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Thursday, July 7, 2011

Excerpts from 1980 Yoga Journal on Tai Chi Ruler

Bob Flaws. "Tai Chi Ruler: Practice Makes Perfect." 
Yoga Journal, September 1980, page 14

        Begin by standing with both feet shoulder width apart and parallel. The knees are slightly bent. Hips and shoulders face square to the front and the head is held up on a horizontal plane. Now begin to rock from side to side until you feel your weight fall evenly from the crown of the head directly down the midline of the body, to extend between your legs and out into the ground. Next rock slightly back and forward from toes to heel. Try to find the place where the weight of the body is equally distributed between the heel and ball of the foot. Lean forward slightly from this point as if peering over the edge of a cliff to compensate for the fact that most of us are habituated to carrying our weight back on our heels. Grip the earth with the toes and a hollow should open in the arch of the foot. Take note of that hollow, it is called the Well or Bubbling Spring. Now relax the toes and let the weight of the body fall down through the Well in the center of each foot and visualize it dropping like a stone to the center of the earth.
            Mentally go inside the joints of the body and open them like a key turning a lock. Open the ankles, the knees, the hips, the wrists, elbows, and the shoulders. Allow the joint where the backbone meets the pelvis to open (5th lumbar), the space between the kidneys, the point where the rib cage ends (lumbodorsal hinge), the space between the shoulders, the seventh cervical, and where the skull meets the spine (Atlas/axis). Moving to the front of the body, mentally relax and open up the abdominal region. Let the belly go and allow it to just hang out like a baby’s. Relax the solar plexus and the heart area. Relax the throat and between the eyes. Next, imagine that the centers of the palms have opened,  just like the center of the soles, and that the center of the crown of the head (Ni-wang Kung or Gate of Nirvana, in Chinese, the Door of Brahma, in Indian yoga) also opens like the aperture of a camera, and that these five openings relate to each other.
            Now imagine that your weight and chi completely drop to and through the feet to make a taproot right into the center of the earth. Let the mind and breath drop to the Lower Tan-tien, the second yogi chakra, approximately three inches below the navel and a third of the way into the center of the body. The Lower Tan-tien should be visualized as a cauldron or pot. The mind and breath should fall like a leaf. Whenever the mind strays from this spot, it should be placed back there like placing a book on a shelf. Next allow your tailbone to drop as if a thousand-pound weight were hanging from it. Along with that, let the chin drop in and down as if a lighter weight were attached to it. Relax the anal sphincters, and the muscles of the mouth and jaw. Let the eyes be softly open and the gaze fall in the direction of the tip of the nose. Let the mind’s eye, however, look back up that slope to the third eye, between the brows, approximately one inch into the head. This is called the Yellow Door or upper Tan-tien.
            Imagine that there is a rough, slate-grey sea at the level of the base of the spine or coccyx. From this sea a dragon rises up with stream and roiling, in a full panoply of dazzling colors. This dragon, which represents one’s spirit, flies up the spine and out the top of the head through the Ni-wang. You should have the feeling of hanging from a gossamer thread from the center of heaven, like some celestial puppet. You should feel your head effortlessly floating up and, at the same time, the full weight of your body falling through your feet right into the earth. You should visualize yourself as a clear channel with the chi flowing unimpeded throughout your body. Now just stand in this position for a moment savoring its full feeling and sensations. Do not try to hold all of the images simultaneously, but go from visualization to visualization. Keep the mind circling from one to the other and stay with your feelings. In trying this out the first few times, you will find it helpful to have a friend read these directions to you as you assume the posture.
            So far we have spent four paragraphs describing how to stand before even doing the first exercise and yet, over and over, I have said what a simple system Tai Chi Ruler is! It is simple. At the beginning it is hard to remember all of these imaginings, but soon they come effortlessly. Remember that from another point of view, you have simply been standing there, and if you have followed the instructions consciously I am sure you have noticed a change in your experience. In our classes at Blue Poppy, we spend up to an hour initially teaching how to stand. We start all of our classes with from five to 15 minutes of just this sort of standing. It is this way of standing which forms the basis of all the rest of the Tai Chi Ruler practice!

            The benefits derived from the regular practice of Tai Chi Ruler are similar to those from any yoga system. Your outward body will become relaxed, soft, and pliable. You will find relese from chronic tension and gain improved structural realignment. You will feel grounded and, at the same time, very up. There will be a spring to your step and strength in your legs, the human foundation. There should be a greater fluidity in your movements, more rhyhtm, balance, smoothness, and poise. Your skin will become very soft and smooth, and your eyes will sparkle. Internally, you will need less sleep, have more energy, be free from disease, feel tranquil and composed, light and buoyant. You may be able to eat and drink large quantities with no ill result or cut down your intake of physical food to almost nothing. In Taoist terms you become very yin on the outside and very yang on the inside. It is said you become like an iron bar wrapped in cotton.
            Master Chao Chung Tao, who lived to be 118 and credited that longevity directly to his practice of Tai Chi Ruler, said that if you practice for just 120 days your whole life will be revolutionized. When my close friend, Sifu Gardner, was studying with Sifu Chan in New York, Master Chan said over and over again: “The benefits of Tai Chi Ruler are so wonderful, so effective, so immediate. The system is so simple. It’s so simple, it’s boring. It’s boring and none of you will do it. What a shame!” To everything there is a season, and it is my prediction that the words Chi Kung will become as well known, in the next ten years, in this country, as pranayama and perhaps yoga itself. 


Bob Flaws (born 1946) is a well-known practitioner of and prolific author and translator on Chinese medicine. He began his study and practice of Chinese medicine in 1977 under the late Eric (Xi-yu) Tao of Denver, Colorado and continued his Chinese medical education at the Shanghai College of Traditional Chinese Medicine from 1982 to 1986. In 1982, he and his wife, Honora Lee Wolfe, established Blue Poppy Press which eventually grew into Blue Poppy Enterprises, Inc. of Boulder, Colorado. Some of Bob Flaws' best known titles include:
  • The Treatment of Western Diseases with Chinese Medicine
  • The Secret of Chinese Pulse Diagnosis
  • Statements of Fact in Traditional Chinese Medicine
  • Chinese Medical Psychiatry
  • The Tao of Healthy Eating
  • A Compendium of Menstrual Diseases in Chinese Medicine
Up to 2009, Bob Flaws had written, translated, or edited almost 100 books on all aspects of Chinese medicine. He has also published hundreds of articles in both popular and professional journals all over the world.