Relaxed, Loose, Open, Yielding, Free, Responsive, Effortless, Spacious
Song, Sung, Fang Song
A Defining Characteristic and Essential Quality of Taijiquan and Qigong Practice 

Researched by
Michael P. Garofalo

Bibliography     Quotations     Notes

Rooting and Centering     Wuji (Empty State) and Standing Meditation

Somaesthetic Practices and Theory

Taijiquan     Qigong     Index

Cloud Hands Blog




Song - Loosen, Relax, Elastic, Soft, Spongy






Bibliography and Links
Relaxation, Looseness, Openness, Effortlessness, Calmness  
(Song   Sung   Shoong   Ching Song   Fang Song)


Aligned, Relaxed, Resilient:  The Physical Foundations of Mindfulness.   By Will Johnson.  Boston, Shambhala, 2000.  137 pages.  ISBN: 1570625182.   VSCL. 

Alphabetical Index to the Cloud Hands Website

Anatomy of Hatha Yoga: A Manual for Students, Teachers and Practitioners
.  By H. David Coulter.  Foreward by Timothy McCall.  Honesdale, Pennsylvania, Body and Breath, 2001.  Index, bibliography, appendices, 623 pages.  ISBN: 0970700601.  2002 winner of the Benjamin Franklin Award for Health, Wellness and Nutrition.  VSCL. 

Animal Frolics Qigong    

Autogenic Therapy: Vol. 1. Autogenic Methods
.   By Johannes H. Schultz and Wolfgang Luthe.  New York, Grune and Stratton, 1969.  

Autogenic Training: A Psychophysiologic Approach in Psychotherapy.   By Johannes H. Schultz and Wolfgang Luthe.   New York, Grune and Stratton, 1959.  

Autogenics and Visual Imagery   By R. R. Danielson.   44Kb.  

Autogenics Training   By Raymond Lloyd Richmond.  49Kb.  

Awareness Through Movement; Health Exercises for Personal Growth.  Easy to Do Health Exercises to Improve Your Posture, Vision, Imagination and Personal Awareness.   By Moshe Feldenkrais.  San Francisco, Harper Collins, 1972, 1977.  173 pages.  ISBN: 0062503227.  VSCL. 

The Big Book of Relaxation: Simple Techniques to Control the Excess Stress in Your Life.  By Larry Blumenfield, Shakti Gawain, Dan Millman and Lilias Folan.  Relaxation Company, 1994.  ISBN: 1559612827.  VSCL. 

Cheng Man-ch'ing: Master of Five Excellences.  Translation and commentary by Mark Hennessy.  Berkeley, California, Frog, Ltd., 1995.  166 pages. ISBN:  188331903X.  Discussion of Master Cheng's work in calligraphy, poetry, painting, medicine and tai chi chuan.  VSCL. 

Chen Style of Taijiquan:  Bibliography, Links, Resources, Quotes

Chinese Boxing: Masters and Methods
.  By Robert W. Smith.  Berkeley, CA, North Atlantic Books, 1974, 1990.  ISBN: 155643085X.  

Cloud Hands Blog  By Mike Garofalo.

Cloud Hands Blog Posts about Relaxing, Being Loose, Song

Cultivating Stillness: A Taoist Manual for Transforming Body and Mind.  Translated with an introduction by Eva Wong.  With a commentary by Shui-ch'ing Tzu.  Illustrated by Hun-yen Tsu.  Boston, Shambhala Press, 1992.  156 pages.  ISBN: 0877736871.  VSCL. 

Dancing at Dawn: Taijiquan 

Dao De Jing, Laozi (The Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu)

Dao House: Of Discourses and Dreams
   "A compendium of links to great online Daoist (Taoist) resources."  An excellent selection of fine links with informative and fair annotations; all presented in an attractive and easy to read format.  The in-depth and creative collection of links are arranged by 18 topics.  

Daoism: Bibliography, Links, Resources, Quotations, Lessons 

The Dao of Taijiquan: Way to Rejuvenation.   By Tsung Hwa Jou.  Charles E. Tuttle, 1998. 3rd Edition.  233 pages.  ISBN: 0804813574.  An outstanding textbook on Tai Chi Chuan.  All styles are introduced and explained.  A very informative introduction to the philosophy and practices of Tai Chi Chuan.  VSCL. 

Discussion on Relaxation  10Kb.  

Eight Section Brocade Qigong   By Michael P. Garofalo.  History and purpose of this popular chi kung practice.  Descriptions for each of the eight movements, health benefits, comments, variations, extensive links and bibliography, resources, quotations, animated .gif photographs of the movements, and charts.  HTML format.  65 pages in Word.doc format.  This file is updated on a regular basis as I add new material, links, notes, and resources.  A.K.A:  Baduanjin, Pa Tuan Jin, Eight Silken Treasures, Ba Duan Jin, Pal Dan Gum, Ba Duan Gin,  Pa Tin Kam, Otto Pezzi di Tesoro, Acht Delen Brokaat, Les Huit Exercices del la Soie, Eight Silken Treasures, Brocade Qigong, Wudang Brocade Qigong, Silk Treasures Qigong, First Eight Buddha Lohan Hands. 

The Essence of T'ai Chi.   By Waysun Liao.  Boston, Shambhala, 1995. Shambhala Pocket Classics.  162 pages.  ISBN: 1570620392.  A discussion of shoong on pages 56-61. VSCL. 

Five Animal Frolics Qigong 

Five Elements Qigong

Frolics Qigong 

Gardening and Relaxation   

The Healing Path of Yoga.  Time-Honored Wisdom and Scinetifically Proven Methods that Alleviate Stress, Open Your Heart, and Enrich Your Life.   By Nischala Joy Devi.  New York, Three Rivers Press, 2000.  Index, 238 pages.  ISBN: 0609805029.   VSCL.    

