i take back what i said about...
It's not an easy thing to take back a statement.
Particularly one that I was so vehement about proclaiming at every opportunity.
But it would be unethical and rather unscientific of me to receive new information about something I believed without sharing it…. especially if it might cause you harm.
Sometimes I have to tip my own sacred cows, ya know?
Having said that, I'm not taking it back - entirely - but inviting you to experiment for yourself.
If you were in or anywhere near our 10-week qigong class, you would have heard Bill and I waxing poetic about the wu chi stance. This is the beginning posture one places themselves in before beginning the movements.
It's a standing still posture - much like "mountain pose" in yoga - where nothing is happening, but everything is happening. "No action energy" is how wu chi is translated.
The mechanics involve balancing your weight evenly over the 'bubbling well', a point in the soft belly of the foot. From there, the knees are bent slightly, the hips tipped back so that the tailbone is pointing more downward. The spine is extended, the head floating gracefully above the torso, while the shoulders are relaxed.
This is a posture to calm the body and the mind, gather yourself, and prepare to move forward with clear intention.
As a martial arts posture, it's like the antithesis to mutitasking.
My partner and I have recommended this as a regular posture, even outside of practicing qigong, like while waiting in line at the grocery store. Kind of a portable standing meditation.
I highly recommend practicing 'no action energy' if no action at the moment is actually required. Especially in our times when the hand automatically reaches for the phone if there's a momentary pause in the activity.
It's a good opportunity to cultivate responsivity, rather than reactivity.
But what I've recently learned, via the Restorative Exercise course I'm taking, is that this perpetual knee-bending may wreak havoc on the knee cartilage.
Katy Bowman, the REx founder, tells us that this propensity to bend the knees was actually a learned behavior, most likely passed down through the military (much like our 'ducked feet' - more on that later.) The long hours of required 'military attention' posture was causing soldiers to become faint as the circulation through the legs was diminished. So, as the story goes, someone figured out if you bent the knees slightly, you could avoid that whole scene.
But knee bending, even if slight, engages the quadriceps - muscles meant primarily for bringing us uphill. The chronically-engaged quadriceps put pressure on the knee caps, keeping them in a lifted position, thereby prohibiting full range of motion for the knee.
Katy further points out, however, that keeping the legs straight is not the same as locking the knees out.
The ideal is to have a straight leg position, while allowing the knee caps to 'drop', ie relaxing the quads. (And then be able to lift and drop them at will. It's actually an amusing sight.)
This takes a little work. One, you have to be sure that your body is alignment is correct, as in your weight stacked up more over your ankles. Two, being able to mentally connect with your knee caps in order to allow them to drop can take some practice.
But it is doable. And it is amazing to find how easily they want to keep locking up.
We also have taught in our class that our default stance is often is a locked-knee position.
There's something about that that gives us a feeling of stability, although in the long-term it actually cuts off our feeling-connection to the ground, as opposed to when we soften the knee joint.
So, do we throw the wu chi as we know it out the window?
Well, as my wise partner challenged me, Katy is actually bio-mechanically explaining the proper usage of wu chi. Whereas, I was thinking that the bent knees had to be more pronounced - and sometimes it does, like with 'wide-horse stance' (a stance where you spread the feet part and squat a bit, like you're on a horse) - it is true that this will put a lot of strain on the knee cartilage, if you're doing it all the time.
So, really, what I want to recant is the emphasis on the bent-knee thing.
For me, I will still bring it in while I'm practicing my qigong (as well as try it without the bent knees). But the rest of the time, when I'm in line at the bank, say, I will be there practicing my knee-dropping, as well as my pelvis-listing (also, a post for another time).
If you experiment with this, let me know how it goes!