Rose from Chicago, IL asks:
“I have been learning Cheng Man Ching’s form for about 18 months and almost finished. In my general readings of Tai Chi I ran across a statement suggesting the avoidance of back bends. Something about it being negative for the body. Have you heard of this and do you know exactly why they would be frowned upon?”
First though, to answer a question you have not asked, Tai Chi is the study of a lifetime, and if you have finished your first learning, you should consider getting correction of your form.
And now to the question you asked about avoiding back bends.
Yes, I have heard of this and I can explain exactly why they are “frowned upon.”
There are two ways to bend the back, and both have reasons why you should not do so.
The first way the back can be bent is so that whether your head is straight up and down or leaning forward, your spine has a bend it.
This is “frowned upon” for a few reasons. First, when your spine is not straight, you cannot move efficiently. The second reason is because you cannot draw power up from your legs and out your hands if there is a “kink” in the spine. And third is about energy and is also the reason for not tilting, as explained in the paragraph below. Your energy cannot flow smoothly and easily up the spine for use in the body and beyond when the back has a bend in it.
The second way to bend the back isn’t actually bending it, but is often confused with doing so. This is tilting the whole spine forward, so that the spine is still straight, but not perpendicular to the ground. While this has applications in push hands, it is “fronwned upon” in form because it disrupts your flow of the Chi of earth into your body and also it makes the energy traveling up the spine work its way around the tilt at the bottom of the spine and so it is harder for you to experience the “Chi.”
At any rate, don’t frown upon too many things that are wrong, just do not do them. If you frown too much you may get wrinkly ;-).
In Tai Chi,