Tàijíquán was created in Daoist monasteries and is a Qìgōng practice for enlightenment cultivation. The only difference is that this Qìgōng practice can also be applied in martial arts. Since Tàijíquán is a Qìgōng, its training procedures and principles are no different from those of general Qìgōng practice. These training procedures and principles are: learning to regulate the body (Tiáoshēn, 調身), breathing (Tiáoxí, 調息), mind (Tiáoxīn, 調心), Qì (Tiáoqì, 調氣), and finally spirit (Tiáoshén, 調神). If you are interested in more of these training procedures, please refer to the book: The Root of Chinese Qìgōng, by YMAA.
What does regulating mean? It means to regulate until harmonized (with others). It (also) means to regulate until it is correct. Therefore, the five regulatings must be mutually harmonized (with each other) and none can exist alone. The five regulatings are unified as one unit, mutually applied to and assisting each other. For example, regulating the body must be harmonized with regulating the breathing. When the body is stiff, the breathing becomes faster, and when the body is soft, the breathing becomes slower. Conversely, when the breathing is fast, the body is stiff, and when the breathing is loose (i.e., easy), the body is soft. For the same reason, when the mind is restless, the breathing is strong and short, and when the mind is peaceful, then the breathing is slender and long. On the other hand, when the breathing is fast, then the mind is fidgety, and when the breathing is harmonious, then the mind is peaceful.
調者，調之和諧也，調之使正也。因而五調必須互相和諧，獨 一而不存。五調合為一體，互相為用、為助。譬如調身必與調 息和諧，身硬則息急，身綿則息緩。反之，息速則身僵，息鬆 則身軟。同理，心躁則息沛短，心安則息細長。反之，息快則 心煩，息和則心平。..
Qigong Relies on Feelings
Tiáo (調) is a gradually regulating process which proceeds until what is regulated has reached its harmonious stage with others. All of the regulating processes in Qìgōng rely on feeling. Feeling is a language of the mind and the body. Through feeling, the mind registers problems or errors. It is also by feeling that the mind is able to regulate the body, breathing, Qì, and spirit. From this, you can see that the mind is the center of the five regulating processes and feeling is its tool.
It is for this reason that deep internal feeling has commonly been known as an important key to Qìgōng practice. This internal feeling training is known as “Gōngfū of internal vision” (Nèishì Gōngfū, 內視功夫). In fact, this phrase means the training of internal feeling. It is called Gōngfū because it will take any Qìgōng practitioner a great deal of time and effort to reach a profound level of this self-internal feeling.
If the body is stiff, the breathing is fast, or the mind is fidgety, then the Qì’s circulation will not be peaceful. Consequently, it will be hard for the mind to lead the Qì to circulate. If the body is loose (i.e., easy), the breathing is profound, and the mind is calm, then the Qì’s circulation is smooth and natural. (In this case), the mind can lead the Qì easily and the Qì circulation can be natural. When the Xīn (i.e., emotional mind) and Yì (i.e., wisdom mind) are strong, the spirit can be raised to a high level, and when the Xīn and Yì are weak, the spirit will also stay low.
如身硬、息急、心煩，則氣不安，意難引氣行。如身鬆、息 沉、心靜，則氣順然，以意引氣氣自然。心意強，神必高提。 心意弱，神必低落。...
All five regulatings are closely related to and mutually influence each other. Using the mind as the center, and using the feeling as the communication tool, you can harmonize your body, breathing, mind, Qì, and spirit to a deep meditative stage, which allows you to cultivate your natural being to a profound level and finally reunite with the natural spirit.
From these, (we) can see that the five regulatings are the standard means of practicing and learning Tàijíquán. However, beginners must start by regulating the body first. From the practice of regulating the body’s postures, (you) will be able to understand how to make the (body) soft, gentle, and balanced, maintain central equilibrium, and firm the root. This is the first step.
由此觀之，五調乃習太極者練習之準則。然而，初學者，必先 由調身著手。由調身練習拳架，能懂鬆軟、平衡、中定、與紮 根，此為第一步。..
In order to allow Qì to circulate freely and naturally, the body must be soft and relaxed. When the body is relaxed, the resistance of the Qì circulation will be low and, consequently, Qì can circulate freely and smoothly. Moreover, you must have physical and mental balance. When mind and body are balanced and coordinated with each other, you will find your center. Only when you have found your center can you have a firm root. All of these are part of the first step in learning Tàijíquán movements.
Afterward, start the practice of regulating the breathing. From regulating the breathing in coordination with the body’s regulating, (you) are able to lead the body’s regulating to a more profound level. When (you are) regulating the breathing, (you) must aim for a slender, slow, quiet, deep, soft, smooth, and peaceful way which can thus (gradually) lead (you) to the stage of natural regulating without regulating.
之後，即由調息著手。由調息配合調身以使調身更進一層之境 界。調息必求細、緩、靜、深、柔、順、和以達自然無調而調 之效。..
After you have regulated your body to a natural state, you can devote more of your mind to your breathing. In regulating breathing, you are aiming for a slender, slow, quiet, deep, soft, smooth, and peaceful manner. When breathing is calm and natural, your mind will reach a deeper state of feeling and the body can be more relaxed. The deepest stage of regulating is “regulating without regulating.” This means you have developed a habit of regulating, and your mind does not have to be there to regulate it all the time.
The above is an excerpt from Taijiquan Theory of Dr. Yang, Jwing-Ming, The Root of Taijiquan, Second Edition, Publication Date May 6, 2023, YMAA Publication Center, 9781594399022.