Cognitive Dissonance on Root

While perusing some taiji blogs, I ran across a post that discussed developing one’s root.   In my own training, I tend to focus on doing zhan zhuang to develop my own central equilibrium with the hopes of developing my own ‘taiji root’. 

I have tended to use the mental imagery of extending my energy down into the earth, developing a ‘root system’ underground.  However, some mind-intent stuff could be causing some pains in my knees, specifically the focus sending the energy down.

Below is a little twist or cognitive dissonance (my new word for today ;)) concerning my own notions of root:

…But from a didactic point of view I feel that [the instructor] did have a point about the root being something which comes up to meet us, rather than something which goes out from us.

— Source: Richard Coldman – Developing Your Root


About wujimon

taiji, meditation and health
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5 Responses to Cognitive Dissonance on Root

  1. Bai Yiming says:

    I had the same knee problems in Zhanzhuang and found out through my controlling teacher that I was bending my knees more as I concentrated on sinking.
    I solved the problem by better distinguishing between mind and body, sinking only mentally and keeping a higher stance.

  2. zenmindsword says:

    Ha, ha Wuji to send down energy is not an act of balance. Have you considered that to do so is like having yang without yin or vice versa? If you put your body weight on your palms and press hard on the floor you will feel the same stress on your palms too. But if you imagine that someone, perhaps your imaginary twin is pushing you back up then there is a balance of forces counteracting your downward force to reduce the stress on your palms. This is just a suggestion on how mind intent can solve such problems. Its not how I normally do it but its something that is easy to try out 🙂

  3. Kokoro says:

    Hi Wujimon,

    When I started out training in Tai Chi seriously, I started experiencing knee problems shortly into my training (maybe a couple of months in, at most). In fact, I was experiencing hip problems to go along with it! So something was clearly amiss.

    Luckily, I was blessed with two wonderful teachers (my regular teacher and his teacher, from whom I take instruction periodically) and they helped me a lot, to iron out a fair bit of these problems. For example, some of the hip area pain was resolved by consciously relaxing the hip area and also, aligning the hips better. Some of the knee pain was alleviated by ensuring that the knee is not over-bent or twisted in all kinds of directions.

    However, the more “soft” I was becoming in the upper body by letting go of unnecessary tension, the harder it became on my hips and the knees (not to mention the all too familiar constant burning of the thigh muscles), even with all the help from my teachers.

    So I decided it was time to go back to basics and figure out what was going on (or rather more importantly, how I could get beyond this). So I recorded video of my doing parts of the form and some of the basic exercises and looked over it in a fair bit of detail (yes, I can be very obsessive with this sort of thing at times). Eventually, I came to the conclusion that I was doing something wrong and that as my upper body softens and becomes more “lively”, the burden of holding and balancing the “now livelier” upper body was placed on the hips/thighs/knees. Didn’t help that my teachers considered the excruciating tension of the thighs to be normal (for a beginner anyway – but they didn’t think the hip and knee pain was normal at all). To make matters worse, Tai Chi literature of course says that all movement is generated from the base (defined as feet in some cases, hips down to feet in others or some part thereof) and controlled via the hips/waist (or something to that effect anyway, depending what literature you were reading). It almost seemed to justify the what was going on with my lower body. But it just wasn’t working out for me.

    So I decided to take a deeper look at the literature and came across more than a few references to how the whole body should be connected and be constantly adjusting. My lower body didn’t feel like it was adjusting. It felt like it was initiating movement, but didn’t feel like there was a whole lot of adjustments going on. As I investigated further I came across how “nine pearls must not be broken” and identified what some of these “pearls” were. Given where my pain was, I decided to focus on KD1 (bubbling well) and CV1 pearls.

    When I was doing my Zhanzhuang and a couple of other basic exercises, instead of focusing on the physical form of the postures, I tried to maintain my upper body softness and “connect” KD1 and CV1 and see if the posture “emerged”. After a lot of mental gymnastics, I stumbled upon what worked for me. It was to place my conscious awareness at KD1 and attempt to relax KD1. Then as I started to feel that KD1 was relaxing, my legs started to soften (and the excruciating pain in the thighs started to dissolve) and it started to partially relax my CV1. Once I started to consciously relax CV1 further, all sorts of things started going right. For example, I could feel my muscles relax and hang (off the bones almost) without collapsing my posture, but also I started feeling energy rising from KD1, up through CV1 and all the way to the crown of my head. The body started to feel light and the feet, heavy. This is without mentioning my postural alignment going from “20 things to do in my checklist when getting into the posture” to “oh, hey, it’s all happening automatically”. This is not to say that my posture is perfect and I’m as soft as I could be (I’ll be working a life time on these I’m sure), but it is more to say that once I came to this point, everything became, well, for the lack of a better word, connected or even somewhat effortless. Almost immediately afterwards the knee and hip pain went away. The thighs started feeling no way near any tension as they used to. When I looked at recorded footage a few months after, I could clearly see how my legs were actually adjusting. It didn’t seem like I was using my thigh muscles to hold/propel me in all sort of directions and using the hips/waist to control my torso further. It seemed more like I was… just adjusting. Things looked a lot more effortless.

    Anyways, this was some time back and I’m glad to say, I haven’t had any knee or hip problems since. The more I train, the less tension I seem to have (of course, some days are better than others) in my body and when I get things right, I feel virtually all pressure I feel on the soles of my feet. I actually feel like I’m sinking into the ground, but feel a rush of energy (for the lack of a better word) rising up from the ground lifting the crown of my head (crown of my head feels very light). In fact, the whole body feels very light and the arms feel like they’re helium balloons.

    Now I’m not sure if this is what they mean whey they talk about the Tai Chi “root”, but I’m not complaining. The one thing I know about Tai Chi is that today’s reality is tomorrows half truth. We shall see.

    But I hope my experiences are of some to you. Best of luck with your training.


    P.S: In my humble opinion, at least at the beginner level (which is very much where I’m at), the importance of Zhanzhuang on the development of Tai Chi internals could not be over emphasized. I’d rather do Zhanzhuang with higher quality internals than do various Tai Chi postures without the correct internals. Some schools also have loosening exercise which are comparable to Zhanzhuang when it comes to their effectiveness.

  4. wujimon says:

    Greetings, all. Lots of great comments and suggestions. I will definitely try some of these out in the future as the information settles a bit. It will take some time to let the information simmer 😉

  5. Pingback: Taiji Tidbits – 11/24/08 « wujimon

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