(For an idea of the general movement and posture below, please click here. The movement is at the very beginning of the video with slight variation and without hands falling down to the sides. At any rate, an excellent video to watch tai qi practice.)
This exercise is very simple and helps you feel good in moments. You can do this anywhere – in your office, the elevator, the kitchen, wherever you are – when you want a bit of a refresher, but if you’re afraid people will think you’re strange (or stranger than you already are), you can do this exercise also in the privacy of a bathroom stall. 🙂
- Stand with feet apart at hips’ width, with feet parallel to each other. (You may feel a bit pidgeon-toed).
- Relax your knees so they are just slightly bent. (Don’t worry if your knees shake a little when you first do this).
- Feel the balls of your feet on the ground.
- Hands should be relaxed by your side.
- Imagine the top of your head being held by a string, while you feel the balls of your feet on the ground. Your body should now be in a relaxed, balanced posture, grounded to the earth and yet feeling light on top. If you find yourself leaning forward or backward, adjust your body so it feels relaxed, almost as if you are sitting on a stool, with knees slightly bent.
- Take several moments in this position to breathe. When you breathe, you should feel your abdomen expanding slightly and that the center of your breathing is coming from your lower abdomen (and not your chest).
- Now, begin to raise both of your arms up slowly from the side, palms facing down, wrists and elbows very relaxed so that they naturally bend as you move your arms upward, until your elbows reach chest height and your hands (with wrists bent forward) are at about face height. In this position, you will look a bit as if you are a cricket with elbows bent at around a 45 degree angle.
- Point your fingers out just a little (without being rigid) and begin to draw your hands in slowly towards you, as if they are gliding on air. When you do this, your elbows should bend also so that your hands and arms should move towards you in a slightly arced motion.
- As you draw your hands and arms inwards, your forearms will soon reach a vertical position to your body, your wrists bent naturally forward (as if you could shake them). Now, raise your hands up from your wrists, fingers naturally spread apart, and with palms, facing outwards, slowly allow your hands and arms to glide gently down as in a waterfall towards the sides of your body.
- When your hands have reached the front of your hips, your palms should be slightly horizontal to the ground. Allow your hands to drop gently to the side of your hips so that you are back to your original starting position. Pause for a few moments. Feel your posture. Breathe. Relax.
You can do this exercise more than once (by repeating steps 7-10). Don’t rush or hurry. Even though your legs have not moved in this position, your thighs may feel a bit sore from the weight of gravity, which is normal. When you have gone through these steps several times, all the movements of your arms and upper body in this position end up in one continuous flow.