Tai Chi Exercises – The Warm-Up

tai chi exerciseIn a Western point-of-view, Tai Chi can be best described as a moving form of yoga and meditation combined. Tai Chi was originally derived from martial arts. It consists of slow, graceful movements reflecting the natural movement of animals and birds. This Chinese technique is slowly gaining popularity around the world because even old people can do it with ease.

But before we discuss the forms used in Tai Chi, it is best to know how to warm-up before every session. 

Reminders – If you experience any pain while doing the proceeding warm-ups, stop or try limiting your movement range. You may hear the “pops” from tensed muscles and tissues in your joints, but do not be alarmed. Although the warm-up exercise is not devised as a breathing exercise, it is however probable that you would naturally coordinate your breathing with the movement.

Neck side to side – Stand with your legs sightly apart, keeping yourself grounded and relaxed. Slowly turn your head to the right side without moving any other part of the body, then slowly turn your head to the left. Repeat this nine more times. End this exercise by returning your head to the center

Neck nodding – After a short rest, gently tilt your neck forward until your chin rests on the neck. Then, raise the head until the eyes look upwards. Use only the muscles in the neck, avoiding movement from your shoulders or waist. Do this movement nine more times.

One up, one down – Still in the standing position, gently raise your right arm from the side. Gently twist your shoulders and waist (keeping your feet glued on the floor) to the left until your right arm reaches its highest. As you bring your right arm down to the side, slowly lift your left arm until your two arms meet at chest level. This pose is called “Embracing the Tree,” with palms inward and fingers pointing towards each other—taking note that the elbows are down. Then gently raise your left arm while twisting your shoulders and waist to the right, as your right arm rests on the side. Do this routine nine more times. Conclude this exercise by putting the arms in center position, back to “Embracing the Tree.” Hold this position for a while and breathe deeply several times.

Over the rainbow – While “embracing the tree,”gently bend forward at the waist until your body can handle and your arms are hanging very loosely, parallel to the legs. Try not to bend the knees or sticking your buttocks out. Begin to return to your upright position by gradually tilting the waist. Do not stiffen the arms, keeping it relaxed yet straight and parallel. As your arms pass eye level, bring the hands together, gently joining them above the head. Arch your back and look upwards until your body could allow it. Then slowly return to embracing the tree. Repeat this procedure nine more times. End this routine into the “Embracing the Tree.”

Waist rotation and body extension – This exercise combines controlled breathing and movement. Starting at “embracing the tree,” slowly raise your arms in a relaxed manner, keeping your arms curved. As your palms pass by your face, rotate the wrists so that the palms face forward and join the hands above the head.

Once your arms are raised, slowly rotate your waist towards your right. Then, slowly tilt back until your body permits. Slowly move forward until your body is centered. Slowly twist your waist to the left, tilt back, and return to center. Repeat this exercise nine more times, ending with an “Attention” pose—standing with your arms at the sides.

Hip rotation – Starting at attention, slowly lift your right leg inward, bending your knee in the process. Slowly move the leg towards the right, extending the leg as you bring it down. Consider this as creating a circle in the air using your knee. Create nine more repetitions with your right leg, then do the same with your left leg ten times. In doing this, be sure to keep your eyes facing forward.

Leg swing – Standing at attention, swiftly swing your right leg forward and backward. Movement should come from your leg and hips, while keeping your lower leg relaxed. Consider this as having your foot “brush the floor.” Keep your eyes forward and try not to look down to maintain your balance. Do 18 complete swings on each leg.

Leg joints – Starting at attention, place your hands on your knees. Then, rotate your knees in a clockwise rotation nine times. After which, circle your knees in a counterclockwise direction nine times. Remember to do this with care, taking note of your body’s limit in flexibility.

Surface circulation – This exercise, which is the last in the warm-ups, may look a bit weird at first. This is basically patting your body to stimulate blood circulation. Start by briefly shaking your hands and legs. Then, using your right hand, gently pat downward the inside of your left arm and gently pat upward the outside (the side where the elbow is) of your left arm. Do the same to your right arm. Pat your torso downwards with both hands, then at your legs (following the same downward-for-inside/ upward-for-outside motion). Pat your torso upwards with both hands. Lightly tap your head. Conclude the warm-up with an attention.

 
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