The Healing Promise of Qi: Creating Extraordinary Wellness Through Qigong and Tai Chi 
By Roger Jahnke, O.M.D..  Chicago, Contemporary Books, 2002.   Index, notes, extensive recommended reading list, 316 pages.  ISBN: 0809295288.  VSCL. 

"How Do I Relax?"   By Marvin Smalheiser.  T'ai Chi, Vol. 23, No. 6, December 1999, p. 49.  

How to Calm Down: Three Deep Breaths to Peace of Mind.  By Fred L. Miller and Mark Bryan.  Warner Books, 2003.  128 pages.  ISBN:  0446679712.

The Intrinsic Energies of T'ai Chi Ch'uan.  Compiled and translated by Stuart Alve Olson.  Chen Kung Series, Volume Two.   Saint Paul, Minnesota, Dragon Door Publications, 1994.  Index, 194 pages.  ISBN: 093804513X.  VSCL. 

Learn to Relax: A Practical Guide to Easing Tension and Conquering Stress.  By Mike George.  San Francisco, Chronicle Books, 1998.  Index, bibliography, 159 pages.  High quality layout, artwork, and typography.  ISBN:  0811819086.  25 good techniques for helping you relax and reduce stress.  A beautiful book with sage advice.  

Lifestyle Advice From Wise Persons 

"Li Yaxuan On Relaxation and Skills."  Interview with Chen Longxiang.  T'ai Chi: The International Magazine of T'ai Chi Chuan.  Vol. 27, No. 4, August, 2003, pp. 21-25.    

Lohan Shaolin Buddhist Qigong  Eighteen Buddha Hands Qigong. 

Magic Pearl Qigong: A Tai Chi Medicine Ball Exercise Routine and Meditation Technique.  Developed by Mike Garofalo. 

Magic Pearl Qigong

Meditation: Links, Bibliography, Notes, Quotes.

Meditation Therapy.   By Andrew Shugyo Bonnici.  

Muscle and Tendon Changing Qigong - Yi Jin Jing  

One Old Druid's Final Journey: Notebooks of the Librarian of Gushen Grove   

Opening the Energy Gates of Your Body: Qigong for Life Long Health.  By Bruce Kumar Frantzis.  Fairfax, California, Energy Arts, 1993, 2006.  Index, 300 pages.  ISBN: 9781583941461.  VSCL. 

Philosophy in the Flesh: The Embodied Mind and Its Challenge to Western Thought.  By Geogre Lakoff and Mark Johnson.  Basic Books, Perseu Books, 1999.  Index, bibliography, 624 pages.  ISBN: 0465056741.   "The mind is inherently bebodied.  Thought is mostly unconscious.  Abstract concepts are largely metaphorical."  

The Power of Relaxation
.   By Sifu John Adams.  Instructional videotape.

The Practice of Happiness: Exercises and Techniques for Developing Mindfulness, Wisdom and Joy.   By Mirko Fryba.  Translated by Michael H. Kohn.  Boston, Shambhala, 1995.  Index, 214 pages.  MGC.  ISBN: 1570621233.   

Progressive Muscle Relaxation  By Bernd Harmsen.  PMR.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation.   By Raymond Lloyd Richmond.   34Kb.  PMR.  "There are two steps in the self-administered Progressive Muscle Relaxation procedure: (a) deliberately tensing muscle groups, and (b) releasing the induced tension."

Progressive Relaxation.  By E. Jacobson.  Chicago, IL, University of Chicago Press, 1938.  PMR. 

Qigong: Links and Bibliography 

Qigong Empowerment: A Guide to Medical, Taoist, Buddhist and Wushu Energy Cultivation Qi: Bibliography, Links, Resources and Quotations  By Liang, Shou-Yu and Wu, Wen-Ching.  Edited by Denise Breiter-Wu.  Rhode Island, Way of the Dragon Publishing, 1997.  Index, glossary, 348 pages.  ISBN: 18896590.  VSCL. 

Qigong Relaxation Therapy and Mind Expansion
.   By Bill Douglas.   CD.

Realms of the Dragons Website  

Relax and Renew: Restful Yoga for Stressful Times
.   By Judith Lasater, Ph.D., P.T.  Introduction by Mary Pullig Schatz.  Illustrated by Halstead Hannah.  Rodmell Press, 1985.  ISBN: 0962713848.  VSCL. 

The Relaxation and Stress Reduction Workbook.  By Martha Davis, Matthew McKay, and Elizabeth R. Eshelman.   New Harbinger Publications, 5th Edition, 2000.  276 pages. ISBN: 1572242140.

Relaxation, Calmness, Sung, Poise, Effortlessness 

Relaxation Qigong   

The Relaxation Response.   By Herbert Benson and Miriam Z. Klipper.   Harper Torchbook, Reissue Edition, 2000.  240 pages.  ISBN: 0380006766.  First published in 1975.  This groundbreaking book was based on studies at Boston's Beth Israel Hospital and the Harvard Medical School.  Dr. Herbert Benson showed that relaxation techniques such as meditation have immense physical benefits, from lowered blood pressure to a reduction in heart disease.

Relaxation Techniques   

Relaxation Techniques and Tai Chi

Relaxation Techniques for Relief of Anxiety and Stress
.   By Susan M. Lark, M.D.. 

Relaxation Techniques - Sports Coach   

"Relaxing and Integrating Body Movement."  By Nando Raynolds.  T'ai Chi, Vol. 25, No. 4, August, 2001, pp. 33-35.  

