Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Tai Chi Warmups


Tai Chi Warmups (Principles Practice)
It is important to warm up your body before beginning exercise of any kind. These tai chi warm-ups also have an added component of opening up your joints and strengthening the flow of energy. If you have any problems with balance at any time, feel free to use a chair back or wall for support. If there is any unusual pain, stop immediately and consult a medical professional.

The exercises start by working with your hands. Walk in a small circle, opening and closing your hands, and smile. This gets the blood flowing and your energy moving. Smiling promotes good energy and good feelings. Next, there are two exercises each for the neck, shoulders, spine, hips, knees, and ankles. Do three repetitions of each exercise before beginning your tai chi forms.

Neck
1 - Head Down. Start with your chin down toward your chest. Inhale and slowly raise your hands in front of you with your palms down. As your hands move, follow the movement with your chin. When your hands reach shoulder height, you should be facing straight ahead. Turn your hands so that your palms are toward your face. Bring in your hands toward your chin and move your chin backward, as if your hands were pushing it back, keeping your head upright. This straightens your spine. Exhale, turn your hands so the palms are forward, and push your palms forward and then down. Allow your chin to follow the hand movements by extending your head forward and bending it down.

2 - Side to Side. Raise one hand to shoulder height in front of your shoulder with your palm facing in. Move your hand out in an arc to the side. Keep your hips still and turn at the waist. Follow the movement by turning your head. Return to center and switch hands. Repeat to the other side.

Shoulders
1 - Shoulder Roll. Roll your shoulders forward three times. Then do it again by rolling them backward three times.

2 - Hands Up and Around. Inhale and bring your hands around from the sides toward your body in a big circle, bending your knees slightly and gathering qi as you move. Exhale and press your hands down in front of you.

Spine
1 - Stretch up & Down. Slightly tuck in your chin to straighten your upper spine. Hold your hands in front of you with one hand about chest height and palm down and the other at your lower abdomen with the palm up, as if holding a ball. (Alternatively, hold your hands at the same level with fingertips pointing toward each other.) Separate your hands and inhale, moving one hand palm up over your head and one palm down at your hip. This is a gentle stretch with your elbows bent. Repeat to the other side.

2 - Side to Side. Hold your hands in front of you, right palm down and left palm up, as if holding a ball. Rotate at the waist in the direction of the top hand. When you reach your limit, reverse your hands and rotate in the other direction. Try to separate the movement of your hips and your waist and keep your hips still. There is no need to turn more than about 45° each way.


Hips
1 - Forward & Back. Shift your weight to your right leg and bend your knees slightly. Lift your left leg and extend it forward, touching your heel down. Keep most of your weight on your right foot. At the same time, push your hands back from your sides toward the back. Lift your left leg, bring it back to where you started, and extend it behind you, touching down on the ball of the foot. At the same time, raise your hands in front to about shoulder height. Repeat for a total of three stretches. Repeat on the other side.

2 - Side Stretch. Shift your weight to your right leg and bend your knees slightly. Extend your left leg out to the left and gently touch down. Raise your hands with the palms facing to the right, right hand above the left. Press your hands to the right as if against a wall on your right side. Repeat to the left side.

Knees
1 - Step & Punch Forward. Make your hands into loose fists and place them at your waist. Shift your weight to your right leg and bend your knees slightly. Slowly lift your left leg, raising it until your thigh is horizontal. Extend your left foot and touch down on the toe. At the same time, slowly punch forward with your right fist while exhaling. Bring your foot back in and touch down where you started. At the same time, bring your fist back while inhaling. Repeat to the other side.

2 - Step & Move Forward. Make your hands into loose fists and place them at your waist. Shift your weight to your right leg and bend your knees slightly. Slowly lift your left foot slightly, place it forward, touch down on your heel, and touch the rest of your foot down. At the same time, shift your weight forward and slowly punch forward with your right fist while exhaling. Keep your back heel flat on the floor so you don’t become overbalanced. Keep your feet apart so you are not “walking a tightrope”. Shift your weight back, pick up your left foot, bring it back, and touch down where you started. At the same time, bring your fist back to your waist while inhaling. Repeat to the other side.

Ankles
1 - Heel & Toe. Shift your weight to your right leg and bend your knees slightly. Extend your left foot and touch down on your heel. Lift your foot slightly and touch down on the ball of your foot. Alternate for a total of three touches on heel and on toe. Repeat on the other side.

2 - Side to Side. Shift your weight to your right leg and bend your knees slightly. Extend your left foot and touch down on the outside of your foot. Lift your foot slightly and touch down on the inside of your foot. Alternate for a total of three touches on outside and on inside. Repeat on the other side.

Cooldown Exercises
These are exercises to be done after completing your forms practice to help relax your body.

1 - Gently Punching Thigh. Make a light fist and gently punch your thigh. Repeat with the other hand on the other leg. If you can, raise your leg so that your thigh is horizontal as you punch.

2 - Tense and Relax. From wu ji, make a fist, inhale, and rise up to your full height. If your balance is good, rise up on your toes. Relax and repeat.

3 - Gathering Qi. This is the same as the shoulder exercise Hands Up and Around. Inhale and bring your hands around from the sides toward your body in a big circle, bending your knees slightly and gathering qi as you move. Exhale and press your hands down in front of you.

This is a brief description of the warmup exercises. I have also written another article where I add some more depth to the warmups so they are more like tai chi. You can read that one here.

© 2013 Eric Borreson