chi is full of circles and spirals. It's not obvious to beginners because they are accustomed to working linearly. They try to get from here to there in a straight path. There is nothing like that in tai chi. This week, I am writing about what is called a Figure 8 movement of the waist and dan tien.

Start by standing with your feet apart, about the width of your hips or your shoulders. Push off with one foot and shift your weight to the other foot. Keep your body straight and don't turn your hips or your waist. Push off and move to the other side. If you pay close attention to your body, you can notice that only way to move in this linear, straight-line direction is to keep your hips tight and tense. You have to tighten the muscles to move in a straight line. This is not tai chi.

Back to the beginning. Bring your attention to your hips, pelvis, and waist. Relax and loosen the muscles around the hips and pelvis. Let yourself sink. Tighten up the muscles and feel how it changes your posture. Relax and sink again. Play with it a little and get comfortable with the feeling. You are relaxing both left and right sides, so you should be sinking straight down.

This time, start with all your weight on your right leg. Relax and sink into the weighted right leg. Pay close attention to the feeling and stay relaxed. You should feel a small tug or pull that pulls your right hip back so that your hips rotate clockwise relative to the floor. You may have to nudge it a little to start to feel the sensations of rotating. Try it on the left side and play with it.

After you feel comfortable with sinking on each side, start to add in a weight shift. Starting on the right, sink as before. This time, as your hip rotates back, push off with the right leg. Shift your weight across to the left. Sink onto the left leg and let your hips continue to rotate. This time, the rotation is counterclockwise. As your left hip rotates back, push off with the left leg. Shift your weight across to the right until you are back where you started.

Now rotate your waist relative to your hips. I talked about this last week. Read it here. Combine this with your other movement.

Do it again and pay close attention to the movement. Your lower abdomen (dan tien, belly button) should trace out a path in space shaped like a figure 8. This is very similar to the idea of spiral force that I have written about in the past. Read more here.

© 2014 Eric Borreson