Relaxing into Your Being: The Water Method of Taoist Meditation Series, Vol. 1 
By Bruce Kumar Frantzis.  Fairfax, California, Clarify Press, 1998.  Reader's Edition.  208 pages.  Republished by: North Atlantic Books, 2001, ISBN: 1556434073.  VSCL. 

Relaxing More Effectively Through Yoga     

Rooting, Grounding, Centering, and Balancing in T'ai Chi Ch'uan and Chi Kung 

Rooting: Posts to the Cloud Hands Blog

The Root of Chinese Qigong: Secrets of Health, Longevity, & Enlightenment.
  By Yang Jwing-Ming, PhD., 1946-.  YMAA Chi Kung Series #1.   Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts, Yang's Martial Arts Association, 1989.  Glossary, 272 pages.   ISBN: 0940871076.  VSCL. 

Secrets of the Dragon Gate: Ancient Taoist Practices for Health, Wealth, and the Art of Sexual Yoga.  By Dr. Steven Liu and Jonathan Blank.  New York, Jeremy P. Tarcher, Penguin, 2011.  214 pages.  ISBN: 9781585428434.  VSCL. 

Self Relaxation: Chinese Qigong Meditation.  By Yang, Jwing-Ming.  

Shambhala   The Way of the Warrior includes fearlessness.

Shaolin Buddhist Lohan Qigong 

Silk Reeling Qigong  

Somaesthetic Practices and Theory

Standing Meditation, Wuji Posture, Rooting, Zhan Zhuang Qigong

Strength Training: Taijiquan, Qigong, Kung Fu and Yoga

Stress Management
.   Melissa Stoppler, M.D.  Articles, news and links.

Stress Management and Emotional Wellness Links.    

Subject Index to the Cloud Hands Website  

Sun Style of Taijiquan:  Bibliography, Links, Resources, Quotes, Lists

T'ai Chi Ch'uan: Links and Bibliography

Tai Chi for Health and Relaxation

Tai Chi: Health for Life.  How and Why It Works for Health, Stress Relief, and Longevity.  By Bruce Frantzis.  Berkeley, California, Blue Snake Books, Energy Arts Inc., c 2006. Index, 320 pages.  ISBN: 1583941444.   VSCL.   

Tai Chi Qigong For Stress Control and Relaxation.   By Gary Kohr.   Heian International Publishing Col, 1995.  ISBN:  0893467952.  Review

Taijiquan Classics

Take Your Time: Finding Balance in a Hurried World.  By Eknath Easwaran (1909-1999).  Hyperion Press, 1998.   240 pages.  ISBN: 0786883545.  

The Taoist Body.  By Kristofer Schipper.  Translated by Karen C. Duval.  Foreword by Norman Girardot.  Berkeley, California, University of California Press, 1993.  Originally published in French in 1982 as Le Corps Taoiste.  Notes, bibliography, index, xx, 273 pages.  ISBN: 0520082249.  VSCL. 

Taoist Classics.  The Collected Translations of Thomas Cleary.  Boston, Shambhala Press.  Four Volumes:  Volume One, 296 pages, 2003.   Volume Two, 640 pages, 1999.   Volume Three, 304 pages, 2001.   Volume Four, 464 pages, 2003.  

Taoist Meditation and Longevity Techniques.   Edited by Livia Kohn.  Michigan Monographs in Chinese Studies, 1989.  398 pages.  ISBN: 0892640855.  VSCL. 

The Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu  (Dao De Jing, Laozi)  Selected Quotations, Commentaries, Guides, Indexes

Taoist Studies and Practices: Ripening Peaches 

Temple Qigong

Therapies - Autogenics.  "Autogenics is a relaxation technique involving a series of attention-focusing exercises designed to induce relaxation and enhance the body’s self-healing powers. Similar to self-hypnosis and meditation its purpose is to enable people to learn how to put themselves in a relaxed state releasing muscle tension and dealing with anxiety without the need of a trainer or therapists."

There Are No Secrets: Professor Cheng Man-ch'ing and His Tai Chi Chuan.  By Wolfe Lowenthal, 1939-.  Berkeley, California, North Atlantic Books, 1991.  VSCL. 

Thirteen Treasures Walking Qigong

Thirty Scripts for Relaxation Imagery and Inner Healing.   By J. T. Lusk.  

"Training Softly to Develop Strength."  By Tu-Ky Lam.  T'ai Chi: The International Magazine of T'ai Chi Ch'uan, Volume 28,  No. 3, June 2004, pp. 14-17.  

"Understanding Flowing and Firmness."  By Ting Kuo-Piao.  T'ai Chi, Volume 24, No. 5, October, 2000, pp. 49-50.

Valley Spirit Center, Red Bluff, California 

VSCL = Valley Spirit Center Library in Red Bluff, California 

The Way of Qigong: The Art and Science of Chinese Energy Healing.  By Kenneth S. Cohen.  Foreword by Larry Dossey.  New York Ballantine Books, 1997.  Index, notes, appendices, 427 pages.  ISBN: 0345421094.  Chapter 8, pp. 97-110: Fang Song Gong - The Art of Relaxation.  Mr. Cohen describes the attributes of active relaxation: awareness and tranquility, effortlessness, sensitivity, warmth and rootedness.  VSCL. 

Ways to Relax
   Notes and links.  

The Web That Has No Weaver: Understanding Chinese Medicine.  By Ted J. Kaptchuk, O.M.D..  Chicago, McGraw Hill Contemporary Books, 2nd Edition, 2000.  Index, bibliography, appendices, notes, 500 pages.  Foreword by Margaret Caudill, M.D., and by Andrew Weil, M.D.  ISBN: 0809228408.  An excellent introduction to traditional Chinese medicine and modern research on the topic.  VSCL. 

