Developing Roots in Tai Chi

The strongest trees have the deepest roots. Borrowing their strength from the ground, trees are able to be upright for hundreds of years.

Developing root is very important in Tai Chi because it is root that enables all movement. It is at the core of our Tai Chi practice and it effects everything we do.

Rooting means the feet are rooted into the ground by physically sinking the body weight. The whole body must be sung and the Chi must sink to the Dan Tien (located two fingers-width below the navel) so that the power generated from the feet can be transferred to the upper body.

When one is rooted the upper body is empty, the lower body full. With the whole body connected and working together.

Rooting involves remaining very stable, upright and balanced. Without embodying these qualities, it will be difficult to practice Tai Chi. The first part of being upright is keeping the back straight. This completely upright spine is then placed right over your full foot so that the spine rests right over your bubbling well on that foot. As the spine rests over that foot it enhances your ability to sink onto that foot, and then try to bend your legs deeply and feel a connection between your bubbling well, and your sacrum. As your sacrum approaches your bubbling springs, your center of gravity lowers, increasing the power in your legs while relaxing your upper body.

There are a few ways to develop your root. One can stand still by holding postures for long periods of time. With precise body alignment these static postures will attach the joints and various parts of the body together, and thus to the ground. When this happens one’s lower body feels like it is planted into the ground like a huge tree, and the upper body is able to move freely.

Another exercise is to practice moving the root, shifting weight from one leg to the other. One is pulling the root out of one leg and putting it into the other. The body must not rise up in shifting from leg to leg, because the power generated will be dissipated and lost. When the weight is on one leg the body’s structure is naturally aligned with that leg. One can also foster rooting by going through Tai Chi set, however this is more difficult because one must be able to do the forms correctly e.g the body alignments, coordination, and moving the joints and various parts of the body as one unit etc.

Soft, slow, gentle flowing movements require a strong and firm base in the foot. Once the foot is firm, the other parts of the body can move freely and stay relaxed. The foot’s root itself should not be too relaxed or loose. Rooting and sinking occurs when you consciously relax the entire body, while maintaining an erect posture. This ensures that the bulk of the weight in the body is supported by the thighs, thereby allowing the pelvis and sacrum to swivel and shift freely in all directions to maintain constant directional equilibrium. When the soles of the feet are strongly secured on the ground, the mind and body will be relaxed. In turn, a relaxed body with a peaceful mind will loosen the joints, softening the muscles, and will open all the vessels and meridians. That allows the inner energy to flow easily, and to move the upper body freely, without interrupting the root. The root will continue to stay firm and sturdy. This will achieve the soft, slow and beautiful fluid movements of Tai Chi.