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Monkeys, horses and other mammals have arms and legs of the same length. Humans are different. We are bipeds. Our legs are much longer and stronger than our arms.
Too much sitting
The main problem with sitting is gravity, loss of circulation and the tightening/shortening of your muscles.
Muscular tension stops your joints and vertebra from moving freely. When the hips, groin and sacroiliac freeze-up, the overall skeletal mobility is reduced.
A lot of people experience pain in their shoulders and reduced movement.
If you ignore the shoulders entirely and focus instead on their legs you will inevitably discover that their legs are tense.
Once the legs are freed up the shoulder problems fade...
Most men and women sit too much. This can lead to under-developed gluteus maximus muscles; which is bad for the back in particular. Weakness in these large muscles can affect the whole body.
Buttock muscles are supposed to be akin to a vertical oval for each buttock. There should be notable muscular development; the outcome of healthy everyday squatting.
Some buttock shapes immediately indicate physical neglect:
These shapes are not genetic. They are caused by poor habits of body use and a failure to exercise adequately.
Male & female
For women the healthiest buttock shapes are 'rounded' or
Men will naturally have smaller buttocks but the muscles should still be well-developed, not atrophied or malformed.
Most people have very tight hamstrings.
Unfortunately, the back compensates for tight hamstring muscles (by slouching); giving the illusion of greater flexibility than is actually present.
We address this in the syllabus by way of psoas exercises, leg stretches, core strength and Taoist Yoga. The training is done carefully, gently - in a controlled manner - without exertion or strain.
Locked knees or overly-straightened legs prevent the knee from acting as suspension for the body. Relax the knees but do not bend unless squatting down to lift something.
People often over-compensate for locked knees by bending deeply. This is pointless. It can also result in injury.
Relax the knees
Make space behind the knee joint, as if the knee were moving forward. Do not bend deeply, simply relax. Done correctly, the legs will free-up considerably and the lower back will feel looser.
This is not a squat. You are simply relaxing the knees.
The human body is meant to squat. It is how we naturally go to the toilet. However in modern Western culture we have the sit-down toilet. This 'convenience' has led to the legs becoming weak.
The lower back and knees are also affected.
Exercise your squat
We can carefully re-train the legs by squatting whenever appropriate. When something is on the floor and needs picking up, squat.
If this feels awkward, then you are probably used to bending at the lower back and neglecting the legs.
If squatting hurts your legs, start slowly and carefully. Use the wall/door frame/a stick for support. Make the movement slow and smooth. In time, your legs will get stronger.
Only squat to pick things up
Do not try to maintain a squat or do your tai chi in a low squatting stance. Be realistic. Everyday squatting is natural and healthy. If you are unused to this, re-habilitate.
The horse stance is a great strength building exercise if performed correctly and not held for lengthy periods of time.
It can serve to open the hips and develop strong leg muscles.
Yang style tai chi does not typically employ the horse stance in form practice or in combat. We use it purely as an exercise.
Walk as often you can. Buy a pedometer and do 10,000 steps a day. Don't get caught up on the significance of 10,000 steps. It is just a number. Rather than procrastinate, walk. Your body will thank you.
Sifu Waller walks between 3-5 miles every morning; it clears the mind and exercises the legs.
One of the most difficult skills is the ability to change
movements. This skill is a primary aspect of forms. When you are swiftly and
smoothly able to change movements, your chances of defeating an opponent are
There is no need to walk fast. Fast walking leads to striding and striding is inherently unstable. It also makes your mind feel anxious.
Walk as though kicking through piles of Autumn leaves. Easy, comfortable, relaxed.
Many runners have careworn faces with deep lines caused by emotional stress. They don't look happy when running. They look deeply upset. Their approach to running is causing them to suffer.
Over-taxing, pushing the body and pursuing unnecessary goals is harmful and leads to pain and injury. There are other ways to run and/or to get fit.
On a drop handled bicycle the body is held in a slanting posture. The arms are stretched and the shoulders are positioned in front of the hips rather than above.
In order to see the road ahead, the cyclist must lift their head and compress the back of the neck. This causes notable muscular tension.
The majority of mountain bikes sold in the UK appear to be used on the road rather than off road. People seem unaware of the fact that the gears are not suited to road use.
They pedal frantically and go no faster. Have you ever seen a Dutch bicycle? They encourage an upright posture, no strain on the arms or shoulders, and use gravity more effectively than UK bicycles do.
It is usually preferable to climb the stairs rather than taking a lift or an escalator.
Climb the stairs one step at a time. If you climb two or more steps at once then you are lunging, and then pulling your entire body weight upwards whilst straining the knee joint.
We offer a wide range of exercises designed to build up leg strength safely and carefully:
Core strengthening exercises
Stretching whilst tense
Often people seek to overcome tension by stretching. This is not the solution. Relaxing the muscle and then lengthening it is the solution.
The problem with trying to stretch whilst tense is that the muscles are contracted throughout. They cannot reasonably relax and lengthen.
Instead of stretching the soft tissues, the individual puts strain on the joints. Pulling/separating the joints is clearly not healthy.
Many people try to pump up their shoulders in order to gain a strong, manly-looking physique. Why bother?
We must work on our buttocks and legs, not our arms and shoulders. No matter how large your arms are, they will never be as strong as your legs.
A student cannot reasonably hope for success when they use their upper body for strength against a 'pumped-up' opponent.
Biology is against you. You need to think about your lower body, in particular your legs.
When you measure the size of leg muscles relative to arms, you find that the leg muscles are significantly larger and can produce vastly more power.
Connect your arms to your back, and use your legs to drive your movements.
At first, standing qigong will feel difficult, but this quickly passes and the exercise becomes pleasant and energising. The more regularly you stand, the more enjoyable it gets.
Initially your legs and arms will be uncomfortable and your mind will race from the boredom. If you have joint problems or varicose veins consult your tai chi teacher before standing.
Use your legs
When it comes to your body a good clichéd rule is Use it or lose it. Move around as often as you can - without being fidgety or restless - and your circulation will improve.
Find opportunities to walk rather than sit in a car. Make leg exercises a part of your every day regime.
Arms back problems feet hands hip & Groin joint health Knees legs pelvis shoulders
18 April 2005
Last updated 20 December 2020