Wild Goose Qigong: Links, Bibliography, Quotes, Notes 

Wisdom of the Body Moving: An Introduction to Body-Mind Centering
.  By Linda Hartley.  Berkeley, California, North Atlantic Books, 1989, 1905.  Index, bibliography, 346 pages.  ISBN: 1556431740.  Excellent information on the human body, movement patterns in
infants, touching, yoga exercises and sensation-feeling aspects of movements.  BMC is a therapeutic style of bodywork.   VSCL.   

Wu Qin Xi, Five Animal Frolics Qigong 




Yang Style Taijiquan   Bibliography, Links, Lists, Resources, Quotes.   

Yoga and You: Energizing and Relaxing Yoga for New and Experienced Students
.  By Esther Myers.  Boston, Shambhala,1997.  Index, 244 pages.  ISBN: 1570623201.

The Yoga of Breath: A Step-by-Step Guide to Pranayama.  Boston, Shambhala, 2002.  Index, notes, 304 pages.  ISBN: 1570628890.  VSCL. 

Yoga of the Mahamudra: The Mystical Way of Balance.  By Will Johnson.  Rochester, Vermont, Inner Traditions, 2005.   151 pages.  ISBN:  0892816996.  VSCL.   

Yoga: The Spirit and Practice of Moving into Stillness.   By Erich Schiffmann.  New York, Pocket Books, Simon and Schuster, 1996.  357 pages.  ISBN: 0671534807.  VSCL. 









Animal Frolics Qigong

Bear     Tiger     Monkey     Deer     Crane     Dragon     Animal Frolics



Cloud Hands Blog





Relaxation, Looseness, Openness, Calmness, Effortlessness
(Song, Sung, Shoong, Fang Song)


"The principle of sung implies loosening one's muscles and releasing one's tensions, giving up one's energy externally but preserving it internally so that one's body will be sensitive and alert enough to adapt itself to any circumstance."
The Ten Guiding Points of Tai Chi Chuan



"Shoong means "to relax, "to loose, "to give up," "to yield."  It is a term that has been adapted and incorporated into the specialized terminology traditionally used by T'ai Chi masters.  It is said that when the famous T'ai Chi master Yang, Chen-fu was training the late master Cheng Man-c'hing, Master Yang reminded his student daily to "be shoong, be really, really shoong."  "If your are not shoong, " Master Yang would say, "even just a little bit not shoong, you are not in the stage of shoong.  Your are then in the stage of a loser of T'ai Chi; you will be defeated."
-  Waysun Liao,
The Essence of T'ai Chi, 1995, p. 56



"To be relaxed means to release tension, but not to let go of substance.  There is a quality in-between stiff and loose which is stable, yet flexible, that has fullness without being rigid, that is calm in motion yet conveys a vigorous presence.  For lack of an equivalent English word, I refer to this concept as flowing within firmness, firmness within flowing.  Flowing and firmness do not gain support from a rigid skeletal posture or strength from muscular tension.  Rather, their integrity comes from expansion.  Expansion is the ability to spread out in all directions.  This is the key to relaxing without collapsing."
-  Ting Kuo-Piao, Understanding Flowing and Firmness, 2000



"Relaxation of the whole body means the conscious relaxation of all the joints, and this organically links up all parts of the body in a better way.  This does not mean softness.  It requires a lot of practice in order to understand this point thoroughly.  Relaxation also means the "stretching" of the limbs, which gives you a feeling of heaviness.  (This feeling of heaviness or stiffness is a concrete reflection of strength.)  This feeling is neither a feeling of softness nor stiffness, but somewhere in between.  It should not be confined to a specific part, but involves the whole body.  It is like molten iron under high temperature.  So relaxation "dissolves" stiff strength in very much the same way.  Stiff strength, also called "clumsy strength," undergoes a qualitative change after thousands of times of "dissolution" exercises.  Just like iron which can be turned into steel, so "clumsy strength" can be turned into force, and relaxation is a means of gradually converting it into force.  Our ancestors put it well: "Conscious relaxation will unconsciously produce force."  There is truth in this statement."
-  Yang Zhenduo, "Yang Style Taijiquan", p 16



"The most important point of t'aichi is relax.  Relaxation helps your body repel illness; it allows your ch'i and blood to flow smoothly; it harmonizes the sinews and vessels, balances the Five Internal Organs, and opens the Triple Burners - how can any disease invade your body?  The ancients said that the best doctor cured those not yet ill, and t'aichi is the finest medicine of the best doctor." 
-  Professor Cheng Man-ch'ing, Taijiquan Master and Doctor of Chinese Medicine,
Cheng Man-ch'ing: Master of Five Excellences



"As far as a practitioner of Taijiquan is concerned, most important is that he should calm himself, banish distracting thoughts from his mind, relax both body and mind and not be constrained.   In this way, the inborn inspiration and natural stableness will revive from varieties that are twisted.  Do not be distracted, the quietness and stableness are important."
-   Li Yaxuan 



"To see the Self (Atman) one must become calm, controlled, quiet, patiently enduring, and contented."
Brhadaranyaka Upanisad, 800 BCE



"'Sung' is often translated as 'relax', however as Louis Swaim observes etymologically the term 'Sung' is based on a character for 'long hair that hangs down' - that is, hair that is loosened and expanded, not 'drawn up'.  This 'loose' and 'expanded' feeling is what is meant by relaxed in the context of Tai Chi Chuan."
Bath Tai Chi Chuan



