2. Beginning Tai Chi - feet parallel, chin tucked under, pelvis tilted under, chest out, palms back. Begin - wrists up, elbows down, wrists by your side sinking down
First make yourself familar with correct posture as discussed earlier. Pay particular attention to: a) Tucking your chin under lightly b) Rotating the hips, turning tailbone under by squeezing lower pelvic floor muscles. c) Straight, relaxed spine d) Arms hanging loosely from your shoulders e) Knees slightly bent not locked f) Feet parallel, side by side
Instructions: Once your have your preparation posture correct you can begin, raise both your wrists up to shoulder height, arms slightly bent, joints not locked, wrists loosely bending down. Keep your hands relaxed, posture remains the same, eyes looking ahead and slightly downward angle at 45 degrees. Now move both your arms downward gradually bending at the elbows creating a circular pattern between the upward and downward movement.
As your hands come down by your side at hip height your whole body sinks down by bending your legs. When you sink down your body you need to feel a height that you are comfortable with, be careful of trying to copy others. The height that you sink down to is the height that you will keep throughout the form except in postures like Lower Posture. This height is gauged by the distance the crown of your head is to the floor. The deeper you sink the harder the postures will be to hold so be careful of this height, also it is possible to sink too low, this can be seen by the hips reaching a height below the level of the knees, this will lead to a break in your body alignment and also to the knees going over the toes.
Think of sinking down as being like a squat and shifting weight between your legs as being like a lunge. There are over 108 movements in this traditional tai chi form. Typically it will take you 20 minutes to perform the whole thing. You will be doing over 108 squats and lunges - slowly, this is one reason why tai chi will help you improve your leg strength and balance. Be gentle on yourself and don't sink too low at first. This isn't a competition; tai chi is not about competing with others but about finding peace with and within yourself. This means putting down the desire to achieve, impress and dominate.
3. Hands Play Guitar - left hand, foot forward, turn, right hand, foot forward
Hands: From beside your waist raise both your hands upward, circling them in front of your body until they are at chest height. Armpits are kept open, elbows a fist and thumb distance from the body. The left arm circles in front of your body until your wrist is inline with the centre of your chest, palm facing towards you. The right hand, palm facing out, touches the left wrist. Elbows are not higher then the wrist but hang lower then the hands and are relaxed.
Legs: At the same time shift your weight into your right leg then place your left leg forward, heal touching the ground and toes slightly off the ground pointing up. Make sure your toes are not too high off the ground, just enough to show that this leg is empty.
Preparation Posture, Grasping Birds Tail, Single Whip. Five repetitions of these movements from the Wu 108 Slow form, filmed from front and back view to help my students to learn the movements.
4. Grasping Birds Tail - from left side to right side, then push to cnr, hook right hand
As you sink your weight back into your left leg from Hands Play Guitar, your fingers on your left hand are touching your right wrist. Left palm then turns to face down, right palm turns to face upwards. Now turn your waist to the face the left diagonal, at 45 degrees, and shift your weight forward to the left, weight now transfers into the front right leg. Turn your waist in a circle towards the right, this will automatically make your hands and arms follow the circle. When you have reached the right diagonal, facing 45 degrees to the right side you then sink your weight back into the left leg. Pay attention to how you do not have to move your arms, by controlling your movement with your waist your arms will in turn move. Study this aspect; it will point you towards deeper understanding within your tai chi practice. Movement of the arms is often an illusion in tai chi, instead it follows the understanding that "When one part moves, all parts come into play" as spoken about in the tai chi classics.
Now as you sink back your palm faces sideways, flat, ready to press towards the corner. Start shifting your weight across to your right leg, as you slowly turn your waist press your hand towards the corner. When you have finished this posture your weight will be fully transferred and body extended in the press, a feeling of alignment appearing between your back left heal and the palm of your right hand. Make sure the arm isn’t stretched and over extended, your elbow should never be locked in any posture. Keep practicing each of these three moves until they become comfortable to you, at this time tai chi movement is still quite foreign to you and to rush headlong into the lesson will only lead to failure. Stay put, drop the normal push for achievement that we carry through life and make this your time, an exploration of yourself.
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This article was written by Stephen Procter, instructor from Tai Chi Health for Life, Australian College of Tai Chi & Qi Gong and Meditation Instructor from Meditation in the Shire, Kirrawee NSW, Australia. If you wish to post this article on another website or in a publication please respect the author and reference / link back to this website, thank you