What is the Tai Chi Principle of Chen (Or Sinking Your Qi)?

The principle “Chen” is not the same as the Chen style of Tai Chi.

Chen (pronounced “chuen”) means sinking. When you sink, you integrate the external and the internal body, enhancing your stability and improving balance. Focusing on your Dantian strengthens your internal structures and spine, and improves your coordination.

Many Tai Chi masters believe sinking the qi is absolutely necessary. Not sinking the qi causes the qi to rise, and results in illnesses, insomnia, tension and many other physical and mental problems. When the body relaxes and the qi sinks below the Dantian, qi and blood flow freely. This promotes health and healing, and results in a centered mind.

Qi is very important for good health and we would die without it and its flow. A big part of sinking the qi is developing song and jing. Sinking allows the skeleton to effortlessly hold the weight of the body, and lets the mind soak deeper and deeper into the body. Nothing should be forced.

The main reason that we perform the form with naturally bent legs is so the conscious mind can feel the pressure in the thighs and tell the subconscious mind that we are sinking. In other words, sinking physically will cause the qi to sink to the Dantian. Move from the Dantian and the body will move in accordance with each posture, activating the qi in the particular meridian(s). It also promotes blood and energy flow throughout the body, and removes chronic damaging tension from your daily movements. 

Sinking the qi will allow the practitioner to achieve all the benefits that internal systems can offer. 

To practice, breathe in and out slowly and gently. Hold your head correctly and relaxed without tension in the neck or shoulders. Lower your elbows to relax the shoulders without overextending the arms. Keep your armpits slightly open and arms slightly bent in a curve. Upright alignment allows Qi to flow from the upper to the lower body.  Focus your mind on the lower Dantian, just below the navel, when exhaling. Allow the body to sink effortlessly using focus instead of force. Relax your Dantian as you lower your abdomen and pelvis bones, and allow your body to settle. Loosen and open your hip joints and waist with your knees bent naturally. When transferring your weight from one leg to the other, relax your body weight down into the weight-bearing leg and allow the heavy feeling to move through you without weighing you down. Visualize your spine elongating and the energy flowing down through your leg, into the earth. This will improve your balance, and your moves will become more effortless. You will feel lighter and more open.

These principles, not the forms and choreography, are the foundation of Tai Chi. However, once you are familiar with the choreography, break down the movements in detail and work on the underlying principles which make Tai Chi “Tai Chi,” rather than just moving our arms and legs. Remember to focus, relax and sink your qi when you practice. You may be surprised at the difference it will make!