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Tai Chi #1 Health Benefits and basic stances

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Tai Chi #1 Health Benefits and basic stances

Post by Spooky_Zalost on Sat Jan 15, 2011 1:57 am

I have decided to write a series of articles on how to practice basic Tai Chi to help those who read this forum as well as go over the health benefits so lets go over those first shall we?

in many ways it has the same health benefits as meditation including Stress relief, focused mind, a calm attitude, and a healthier immune system.

it's also a form of gentle relaxed physical exercise and has similar effects to yoga, such as the stretching of the limbs which provides easier movement, and increased area of movement due to stretching, it has been used as a form of exercise by people from children to adults, to even people over the age of 65 and 70! as such I highly recommend it.

there are several forms of Tai chi but I have decided to go over the 13 basic movements that I learned in my Kung Fu class I took a few years back.

First we will go over the basic stances

Wu Chi: Wu Chi means stillness. In this stance, we seek to stand on our feet and maintain a position so balanced that the body is able to achieve stillness. When the body is still, the mind can more fully relax. When the mind is relaxed, the body can move in a natural way, and deal with situations as they arise.

It looks like this


when doing any of the stances or movements in Tai Chi one must examine all body positions and movements so as to eliminate things that might cause a problem later.

First place your feet shoulder width apart, The insides of your feet are parallel. You want to feel the weight of the body on bottom of the foot. Make sure the three main points of balance for the foot are touching the floor— the base of the big toe, the base of the little toe, and the heel If possible, make sure the toes gently touch the floor and also the outside arch of the foot.

Next, move your attention to the ankle and visualise it as open and relaxed. Move your attention to your knees. First make sure that your knees are unlocked and soft. Test this out by locking your knees back and then release them. When your lock your knees you will find that you no longer feel the weight of the body on the bottoms of the feet. The weight of the upper body is now placed on the knee joint itself resulting in loss of flexibility and mobility. In Tai Chi, we always keep the knees soft and never locked.

Make sure that the knees point in the direction that the toes are facing, which should, at this time, be straight ahead. An essential general rule is to always have the knees face in the direction the toe is headed. Not paying close attention to this detail may result in injury to the knee. Many people have weakness in the knee area and the knee tends to track slightly toward the inside. Doing the exercises I will describe with full attention can strengthen this muscle weakness. This is very important, as the improper tracking of the knee is the only way people hurt themselves in the practice of Tai Chi.

After softening the knees, once again put your attention on the bottom of the feet and make sure the weight is evenly distributed over both the feet. Then bring your awareness up to your pelvis, low back area and let that area relax. We slightly tuck under or slightly rotate the pelvis so that the low back straightens a bit. We want the spine to be as straight as possible without stiffness. For most people, there is a distinct curve in the low back due to weakness in the abdomen and psoas muscles. This curve hinders the ability to allow the weight of the body to fully rest on the bottoms of the feet. As you gently tuck under the spine, check that the weight is on the bottoms of the feet. If you arch the back, you will notice that the weight leaves the bottom of the feet and moves to the knees and low back, resulting in loss of mobility once again. In Tai Chi we always are conscious to keep the low back relaxed and slightly tucked under. This will be natural and easy once the abdomen and psoas muscles tone from practice.

We now place our awareness on the top of the head and visualise
The next step is to allow the shoulders and upper ribs to hang freely. The arms should hang on the sides of the body with the fingers facing the thighs. If you hands end up slightly in front of the body, it usually means that your biceps (the flexors on the front of your upper arm) are too strong in relation to your triceps on the back of your arms. You might have to use a bit of muscle strength in order to bring the arms into alignment, but after a while, the triceps should tone and that will allow the arm to hang naturally down by your side. the head as if it were suspended from above. We want the spine to be fully extended without tension, so we let our mind aid us by imagining being hung from the top. Keep the chin slightly tucked under. We do this for a couple of reasons. We protect the neck from being attacked when working with a partner and tucking also straightens the neck so the energy can run more easily up to the head.

The next step is to allow the shoulders and upper ribs to hang freely. The arms should hang on the sides of the body with the fingers facing the thighs. If you hands end up slightly in front of the body, it usually means that your biceps (the flexors on the front of your upper arm) are too strong in relation to your triceps on the back of your arms. You might have to use a bit of muscle strength in order to bring the arms into alignment, but after a while, the triceps should tone and that will allow the arm to hang naturally down by your side.

The last step in Wu Chi stance is to breathe naturally through the nose and direct the breath to the lower belly. We use belly breathing or diaphragmatic breathing as a general rule in Tai Chi. There is a more difficult, advanced form of breathing, reverse breathing, that will be discussed when the time comes. There are three main energy storage vessels located throughout the body. The main one for our physical energy, the lower Dan Tien, is located in the lower abdominal area, just below the belly button. When we breathe, we focus on this point, and the energy will naturally flow to this area. There are many exercises (Chi Kung) to help the student get in touch with how to work with the Dan Tien.

· Wu Chi Stance Checklist

Feet shoulder width apart and parallel. Knees soft and point to the toes. Pelvis slightly tucked under. Top of the head suspended from above with chin slightly tucked under. Shoulders and upper ribs hanging from above with arms hanging to the sides with fingers facing thighs. Breathing in and out through the nose directing the breath to the lower Dan Tien. Relax and be comfortable.


The Horse Stance

The Horse Stance is the same as the Wu Chi stance except the body is lowered until the knees just cover the toes. This stance has more of a ready to move feeling to it. It also helps to build up the strength of the legs, improve concentration, and develop root, which is one of the fundamental elements for successful Tai Chi practice. Be sure to keep the back straight, as there is a tendency to lean slightly backward in this stance.

it looks something like this
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