Body alignment refers to how everything is positioned internally. Tai Chi teaches you how to recognize your body’s alignment and to achieve the best possible body alignment for whatever activity you are doing at the time both in combat situations and otherwise. With proper body alignment, you can alleviate many health problems including back pain as well as reach new levels of skill in your Tai Chi practice.
When you go to push a heavy (but movable) object there is an alignment through the body and if the alignment is correct and true and all the way through your body you won’t have any problem moving the object. If the alignment is off then the body mechanics are incorrect and it’s not going to work.
With practice, you can have an awareness of your body’s alignment that is based not just on rules for how to sit and stand but instead on a real knowledge of the skeletal system. This includes how to properly align the spine, how the midsection should be positioned, how the knees should be aligned to the feet and how the feet should be placed for good knee health that utilizes the musculature of the leg and protects the tendons and ligaments.
This understanding of alignment and posture is excellent for your health. It can prevent a large number of problems including neck pain, back pain, knee pain, poor circulation, migraine headaches, and many other ailments as well. By practicing Tai Chi you will learn to move in many different ways while maintain excellent posture and alignment the whole time.
Back pain is one of the most significant unreported health problems that people have. Although back pain is sometimes due to an injury or a traumatic event, more often than not, it comes from years of poor posture. Tai Chi teaches correct back alignment by taking students through a set of forms while maintaining a very straight back alignment throughout. In this way, the Tai Chi student can learn how to move in ways support good alignment.
If practiced correctly, proper body alignment will also lead to greater bone density which is known to help prevent falls in the elderly. In order to obtain this Tai Chi health benefit, the practitioner must align their upper body weight over the legs and then relax the entire body so that the weight of the entire body presses down through the structure due to gravity. This alone will increase the thigh bone density and mass over time and increase the muscle mass and strength through the entire leg.
Back alignment is also foundational for the other health benefits of Tai Chi. Many students come to a dead end in their practice because they do not have proper back alignment. Consequently, they are not receiving many of the well-known health benefits of Tai Chi. This kind of student must first understand what they are trying to accomplish in terms of the body’s alignment and then work proper alignment into their practice. This requires that students pay close attention to their alignment as they perform their Tai Chi set. Only after a student has accomplished this can they then progress in Tai Chi and achieve higher levels of skill.