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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Breathing and Tango

Being centered is essential to good tango, and breathing and self awareness are essential to being centered.

I have found that breathing in the way of Tai Chi, is the most effective way to create this internal self awareness.

To start with you should be relaxed and stacked up, head, over heart, over pelvis over feet, like a stack of blocks. Secondly your head should feel suspended as if it were filled with helium, or hung by a string from above. Your feet should be very grounded as if they grow roots into the earth each time you take a step. Finally the tip of your tongue should lightly touch the pallet just behind the ridge.

To describe what I am talking about think of it this way (I am only a casual student of Tai Chi and do not consider myself more than a beginner, but I have gleaned some very useful insights even through this limited study). First of all think of your breath as being able to go down much further than your diaphragm, think of it being able to reach the area near where your bladder is. When you breath in try to visualize the air taking a path down the inside of your sternum and reach the area I have described (Tan t'ien), you "belly" should be relaxed and expand outward (this allows more room within your abdomen for your diaphragm to deflect downward as well as lowering your center of gravity, a very good thing when it comes to maintaining balance). Additionally you pelvic floor should relax and expand downward during the inhalation.

Visualize the air following the path I have described and gathering into a spinning ball in this area maybe the size of a large tomato or small cantaloupe, this is your center in my thinking, and where your movements should initiate from, the position is not static and may be moved in many directions, for example forward, backward, diagonally, up, down, or sideways.

When exhaling the opposite of what I have described should occur with the air flowing up your spine, your "belly" contracting (exhale from the bottom up, never completely retract your abdominals), and your pelvic floor rising to complete the cycle(all our muscles should remain just right, that is to say nothing too tight nothing too relaxed). One should always think of this ball I have described as being in position and spinning (down in front up in the back) with some amount of weight (not floating as a balloon would, more like a ball of energy sand, if you will). By maintaining the position of this ball of energy a person will be able to control weight transfer more effectively.

This is a very simplified description of what I want to get across but I think it is sufficient to get a person thinking in a positive way about breathing control and centering.

When leading I try to always be aware of my breathing and use it as an indicator of when I am about to do something for example taking a deeper breath before doing a traspie, or sacada etc... I'll also try and tune in to my partners breathing as another level of connection, very satisfying!

Enjoy the experience, and I hope you get as much out of it as I have.