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People talk a lot about core strength but not much about core stability. The two concerns are not the same.
Core strength is about the muscles of the lower body (crotch, groin, hips, buttocks, lower back, legs and abdominals) whereas core stability is about keeping the pelvis favourably aligned.
The pelvis is pretty large. If you turn it to the right or to the left, the entire upper body is affected. Turn it too far and the knees bear the brunt of the turn.
If you tilt it forwards or backwards, the entire balance of the body changes. Pretty soon you are leaning.
Although the pelvis itself has limited scope for movement, inclining or rotating the pelvis has a major impact on posture.
For optimal body use we need the pelvis to naturally sit beneath the abdomen.
The physical centre of the body contains a lot of water, our intestines etc and needs to be pretty stable.
Stability is accomplished by encouraging the pelvis to operate naturally and without interference. This may involve stopping existing bad habits in favour of letting the body re-align itself.
Don't tuck or tilt
A lot of people think to tuck the pelvis under. This is not encouraged.
Deliberate tilting or tucking-under is exaggerated and affects the knees adversely because you are now leaning back slightly.
If the pelvis is moved too much during tai chi practice, you will lose your centre and this will affect the knees.
You need to open and close the hip kwa and sacroiliac joint instead.
Posterior pelvic tilt
One common back problem many students exhibit is called a 'posterior pelvic tilt'. It is caused by standing badly and sitting badly.
As such it's a 'lifestyle problem' and not something we can address in class. We're not therapists. Students are responsible for remedying the problem themselves.
Psoas exercises and the core strength exercises focus on keeping the pelvis neutral throughout every movement, whilst strengthening the muscles.
This encourages a more balanced relationship with the pelvis.
One feature of standing qigong is that it encourages the leg muscles to relax. This in turn enables the pelvis to return to the neutral position. Relax the knees. Relax the lower back. Leave the pelvis alone.
Tai chi stepping exercises are a real test of balance. The pelvis must be appropriately aligned relative to the supporting leg in order to maintain stability.
For many people, their leg tension is so severe that their entire body is thrown off balance every time they take a step.
The aim is to 'float'... The pelvis remains neutral and the legs feel to be doing the work without effort. Walking seems to do itself. Balance is maintained without volition.
Form is an ideal opportunity to explore the position of the pelvis relative to the feet.
A neutral pelvis responds to the demands of the movements, providing a stable platform for activity. This sounds simple but requires awareness and patience.
Squaring the pelvis
Tai chi practitioners may seek to square their pelvis to the front during a bow stance. If the stance is too long, too narrow or the individual lacks the requisite flexibility, this could be a problem.
Often, exponents seek to overcome the obstacle by buckling the rear knee (or straightening it) rather than the more obvious solution which is to adjust the position of the feet.
Arms back problems feet hands hip & Groin joint health Knees legs pelvis shoulders
18 April 2005
Last updated 26 January 2020