My husband coaches little league, and I often get to help him out with training and practices, and generally talking through baseball throwing, hitting and catching drills.
This morning we were discussing the release and follow through of a pitch and a number of the technical skills he touched upon were exactly the same theories I teach in Tai Chi! (Yes, these are some of the things that get me SO excited!)
As he’s describing what he’s seeing in his current team players, and he’s demonstrating pitching moves far too big for our humble kitchen, I’m jumping up and down in my seat fighting my urge to interrupt with all my Tai Chi examples!
“The DANTIAN!” I exclaim! “The arms follow the body. The body follows the lead of the energy center!”
I go on to explain… the Dantian is the body’s “sea of qi” or “energy center”. In Tai Chi we learn that the lower belly (make a triangle with thumbs meeting at the belly button and fingertips meeting below at the triangle tip) is where our Energy comes from and where the movement is initiated.
In Chinese Martial Arts there are 3 Dantians; upper, middle and lower. The upper is behind the forehead where the physical brain is, the middle is positioned in your chest where the physical heart is, and the lower Dantian is located and associated with our life creating organs and the cleansing powers of our kidneys.
The Root of the Tree of Life - the foundation of rooted standing, breathing, and body awareness.
When teaching a young baseball player how to throw properly, effectively and safely, they need to learn how the arms naturally follow the body (the center). Most of us have heard that the body goes where the head looks . . . well it’s also true that when an athlete moves, the arms, shoulders and head follow where the body turns.
In teaching Tai Chi, I’m often encouraging my students to resist trying to control their movements (and their lives) with the their neck, shoulders, arms and hands. So often we are focused on controlling things in our lives that we forget to trust our gut, and we need to re-learn how to move with ease and in a much more natural flow. The Dantian teaches us how to listen to and follow the body.
Back to the imaginary pitcher’s mound in our kitchen . . .
I demonstrated two different warm ups I do with students in my classes and “coach hubby” immediately sees sport specific value in sharing them with his players to loosen them up, and also to teach them how their throwing arms should follow their energy centers. Exciting stuff!
It’s now the end of regular Little League season and we’re sliding into the playoffs, but I can’t wait to share all of these cross training tips with the next team of players next season!
Lisa LaPlante is the owner of LaPlante Healing Arts where she teaches Tai Chi, Body in Balance TRX classes, Essential Oil Education, and Mindfulness workshops and retreats.