"We are told to be in a state of "Sung" which has been mistranslated as to "relax". So the early instructors did the whole form with even paced movements, slow and calm for the whole form. This is not yin and yang!  Sung actually means something like "moving without the conscious knowledge of movement".  It does not mean to completely relax, as we would fall on the ground if we were to do that.  However, within this state of sung, there must also be yin and yang balance without losing the "sung".  So built into the "Old Yang Style of Yang Lu-ch'uan" we have movements that balance each other out by having both yin and yang movements. We will be moving along calmly, slowly and in as a relaxed state as possible, then will come an energy release point in the form where we perform a movement or set of moves that are totally explosive. Not tense, but explosive still retaining that sung ideal. Then we will be back instantly into the calm and the flowing movements, just like the great river or nature in general."
-  Erle Montaigue,
The Nature of Tai Chi Chuan



"Activities like T'ai Chi and Yoga offer an incredible opportunity for promoting optimal health.  These exercises train a high degree of internal awareness and powerfully stimulate the relaxation response. This combination of awareness, relaxation and exercise has tremendous benefits for reducing stress, enhancing the immune system and generating physical and emotional health."
Fitness Matters - Life Matters



"The rigid person is a disciple of death;
the soft, supple, and delicate are lovers of live."
Tao Te Ching, Chapter 76



"This is not to say that T'ai-chi does not require effort.  It does.  But it requires quite as much faith.  I asked Cheng Man-ch'ing once whey none of his students approached him in skill.  His terse answer: "No faith."  Faith in what?  Simply in the twin principles of relax and sink, in not resisting and always remaining gently attached to the opponent."
-   Robert W. Smith,
Chinese Boxing: Masters and Methods, 1974, p. 26.



"There are three golden steps to relaxation.  First, have your body symmetrical.  For example, if you are standing, check that you are standing upright, with your shoulders level and your arms hanging loosely at your sides. Then loosen all your muscles.  Don't worry how or why you do it; just do it.  Second, have your lips gently open and smile from your heart.  Again, just do it.  Third, close your eyes gently and do not think of anything.  Then just let go. All these are easier done than described, and need not worry about the principles behind them.  Just do them and enjoy the benefits."
-  Sifu Wong Kiew Kit,
On Shoong



"A flower is relaxed."
-  Charlotte Selver



"The Chen Old Frame First Routine helps to instill the three characteristics of song (looseness), yuan (roundness, centerness), and rou (pliancy).  Song means not using stiff force.  Many practitioners of Taijiquan will probably have been exhorted repeatedly to look for the quality of fangsong, or to let loose.  Western texts often translate the term simply as "to relax," which fails to capture the energetic state that is actually required.  the renowned Taijiquan historian Gu Luixin describes this state as one of the essential features of Chen style Taijiquan.  He explained, "... you reuire looseness (song) to get pliancy (rou) and then softness to get hardness (gang).  From hardness you need to be able to revert to softness.  So the goal is to simultaneously have softness as well as hardness and to be able to alternate hardness and softness."
-  David Gaffney and Davidine Siaw-Voon Sim, The Essence of Taijiquan, 2012, p.185



"In meditation, effort must be applied in a direction opposite to what we are used to.  Our "effort" must be to relax ever more deeply.  We must ultimately release the tension from both our muscles and our thoughts.  When we relax so deeply that we are able to internalize the energy of the senses, the mind becomes focused and a tremendous flow of energy is awakened.  ...  Meditation is a continuous process, and can be said to have three stages: relaxation, interiorization, and expansion."
-  John Novak, Lessons in Meditation, p. 14



"To practice mindfulness of the body, we need to kindle an awareness of sensations, accept what we have kindled exactly as it appears, and then surrender to the process of change that inevitably occurs.  Kindling is a function of alignment.  Acceptance is experienced through relaxation.  Surrender is made possible through resilience.  It is not really possible to separate out these three aspects of the posture of meditation into discrete units any more than it would be possible to conceive of the three faces of a pyramid as distinct entities, unrelated to one another."
-   Will Johnson,
Aligned, Relaxed, Resilient, 2000, p. 15



"Song is translated into English as relax. But this meaning is generally regarded as incomplete.  It also can mean loosening, releasing tension, relaxed alertness. To my mind the state of Song is directly related to correct posture and structural alignment as described in the Ten Essential Points by Yang Chen-fu.  By realigning the body to attain and maintain correct natural alignment of the skeleton several things result. Internal organs are able to locate in the body as they were designed to enabling them the opportunity to function at their optimum. Secondly, correct natural alignment enables the skeleton to assume its job of supporting the body as it was designed to do. Consequently the ligaments, tendons, tissue and muscles of the body can also assume the particular job they were designed for, namely to support the skeleton and not expend additional energy or create unnecessary tensions.  If we can achieve and maintain this natural state, then we can allow the body to function naturally and optimally. In this state, we have a chance of achieving the state of Song from the inside out rather than superficially from the outside in as we all tend to do."
-   Ian Etcell,
How to Improve Your Tai Chi, 2003



"Relaxation occurs by degrees.  On one hand, a too-high level of relaxation or lack of muscle tone will produce limpness and will undermine our ability to both maintain our structure and get the job done.  On the other hand, to much tension produces stiffness and a lack of sensivity and responsiveness.  ...  Relaxation is where the level of tone in the muscles is balanced and the joint is mobile or loose."
-  Nando Raynolds, Relaxing and Integrating Body Movement, 2001



"The first principle of Tai Chi Chuan is relaxation, without which there is no Tai Chi.  The initial lecture Professor Cheng Man-ch'ing gave to each beginning class was on the importance of relax.  "The whole body must be relaxed, loose and open, so that the ch'i, the vital energy, can pass through without blockage.  This is the principle of Tai Chi as a health exercise, as well as a system of self-defense."  Relaxation is not simply becoming limp.  There should be a quality of vitality about it.  The beginner must focus entirely on letting go of tension and hard force, but, building on that foundation, the practitioner must contemplate the difference between going limp, which is lifeless, and the relaxation of a cat, which is completely vital and alert."
There Are No Secrets: Professor Cheng Man-ch'ing and His Tai Chi Chuan, p. 6.  



