Beginners considering taking up tai chi for its many mental and physical benefits may be wondering what specific movements they should try. A good starting place is with Tai Chi Chih, a set of 19 movements and a single pose for meditation. This focuses on your development of natural, intrinsic energy known as “chi”.
Beginners to this ancient Far East practice discover Tai Chi Chih is easy to learn, and does not require any advanced level of coordination or physical fitness on your part. Try these basic movements for beginners before deciding whether or not you want to move onto the more difficult martial art-based Tai Chi Chuan. (Tai Chi Chih movements are done in sets of 9, so repeat each of the following beginner moves 9 times.)
This stretching movement is perfect for beginning any Tai Chi Chih session. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart, feet facing forward. Bend your knees very slightly. Push down and forward with your tailbone, up with your abdominal muscles.
Rock slowly forward onto your toes and then back onto your heels. Imagine that the bottoms of your feet are like the curved rockers on a rocking chair. Raise your hands at your sides, palms up, upward as you rise onto your toes. When rocking back on to your heels, lower your hands back to your sides, palms facing down.
Bird Flaps Its Wings
The second movement in the 19 piece Tai Chi Chih series is a preparation exercise called Bird Flaps Its Wings. With your ankles together, align your feet at a 90 degree angle to each other. Keep your tailbone down, pushing forward, knees bent ever so slightly.
As your knees bend at the sides, your arms move out, mirroring the movement of a bird flapping its wings. Raise your arms to just under shoulder height, and return to your starting position. Your heels will rise up as you do. You want to perform this movement 3 times each set, for 3 sets, a total of 9 repetitions.
Carry Ball Around the Platter
Step forward with one leg resting on that heel, knee straight and toes off the ground. Your back leg should support you, with that foot at a 45 degree angle to your front foot. Pretend you are holding a small, round ball in your hands in front of your chest or neck.
You will slowly step forward, placing your weight on your front foot, moving the imaginary ball in a counter-clockwise motion as you rock forward and back. This will alternate your front and back foot raising and lowering off of your heels and onto your toes. Imagine you are dropping the ball a little more than halfway through the motions. Perform 9 repetitions.
Tai Chi Chih is the perfect tai chi variation for beginners, the elderly, those who are not very physically fit, and anyone recuperating from surgery, an illness or an accident. You may feel that these simple, rocking, flowing movements are not accomplishing much. However, Tai Chi Chih founder, US citizen Justin Stone, lived a healthy 95 years, benefiting from the serenity, mental and physical health and longevity that tai chi delivers.