“Relax means to soften the tendons and blood vessels of the whole body - you cannot permit even a little tension, if the ligaments and blood vessels relax then the whole body of which they are a part sinks down”.
Sinking, is very much a mental process, a mental process that is dependent upon us having done the necessary physical work – or maybe “non-work” is better descriptive. Having become aware of and identified areas of excess tensions through the physical repetitions of fundamental or introductory exercises, we then begin to work on the process of relaxing and letting go and sinking tensions-release downward through the body by use of the mind-intent (imagination) throughout our form practice.
What happens after a time of “letting go” and releasing of tensions is that the feet will begin to feel the sensation of relaxing the downward-led pressure of the body, which after-a-time flattens our feet to the ground.
That is, being aware and led by the mind and mind intent and the gradual relaxation of the body – we will feel the downward physical pressure spread evenly and ripple across the underside of each foot. This is grounding, or growing root.
The pre-condition to song (pronounced: soong), relaxing and sinking is that we open and align all our joints so the weight from muscular release can be, led and channeled through the body structure by the mind, and drawn slowly and ripple evenly into the foot/feet, primed for return – At some point, in your practice the ankles will feel as if they are "hollow" and almost though limited, like a second waist. This is a good indication that your ankle joints are opening.
In order to align, relax the muscular body and open all our joints, whilst the primary is relax, there are further requirements, these being, to name a few are:, the head-top is as if suspended, the tail-bone hangs as if anchored, we must be upright centered and balanced (like a level scale); the body must move as one piece (fully connected); and we must “gather the spirit", employ “mind intent” and bring awareness into our movements.
The bubbling well points are important in our practice:
1. It is from the bubbling well point of each foot that the pressure ripples evenly out across the entirety of the foot, increasing our stability and contact with the earth.
Feeling the spreading of pressure evenly across the sole of the foot as it ripples out from the bubbling well point, is important and the feet’s contact with the ground must be maintained at all times throughout the form, and in our sensing-hands practice, to lose this contact, is to lose ones root. Whilst we are (generally) made aware and shown the location of the bubbling wells during our first lesson, it is through the process of relaxing and sinking that the location of each bubbling well becomes very apparent.
The idea is to continually release and sink through the bubbling well deep into the earth (sinking your root). So, feeling tensions then releasing and channeling tension release through the body leads to pressure spreading evenly across the foot as it ripples outward from the bubbling well across the entirety of the underside of the feet is an important “step” along the Tai Chi Chuan road.
2. The bubbling well is also the point that we mentally sink/release pressure/tensions through, be it the weight of our body from our head-top down, or importantly, where we channel the external pressure from others (e.g. a push, a grab, a punch etc.).
The bubbling well's point of contact with the ground, is also the point from where we return the pressure, bounce-back, or spring our relaxed energy (chin) up from, to be released eventually through our fingers. This is why skeletal structure, joint articulation and muscular relaxation along with mind-intent are not only good for health, but are vital components of receiving and releasing energy for self-defense.
- John B Hartley, 2014
John Hartley, Founder and Principal Instructor of Inner Health School of Taijiquan, Adelaide