"The essence of collecting body and mind is in openness and calm.  Empty and open the mind, and spirit and essence join.  Calm the body, and vitality and sense are still.  When the will is greatly stabilized, the three bases - vitality, energy, and spirit - merge into one.  This is called "the three flowers gathering on the peak," "the five energies returning to the source," and "the spiritual embryo congealing."  Refining vitality into energy is the first pass - the body is not agitated.  Refining energy into spirit is the middle pass - the mind is not agitated.  Refining spirit back into openness is the upper pass - the will is not agitated."
The Book of Balance and Harmony:  A Taoist Anthology of the 13th Century, Translated with an Introduction by Thomas Cleary, 1989, p. 27 



"To develop listening energy in accordance with t'ai chi ch'uan principle you must first rid yourself of the hindrances of external muscular force.  Loosen and relax the waist and legs; meditate on stilling the mind; accumulate the ch'i and concentrate the spirit, otherwise you cannot develop listening."
-   Chen Kung, Intrinsic Energies of T'ai Chi Ch'uan



"The more an individual advances his development the greater will be his ease of action, the ease synonymous with harmonious organization of the senses and the muscles.  When activity is freed of tension and superfluous effort the resulting ease makes for greater sensitivity and better discrimination, which make for still greater ease in action. He will now be able to identify unnecessary effort even in actions that formerly seemed easy to him.  As this sensitivity in action is further refined, it continues to become increasingly delicate up to a certain level.  In order to pass this limit there must be improved organization of the entire personality.  But at this stage further advance will no longer be achieved slowly and gradually, but by a sudden step.  Ease of action is developed to the point where it becomes a new quality with new horizons."
-   Moshe Feldenkrais,
Awareness Through Movement, p. 87.



"Perfections in an asana is achieved when the effort to perform it becomes effortless and the infinite being within is reached.  
-   Patañjali, Yoga Sutras, 300 B.C.



"A yoga practitioner can be considered firm in his postures when persevering effort is no longer needed.  In this stability, he grasps the physiology of each asana [yoga posture] and penetrates within, reaching the minutest parts of the body.  Then he gains the art of relaxation, maintaining the firmness and extension of the body and consciousness.  In this way he develops a sensitive mind.  With this sensitivity, he trains his thinking faculty to read, study and penetrate the infinite.  He is immersed in the boundless state of oneness which is indivisible and universal."
-   B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on the Yoga Sutras of Pantañjali, p. 151



"Song is not merely the absence of tension, but rather the absence of unnecessary tension. Song is the art of becoming aware of an inhibiting the habitual contraction of muscles due to emotional stress and poor habits of posture, breathing and movement.  ...  Active relaxation is a form of qigong in itself; it is also essential preparation for all styles of qigong.  It includes the following attributes: awareness and tranquility, effortlessness, sensitivity, warmth and rootedness."
-  Kenneth Cohen, The Way of Qigong, 1997, p 97.



"The reason that one can acquire the art of T'ai Chi by slow motion is that its practice is based entirely upon the natural way, not stressing external muscular force and holding of the breath, but emphasizing the use of the mind to direct all movements.  Using external muscular force make movement clumsy; holding the breath hinders the circulation of the blood.  Therefore it is of the utmost importance to sink the ch'i to the tan t'ien and completely relax the entire body, without exerting the slightest energy.  The principle of T'ai Chi is to control action by tranquility and to conquer the forceful and unyielding with the gentle and yielding.  From nothingness something is produced: it look s like nothing, though it is something; it looks soft, but in reality it is firm."
-   T. T. Liang, T'ai Chi Ch'uan for Health and Self-Defense, 1977, p. 74.  



"True relaxation is always a dropping into ourselves, a movement toward our core and very center of self.  In addition to distorting what we can see, hear, and feel, the inability to relax and release tension will inevitably fuel the involuntary internal monologue of the mind.  As we become more enmeshed in the drama that our mind is scripting about ourselves, our ability to relate in a wholesome and relaxed manner with the current condition and circumstances of our lives becomes further distorted. ... The relaxation of tension in our bodies melts the armoring that keeps our bodies hard and inflexible.  This hardening of the tissue creates a layer of numbness that keeps our awareness of the rich web of shimmering sensations concealed and contained.  Relaxation allows the armoring to begin to soften and melt away.  The inevitable result is a much greater awareness of sensational presence and a diminution of the ongoing involuntary monologue of the mind.  Learning how to relax by surrendering the weight of the body to the pull of gravity and remaining standing at the same time significantly catalyzes the practice of mindfulness."
-  Will Johnson, Aligned, Relaxed and Resilient, 2000, p. 55



"Asana now refers to all the yoga postures.  In Pantanjali's Yoga Sutras, it meant the place on which the yogi sits and the manner in which he sits there.  All of the postures require a clear, conscious awareness of contact with the ground.  According to Pantanjali, asana is both firm and relaxed.  This is achieved through relaxation of effort, or by a mental state of balance.  The idea that firm and stable posture could be achieved through relaxation of effort seems to be a contradiction.  We need to learn how to find strength and stability without effort and stress."
-   Esther Myers, Yoga and You, 1996, p. 14



    "Sung [Relax] the waist. The waist is the commander of the whole body. If you can sung the waist, then the two legs will have power and the lower part will be firm and stable. Substantial and insubstantial change, and this is based on the turning of the waist. It is said "the source of the postures lies in the waist. If you cannot get power, seek the defect in the legs and waist."
-  Yang Cheng-fu (1883-1936), 
Yang's Ten Important Points



"Harmony is itself paradise.  The "miraculous" element is the way that relaxation, well-being, and harmony allow the heart-mind to take control of and focus the greatness of the ch'i, the power of thought, and the effect that this can have in ourselves and in the world."
-   Wolfe Lowenthal, Gateway to the Miraculous, 1994, p. 14.



