Also spelled Tai Chi, this ancient Chinese practice is a gentle exercise based on connecting you with your life force and the life force flowing through everything – including other people, rivers, trees, the earth and ocean, the sun, and the moon. The word ‘Tai’ means Supreme – so Tai Chi (Qi) harnesses the supreme energy that exists within and around us in everything. It is a limitless force.
Based on Chinese Traditional Medicine (TCM) and martial arts, the concept of chi, the vital life force, is found in many cultures. In India, yoga practice and Ayurveda medicine, the concept of the life force is known as Prana or the breath. Chi can be described as a stillness within, an awareness and a feeling of unity with all life around us, bringing a calmness to our existence.
We all know that after a complex and stressful day, the solution is not to put our feet up, pour a drink or dip into a box of chocolates, and watch TV or play video games. Unfortunately, that is precisely what many of us do. We feel worse as our life force is not activated to flow through our bodies as it should, resulting in blockages within the flow of chi. The result can be weight gain, depression or anxiety, and physical diseases that result from poor circulation.
Chi is nourished by sufficient sleep, a healthy diet, and movement practices. Tai Chi, in combination with acupuncture, can improve your health greatly. We will now dive right into a simple five-minute Tai Chi vitality practice. Movements are slow and intentional, perfect for people who are not athletic or have health issues, but also for those who are fit and may wish to prolong the practice. Typically the Tai Chi session will last for 5 to 20 minutes and involve a certain number of moves.
Five-minute Tai Chi vitality practice
All the moves here require your feet hip-width apart and planted comfortably on the ground. Soften the knees, and breathe in to start.
- First, you will tap gently on the chest with loosely closed fists while concentrating on breathing in and out, sending fresh oxygenated blood to your whole body. Breathe right down into your belly and imagine your body filling with air – send the energy down to your legs, arms and shoulders, lungs, and brain.
- Then you will move down the arms, one at a time – starting with the left arm, hold it in front of you as if you were balancing a small tray of food, palm up. Gently move down the arm tapping the inner arm with your other hand until you reach the wrist, then turn your outstretched handover and tap from the wrist up towards the shoulder. Repeat with the other arm. Repeat the sequence three times. The movement opens up the flow in the body’s meridians and should take around one minute.
- Coming down to the abdomen, tap your belly with gently closed fists or cupped hands, if this is more comfortable, for about 20 seconds. Move your arms to the back so you can tap gently on your back from above the waist down to your buttocks using the back of your hands. Remember to soften the knees – do not keep them locked.
- Then move down the outside of the legs, tapping as you go – bend forward but do not overexert yourself if you find difficulty with balance – go as far as you can. In time, you will become fitter and more supple. Now work your way back up, tapping the fronts of the legs, from the shins, up over the knees to the upper thighs. Relax and breathe as you swing your completely relaxed arms from side to side, concentrating on holding your core firm – imagine drawing your belly button towards your spine as you twist your body gently from side to side. Then relax and take a breath. That was your second minute.
- The next move aims to gather all the beautiful energy of the universe by spreading your arms wide in a standing posture, with knees slightly bent, scooping all that energy to your heart center, then gently pushing your arms down to spread it through your lower body. Repeat the scooping movement five times.
- Next, stretch your arms out at your sides at shoulder height as if you are a crane ready to fly, then bring the arms together in a gentle upward scooping motion, gathering energy and releasing it to the sky above. Bring the arms back to the outstretched crane position and repeat five times. Your chest and shoulders should feel stretched and your vitality renewed. That’s the third minute.
- We now move into the tiger claw. You bring the hands together, palms facing outwards, across the abdomen, then rise and spiral the arms outward –one reaches forward and one backward, as your body and head turn slightly to look at the rearward-facing arm. Then bring the arms together again and repeat the move, this time changing arms so the one that reached backward now reaches forwards, giving your spine a gentle twist as you repeat the action six times- three to the left and three to the right. Fourth minute down, one more to go.
- For the final minute, bring your arms to shoulder height stretched forwards in front of you, hands parallel to the ground, then raise your hands as if you were blocking someone from touching your heart and push the energy outwards and downwards. Repeat five times. The final sequence is to raise your arms and bring them back with the palms facing outward towards your shoulders. Now concentrate on pushing out your vital energy forwards into the universe. Repeat the movement five times, drop your arms to your sides, and breathe deeply, relaxing for a few seconds before starting your day.
After these five minutes of Tai Chi (Qi), you will feel revitalized with your chi energy flowing freely. If you prefer watching a video to learn the moves then this one by Dr Adam Potts is very helpful.