Empty Leg Practice for Balance, Stability, and Flow

Try this follow-along practice on Emptying the Leg.

We’re combining principles from Standing Qigong and Tai Chi to create a blend of stillness, movement, and internal contrast.

The progression includes:

  • Varying your stance, increasing in complexity and physical demands.
  • Increased contrast over time between empty and full or unweighted and weighted legs
  • Heightened sense of sinking as you stabilize in each posture

Perhaps the most surprising element of this exercise is the way that it’s going to help you build flow. Once you’ve set up the yin/yang contrast in the legs, you begin to search it out in your moving forms. Instead of thinking of shifting the weight, you dial in greater contrast between the legs, and that leads you to movement.

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  1. Bob Hughes says:

    very nice
    I just attended a 10 hour weekend intensive, doing just this
    your technique adds even more depth to this practice

  2. Bob, can you say any more about what that was like? How the yin/yang balance unfolded as you practiced? Asking because I still haven’t refined my vocabulary for the experience!

  3. Thanks, Bob. Sounds like great stuff!

  4. Bob Hughes says:

    just a few more words and terms re: Dan’s question,
    “How the yin/yang balance unfolded as you practiced?”

    (my note: these comments are from notes I took during her class 2 years ago.
    First, note-taking actually can inhibit the understanding of a subtle feeling.
    Second, therefore, one needs to get the feeling understood first.
    And third, I kept interrupting her to fill in my notes. She politely told me to shut up–I was interrupting the flow of what she was trying to develop. Then I got angry with her –even though it was really my own fault. For 2 years my stubborn attitude chilled any possibility of really understanding the subject feeling.
    This year, I took no notes and promised her that I’d keep my big mouth shut–only then did I begin to understand the feeling she was trying to describe–it is a very delicate teaching/learning process.
    So, this was the first yin/yang balance that had to take place during the unfolding of the lesson–2 years–Yike!)

    sana likes to use the term “VORTEX.”
    Everything has a vortex.
    We have to become aware of our “vortexing.”
    The classics state that there must always be UP in DOWN.
    However, we can allow ourselves to be sucked into the vortex of one or the other.
    For example, when weighting that right leg to become more and more substantial:
    we can actually overdo it, getting sucked into the vortex of downedness.
    The seed of UP must remain in the DOWN.
    You might have to borrow a little of the UP energy of the unweighted/insubstantial leg and balance a dangerous DOWN movement of energy. This needs to be done/balanced in each joint, e.g. the right hip–take a little of the UP energy from the left hip and balance excess DOWN energy in the right hip.
    sana might say that there is a natural tendency to feel the downward pull/sensation of gravity and the already felt sensation/strength in the lower body. So it’s easy to get sucked into a DOWNward vortex.
    Then we might have to focus a bit more on maintaining the UP during this DOWNward weighting operation.

    Mirrors in the taiji studio present the same problem. Our visual attention can get sucked away from our energy gates as we look out towards the mirror to check our alignment. This is why we’re instructed to merely gaze to the horizon, not focusing on anything in particular. We can get sucked into the VORTEX/Hubris/ pride of our beautiful form–Ahh, I’m so beautiful, nice work Bob–sure.
    Likewise, always craning your neck out of alignment to see/copy the instructor is another way to fall into a destructive VORTEX.

    Furthemore, in FORWARD there must be BACK.
    We are so front-oriented.
    In fact, naturally when we breath in, our bodies naturally lean imperceptively forward–close your eyes and you can feel additional pressure on your toes as you breath in. Also look up with your eyes and you can feel the same tendency to lean forward. Therefore, in order to keep balanced you may have to introduce bias for the backward element–like that electronic equalizer that Gary referred to–the “BACK knob” has to be cranked up a skosh.

    This is why sana instructs us to look for any “projections” in the joint (hip)–
    made even harder if your have acquired a default position of carry-the-baby-on-the-hip projection of the hip–or we raise our eyes when we’re going cerebral to understand, mentally a point–GONG!, you’ve just lost the point.

    The greatest of the art of taiji is that it trains us to
    “Allow the mind/body state to transcend the mind,” sana’s quote.

    And paradoxically, it is the energy awareness that you want to let go of.

  5. Bob, great stuff! Your struggle with note-taking is such a good lesson and a trap we all get caught in when trying to process or express the feel of practice.
    I love the teaching points to: so many permutations of finding yin in yang and vice versa. Right on with the technical details of the joints too.
    Thanks for sharing this!