"Sung is probably one of the most important terms in t'ai chi ch'uan. It implies a very high level of alertness, sensitivity, nimbleness and lightness, with an inordinate mindfulness for the conservation of energy.  ...  Sung is the very modus operandi of all energies in t'ai chi ch'uan."
-   Stuart A. Olson, Intrinsic Energies of T'ai Chi Ch'uan, 1994, p. 55



"In Taiji, "relaxation" (fang song) has a very specific meaning: it is active and it is connected.  Any part of the body that is completely limp is, in fact, not relaxed.  Limpness usually implies a stiffness or blockage effectively disconnecting the limp part from the rest of your structure.  Many beginners, when they see the quality of movement that a Taiji expert exhibits in doing forms, think that the expert is actually using a lot of force and that the concept of relaxation is more philosophical than practical.  This is exactly wrong.  By concentrating on total relaxation, you will eventually develop a sort of deep coordination that allows you to move with superb economy and cohesiveness.  The subjective experience of correct relaxation is a feeling of aliveness and consciousness throughout your whole body.  Your body feels substantial when it moves, as if possessing great internal mass, yet movement is effortless."
-  Mark Chen,
Old Frame Chen Family Taijiquan, pp. 53-56.  



"The whole body relaxed, the spirit focused.
Apply intention to circulate chi, the whole body coordinated.
Relaxation better for chi flow, relaxation better for blood circulation.
Relaxation better to transmit the intention, relaxation better for the mind.
Nimbleness produces understanding, relaxation produces buoyancy.
Release from one touch, relaxation produces chi growth."
Tai Chi Classic, Translated by Vincent Chu   



"First, last, and always the student must relax.  Various calisthenics aid him in achieving this.  All rigidity and strength must be emptied from the upper torso and must sink to the very soles of the feet, one of which is always firmly rooted to the ground.  Without proper relaxation the student can never hope to achieve the trueness of the T'ai-chi postures.  The student relaxes completely and breathes as a child - naturally through the nose, the diaphragm being aided by the abdominal rather than the intercostal muscles.  Man's intrinsic energy, the ch'i, should be stored just below the navel.  The mind directs this energy throughout the body according to need.  But the ch'i cannot circulated in an unrelaxed body."
-   Robert W. Smith,
Chinese Boxing: Masters and Methods, 1974, p. 26.



"I did not get it.  He then demonstrated what he meant with two piles of coins.  He put the first pile in a paper bag and laid a knife next to it.  He said, "You want sung be like money.  Make body be like money."  Then he took the knife and cut the bag.  The coins poured out (letting go of physical tension), fell (releasing the chi downward), separated (loosening the insides of the body), scattered over the floor and soon stopped moving (the body fully sung).  I tried again.  He saw that I was just half getting it.  So he made fists and raised his hands above his navel and suddenly, with his entire body loosening, opened his hand and let them fall to his sides.  He grabbed the second pile of coins and brought them up to the same place above his navel and suddenly let go of them.  They fell, separated and scattered on the floor.  Then just as suddenly, he again let his body relax as his hand and arms visibly loosened and dropped to his sides just as the coins had to the floor.  I put the two images in my head and got it."
-  Bruce Frantzis, Opening the Energy Gates of Your Body, 1993, 2006, p. 114. 



    "Yoga is the focusing of attention to whatever object is being contemplated to the exclusion of all others.  This is not merely a matter or preventing thoughts from arising.  It is a whole-bodily focusing in which one's entire being is quieted. ...  Patanjali explains that when this psycho-mental stoppage has been successful accomplished, the transcendental Witness-Consciousness shines forth.  This Witness-Consciousness, or "Seer" (drashtri), is the pure Awareness (cit) that abides eternally beyond the senses and the mind, uninterruptedly apperceiving all the numerous and changeable contents of consciousness.  All schools of Hinduism agree that the ultimate Reality is not a condition of stone like stupor but super-consciousness."   
-    Georg Feuerstein,
Yoga: The Technology of Ecstasy, 1989, p. 13.



"When you train, free yourself from distracting thoughts:
Keep your hear buoyant, your body buoyant, too.
Do not forget the principle of "return to the center":
Strive and strive, with single-minded devotion.
This is the true path of softness.
This is the true path of softness."
-   Kyuzo Mifune (1883-1965), Judo Master, The Song of Judo
Budo Secrets: Teachings of the Martial Arts Masters, p. 30



"Alive, a man is supple, soft;
In death, unbending, rigorous.
All creatures, grass and trees, alive
Are plastic but are pliant too,
And dead, are friable and dry.
Unbending rigor is the mate of death,
And wielding softness, company of life:
Unbending soldiers get no victories;
The stiffest tree is readiest for the axe.
The strong and mighty topple from their place;
The soft and yielding rise above them all."
-  Translated by Raymond Blakney, 1955, Chapter 76 



