Tai Chi movements needs to be learned from an experienced teacher but the explanation here will at least give you some idea of how it is practiced. Because of its emphasis on harmony with nature and the universe, tai chi forms are often performed out of doors. In China, people flock to the parks in cities to practice tai chi and other exercises in the early mornings, many arriving just after dawn.
There are several basic rules about posture and stance that are followed in all tai chi movements. The spine should be straight, the head upright and the shoulders relaxed, this fits well with the general rules on good posture.
According to the theory, the body’s center, or dan tien, is located just below the navel and inward toward the spine. Those learning tai chi are encouraged to visualize this as the center of their weight and breathing and to think of all movements as starting from here. The elbows and knees are never locked straight but kept slightly flexed during all the movements.
When you first see tai chi being performed it seems as if the arms are by far the most active part of the body. When you try out the movements of tai chi for yourself you quickly learn that it is the legs, waist and trunk that work the hardest, your arms move freely and almost effortlessly.
Tai Chi Movements
- Stand comfortably, feet facing forward, shoulder width apart. Keep your knees unlocked and relax your abdomen, arms and shoulders.
- Raise your arms slowly to chest level, turning your palms downward. Allow your fingers to open slightly.
- Bring your arms cross your chest. Push with your right leg to shift your weight on to your left foot.
- As you move to the left and your weight comes forward, allow your arms to uncross and move up. Keeping your elbows slightly bent moves your hands outward and away from each other until your arms are in line with your shoulders and your fingers are facing forward. Then slowly move your weight back on to your right leg, keeping your body upright.
- Shift the whole of your weight on to your right foot, bending at the knee as you do se. Keep your back straight. While you are doing this, bring your hands back diagonally toward your waist so that the space between them gradually widens. Lift the toes of your left foot.
- Keeping your torso upright, push with your right foot, so that you move up and forward, transferring your weight to your left foot so that the lower leg moves into a more or less vertical position. At the same time, move your hands forward and up, until your hands are in line with your shoulders. Lift your fingers slightly so that your hands are at an angle of 45 degrees to the ground. Keep your elbows slightly bent. Then finish by coming to rest as you began, with your feet shoulder width apart and your arms by your sides.
Tai Chi Movements and Breathing
Correct breathing is extremely important in Tai chi. Breathing in and out is times to the movements. The Tai chi movements are often classed as either gathering in or as projecting. Practitioners believe that the chi is moved more efficiently when you exhale. Breathing in occurs during gathering in movements, while breathing out is times to projecting movements. The aim is to breathe steadily and naturally during your tai chi movements and practice and to synchronize your movements to the rhythm.