How Much Imagery Do You Use?

Today, while preparing to teach I over heard students talking…

Student 1: “You do the ‘windshield wiper and go around the world, then you row the boat and then comes the zombie.”

Student 2: “When do you do the ‘squirrel on the tree’?”


When I was a student teacher, I asked one of my instructors, “How much imagery should I use when teaching?” To which she replied, “As many as you can.”

There are many styles to the type of imagery you can use; from the martial application to what the motion or shape resembles. Over the 45 years of teaching, my database of imageries has developed. Sometimes an image dawns, has been passed down from one of my instructors, or comes from a student. The classics on tai chi is riddled with imagery. One style of imagery can work for one student, but may not work for another, so I pull a different one out of the hat. I have also found that when I explain the martial application, those who are in it for the relaxation cannot relate, so I offer them a benign image for them to access the motion or shape.

Some students are imagery blind which requires more of a mechanical approach. For example: Scanning the body downward letting tension dissolve – a imagery blind student can feel the tension, but cannot imagine tension dissolving. They can however feel letting go and the sense that gravity and the breath can aide in the process of letting go.

QUESTION: Can you guess which movements the students were talking about?