To fully appreciate the artform of taijiquan, the bubbling well — the yongquan point — on each foot is extremely important. If necessary, massage it gently to become aware of its location. It is just in front of the arch of the foot, at the rear of the front footpad, in the indentation found near the middle. The yongquan point is between the second and third metatarsal bones, approximately a third of the distance from the webs of the toes to the back of the heel. The yongquan point can be sensed while walking, sitting (with feet flat on the floor or ground), and standing (even while waiting (patiently) in lines).
The bubbling well is the foundation of the root, which is the core of tai chi: the root must be developed while stationary and sustained while moving. The practitioner must find a balance between mobility and double heaviness, which is the pitfall of over-thinking and becoming too rooted.
The concept of rooting can be sensed while shifting weight from one foot to the other: for example, shifting from the right to the left, you can sense the weight flowing from the right leg to the left. As the weight is transferred, you can feel the energy at the bubbling well in the right foot pushing up through the leg, flowing through your hips and sinking down the left leg, into and through the bubbling well of your left foot, and into the earth (as a side note, while you sense the energy sinking into your left leg, your left hand becomes ‘active’).
Do not consciously grip the ground with your foot; rather, as the weight sinks into your bubbling well (the yongquan point), the foot naturally adheres to the earth, as if you are sinking into muddy loam. When weight is fully onto the foot, it should be spread naturally: you should not lean to either side, forward (majority of your weight on the toes) or backward (too much weight on the heels). Your weight should be centered on the bubbling well, but the weight should be spread over the entire foot: the big toe and the heel should also adhere to the earth (sink into the loam), and should not be ’empty.’
Standing postures — standing qigong (chi kong), or zhan zhuang (standing like a post, or tree) — are excellent exercises for developing the root, as well as improving posture and leg strength. I’ll devote a future post to standing postures, and revisit the concept of rooting when I do.