The Tai Chi Form is a series of postures and we simply move from one to the next. Counting may be used to indicate where each posture occurs. For instance, the first movement of the 19 Form, Ging Gang comes out of the Temple, has seven counts and therefore seven postures within it. By pausing on each number we can check the alignment of the body. We are looking for the correct weight distribution, position of the limbs, open joints and general balance within the posture. Optimum alignment equals optimum chi flow and stability.
To some extent the actual pose is arbitrary as this alignment needs to be maintained throughout all the movements. When we know each position our actions coordinate to achieve them. It is this that produces the characteristic flowing movements of Tai Chi and improves our sense of well being.
It can be beneficial to hold a posture for an extended time of several minutes, especially after receiving a ‘correction’ from our teacher. This helps us to learn the exact choreography of the position so we may be able to find it again for ourselves. We build muscle memory so we can recognise when other positions are also correct and balanced.
Holding a posture can be challenging as shoulders, arms and legs start to ache. But this is an opportunity to relax into the position, to let go of all the unnecessary tension, so we use the minimum amount required to maintain the pose. It is useful to imagine that the arms are floating in space and we want to allow the leg muscles to do the work of supporting the body. The Chinese say that strong legs indicate a strong constitution.