Tai Chi was designed with these specific movement rules because the goal is to take you from tense to relaxed and from relaxed to vital and strong.
When my Tai Chi teacher, Bruce Frantzis explains the learning progression for Tai Chi, he makes it clear that when your primary focus is on the mind, and your goal is to calm your mind, you must follow this progression.
Relax Your Muscles and Your Mind
At the first stage, you go for the big obvious stuff. Most of us are more tuned into muscular contraction and mental tension than to constrictions in our soft tissues or jammed joints. Start with what you can feel.
As you are learning basic exercises and a broad-stroke version of the Tai Chi form, focus on relaxing your muscles and begin to catch yourself in moments of mental tension. Learn to let go of each one as you move.
By training yourself to find these moments in motion, you begin to make relaxation a habit that will follow you into daily activities.
Find Your Shape
As you go through the Tai Chi form for the first time, you are sketching the basic shape that will be filled in in detail later on.
For now, don’t overstretch, don’t contract too much.
Learn to feel basic alignments, like centering the weight in your feet as you shift and turn and squat.
Find the cadence of the form.
By following these movement rules, you are building a physical container. The more unified this container becomes, the more you can run your mind through your body. Following all of the rhythms and flows of the form with your awareness leads to the same kind of letting go for your mind that we began to work in with the muscles in the first stage.
Layer By Layer
As you relax your mind and your body, you can go deeper. Your mind penetrates deeper into the space inside your body and as a result, your body is knit together in a stronger way.
You learn to make deep internal connections that optimize how you move and how you respond to your surroundings. You have more energy.You can interact with your internal environment in a smoother way too.
This is how relaxation leads to strength.