Tai ji, or Tai chi, as you may be used to seeing it spelled in the West, may be an ancient form of Chinese martial arts, but it’s far from antiquated. Don’t be fooled; this isn’t your typical grandma’s workout. In fact, tai chi is a rigorous and challenging practice that can whip your body into shape. Like yoga, tai chi hones your ability to focus your mind, your strength, and your balance. Before long, consistent tai chi practice will show a difference in the way you feel and the way you look.
While the popularity of tai chi studios and group classes grows, check out these poses and flows to sample some tai chi for yourself. Remember, these are only 3 simple flows — imagine what 90 minutes of such continuous flows and postures can do for your mental and physical fitness!
This simple move is fundamental to your tai chi practice and serves to situate your breathing and posture. A bit like the familiar table pose of yoga practice, stand with your feet shoulder length apart with shoulders back and your arms at your side, palms facing your sides. Keep your knees soft – slightly bent – and with an inhale, turn your palms to face behind you and raise your straight arms up to shoulder height. This movement is not simply raising your arms – as you breathe in and lift the arms up, lift your body as well. Feel your whole stature grow taller and stronger. On the exhale, lower the arms down back to your sides. Repeat this simple movement 8 times to get your qigong breathing going and warm your body up for more rigorous practice
Pushing the Waves
Now it’s time to take control of the qi energy around you after focusing your own. This is a bit more complicated – starting from facing forward, step your left foot out to 4 o’clock and breathe out as you transfer your weight from right to left foot. At the same time move your arms from clasped straight out in front of you down to your sides, palms facing down, as if pushing the qi down and away from you, down your thighs. Then, as you breathe in, shift your weight back to your right foot and raise your arms up to breast height, palms still facing down, loose at the wrist. Once again, shift weight forward to your left foot, use your palms to push the qi back down to waist height, and then push it further out and up, away from you as your arms extend out and up and you drop your weight further into your left leg, deeper into your forward lunge. Repeat the process on your right side. Here’s a video instruction.
Painting A Rainbow
This is a great posture for stretching the sides and opening up the lungs. Breathe in as you draw your arms straight up over your head, elbows and wrists slightly bent with palms facing each other. Then exhale as you prepare for the side bend – shift your weight to your right leg while you raise your right arm straight up and extend your left arm out to the left side. Keeping your palms facing each other – remember in tai chi to keep your palms facing each other to control your qi – bend to your left on an inhale. The resistance created by your weighted right leg will make for an excellent side stretch.
A simple morning routine of tai chi postures is no longer the secret of China’s fittest – now you can find such practice in the West as well. Here are some videos and books for Tai Chi for beginners: