Keeping Myself Aligned While Walking The Dogs

Shoulders to the left, hips overcompensating to the right, knees resisting a pull to the left, toes gripping the ground in front— lately I’ve felt like a disheveled Rubik’s Cube walking the dogs.

Rico suffered a flare-up of spondylosis, making it hard to get out of first gear. Roxy doesn’t have anything lower than fifth. So when we walk, I end up discombobulated trying to give each one as much leeway as possible.

Unfortunately, as my body gets more out of synch, so do Rico and Roxy, who forget their leash manners and jerk me every which way.

Thank goodness something in my head finally clicked. Tai chi offers some useful tips on body alignment.

Tai Chi Walking The Dogs

Ten principles define Yang style tai chi. Four address body alignment.

Even though we rarely think of it as a fighting art, tai chi was created for combat. So these principles should help walking with two strong dogs, right?

First, I had to straighten out my lower body. I’ve written about rooting myself as a way to walk the dogs over slick, winter surfaces. But rooting can be used anytime. This seems like a good one.

Next, the upper body.

Introducing two Yang style principles:

  1. Hold in the chest and pull up the back
  2. Sink the shoulders and droop the elbows

Do what?

Get Your Body Aligned

Try it. Stand with your toes lined up with an open doorway and place one hand on the door jam at shoulder height. Push.

What did you notice? Did you feel your chest muscles stretching? Did your elbow rise at all?

Place your other hand just under your collar bone, with finger tips at the front of the shoulder and heel of your hand at your chest. If you have decent posture, your hand should be relatively flat here.

To sink your chest, think about sucking your sternum in and back. Exhaling helps. Your hand should go from flat to a little u-shaped.

If you slump your shoulders forward, instead of sinking your chest, you’ll feel tension. Sinking your chest, on the other hand, keeps everything relaxed.

I wish I could capture this in a photo, but it’s such a subtle movement, you can’t see it. Tai chi is a subtle art that you can only learn by feeling it.

Now, with your chest sunk, push again.

Feels stronger, doesn’t it? Like more of your body weight supports the push.

Back to Walking The Dogs

The past couple of days, I’ve remembered to sink my chest and keep my shoulders down as we walk. Granted, the exercise above uses pushing, but the shoulder can also be protecting from being pulled out of sorts using this body alignment, too. Pretty sure I heard a rotator cuff whisper thank you.

It’s hard to remember all of this while out there walking. And, I admit, I’ve been slacking off in training lately. Nothing like a walking the dogs to remind me how useful tai chi is to everyday life. Better get back in the dojo.

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About Christie Green

A student of martial arts since 1995, a writer since 1999, and an animal-lover for all of time
This entry was posted in Mindful Dog Training Tips and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Keeping Myself Aligned While Walking The Dogs

  1. Johnf155 says:

    This is a great blog, would you be involved in doing an interview about how you created it? If so email me! cgdaefgkceda

  2. Pingback: Using Tai Chi to Rotate Away from a Jumping Dog | Dog and Dojo

  3. Pingback: Before Adopting A New Dog | Dog and Dojo

  4. Pingback: Moving With Dogs Without Leaving Behind Your Sanity | Dog and Dojo

  5. Pingback: Walking (Safely) in A Winter Wonderland | Dog and Dojo

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