"But am I relaxed? What does it really mean to relax in terms of Tai Chi practice? Why is that first movement, so important?  The English translation of Fu Zhongwen’s book, Mastering Yang Style Taijiquan (essential reading) is by Louis Swaim.  In his introduction he talks about translation issues and points out that the terms, song and fang song are usually translated as “relaxed” and “relax.”  He says: "Etymologically the term song is based on a character for “long hair that hangs down”--- that is, hair that is loosened and expanded, not “drawn up.” Therefore, “loosened” and “loosen” are more accurate renderings for song and fang song."  Fu Zhongwen, in speaking of the Preparatory Posture, says the “…spirit of vitality (jingshen) should be naturally elevated. The mind should be calm, without a trace of distracting thoughts.” And therein lies another important element of relaxation: emptying the mind. Thinking causes stress and stress increases tension in the muscles. Therefore, it makes sense to empty the mind of daily problems.  Standing correctly relaxed at the beginning (or, some say, before the beginning) puts one in the proper state of mind and of body for continuing to be loose during movement: moving, as they say, like a string of pearls. The story goes that Sun Lu Tang went to study the martial art of Xing Yi Quan with the master, Li Kui Yuan. Li taught him only the Standing Posture which he practiced for a whole year. One day as Sun was in the Standing Posture, Li approached him from behind and struck him on his back. Sun was unmoved by the blow and so was allowed to advance in his studies. Sun Lu Tang (originator of Sun Style Taijiquan) wrote about Wu Ji: "Wu Ji is the natural state occurring before one begins to practice martial arts. The mind is without thought; the intent is without motion; the eyes are without focus; the hands and feet are still; the body makes no movement; yin and yang are not yet divided; the clear and the turbid have not yet separated; the qi is united and undifferentiated.""
-  Byron Grush, Tai Chi Snob 



"The first level of stillness is about being with yourself in order to know yourself.  This is accomplished by being wide awake and aware as you deliberately relax into yourself.  The idea is to consciously enter into a state wherein you temporarily suspend everything you think you know about who you are, including anything you have ever been taught, and simply be attentive to what's going on right there where you are.  You practice being quiet, both physically and mentally, as you pay attention to the sensations in your body, the various thoughts in your mind, and your current experience of being conscious and alive.  You practice simple body-mind awareness, being conscious of the moment you are now in, and thereby experience with clarity the energy of you.  You consciously experience yourself as you actually are.  In this way you open yourself to a new, truer, less distorted experience of you and the world."
-   Erich Schiffmann, Yoga: The Spirit and Practice of Moving Into Stillness, 1996, p. 7.  



"Whole Body Relaxed: Quan Shen Fang Song.  The word fang means "to release," and it implies that relaxation is not merely the lack of tension.  It is an activity.  Quan shen fang song is alive, alert relaxation.  It means eliminating unnecessary tension, being supple and alert to the environment.  Relaxation is the first and most important principle of qigong.  It is often considered a system of qigong in itself."
-  Kenneth Cohen, The Way of Qigong, 1997, p 88.



"Human beings are
soft and supple when alive,
stiff and straight when dead.

The myriad creatures, the grasses and trees are
soft and fragile when alive
dry and withered when dead.

Therefore, it is said:
The rigid person is a disciple of death;
The soft, supple, and delicate are lovers of life.

An army that is inflexible will not conquer;
A tree that is inflexible will snap.

The unyielding and mighty shall be brought low;
The soft, supple, and delicate will be set above."

-  Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, Chapter 76
   Translated by Victor H. Mair, 1990



Cloud Hands Blog






Relaxation, Looseness, Openness, Effortless
(Song, Sung, Shoong, Fang Song)



When threatened or attacked one's natural reaction is to tense up the muscles and still the breath.  Dangerous situations can suddenly cause the muscles to tighten, sweat to appear, emotions of fear to overpower one's consciousness, and even one's hair to stand on end.  A frightening experience can lead to extreme muscular tension to the point of shaking, paralysis, and even moving into a state of shock.  A martial artist can ill afford to allow this kind of bodily reaction to occur during a martial confrontation.  

Reflexive reactions to being startled or placed in threatening situations can involve fighting back, fleeing, paralysis or fainting.  The martial artist needs to remain alert, on guard, relatively relaxed, and ready or fight or flee as circumstances dictate.  

One approach to overcoming this natural tendency is to toughen the body - physically condition it to a high level by rigorous and painful training.  Appropriate response to attack becomes more automatic, thoughtless, conditioned.  The martial artist might not be relaxed during combat, but he is not physically paralyzed by fear.  

The martial artist must use psychological training techniques, value systems, and religious beliefs that encourage him to face danger with fearlessness, courage, tenacity, bravery and resoluteness.  A belief that he is willing to die in battle as a worthy sacrifice to a higher social-religious-political cause is a strong foundation for fearlessness.  The Way of the Warrior, Bushido, the Goodness of the Martyr, and other Soldier's Codes of Conduct provide these sorts of value systems that contribute to courage, bravery, self-sacrifice and fearlessness.  This pathway can sometimes produce the fighter who is more relaxed during combat.  

One can also train consistently in staying relaxed, centered, focused, and loose during combat simulation situations.  This practice leads to confidence in his or her improved fighting skills insofar as relaxed movements can be more agile, quicker, correct, and technically proficient.  He comes to realize that superior performance requires that he stay relaxed, calm, loose, and in control of emotions.  This confidence leads martial artist to believe that she will succeed, will prevail, will overcome the opponent.  Relaxed confidence contributes to fearlessness.   









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This webpage was last modified and/or updated on August 17, 2015.   

This webpage was first published on the Internet in March of 2001.   


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