Breeze into summer relaxed, centered and strong with a new look at an ancient practice, tai chi, that unites mind and body.
If you are lucky enough to snag a vacation this summer, relaxing by the pool is a great way to eliminate stress and rejuvenate your body. For most of us, summer means keeping the kids busy and watching beautiful weather from an office window. With little time for long walks on the beach, 15 minutes with Kim W. Kanzelberger, Director at Center States Tai Chi in Kansas City, will leave your mind clear and your body strong.
TAI CHI WARM UP
Hand Shakes: Stand with your legs shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent. Lift arms to shoulder height and with loose elbows; vigorously shake your hands at the wrists towards the front, side to side and up and down for 30 seconds. Make a fist with each hand and alternate twisting wrists clockwise and counter-clockwise for an additional 30 seconds.
Neck twists: With arms loosely at your sides, gently turn your head to the left and then right, repeating four times per side. Gently look up, then down four times in each direction.
Shoulder rolls: Roll shoulders backwards and forwards, eight times in each direction. Make sure your back is straight, and your shoulders reach up to your ears for a deeper stretch.
Table twist: With legs slightly wider than shoulder width, sit back into a half-squat. Imagine placing both hands on a table in front of you, and slowly rotate at the waist to the left and to the right. Repeat five times per side.
Leg circles: Standing on your left leg only, raise your right knee so the thigh is parallel to the floor. Rotate the lower part of your right leg at the knee in a clockwise circle, and then counter-clockwise eight times. Repeat with the left leg.
How To Begin a Tai Chi Regimen
While the 37 movements are too complex and fluid to describe on paper, there are five basic principles one must keep in mind when beginning to practice tai chi.
5 Basic Principles of Tai Chi Chuan:
1. Relax – This is not to be confused with the Western definition, which is to collapse. It is a quiet, focused alertness that is the source of strength in tai chi.
2. Separate Yin and Yang – There is great skill in balancing. Being able to consistently and precisely center your weight over one leg is a practiced strength.
3. Move from your center – The pelvis is the center of movement in shifting and rotation. Also, breathing is focused in the lower abdomen.
4. Body held upright – No leaning. Top of head is suspended and your lower back straight with the pelvis tucked under, like a plumb line or a broom handle.
5. Beautiful lady’s hand – Move your hands with an open palm and gently straightened fingers. It means that body awareness has extended all the way to the fingertips.
The best way to truly learn and ultimately appreciate tai chi is to seek guidance from a trained, qualified instructor. While the overall movement is crucial, proper posture and form can most effectively be taught and practiced alongside a professional.
According to Kim, consistency in instruction, attendance and daily practice are essential for someone learning the basics.
The form is presented in a clear, concise and organized manner with plenty of repetition and opportunity to ask questions––something you will not get from a video.
Who needs a week at the pool when you can start or end your day relaxed, focused and strong in 15 minutes?
Give a second look to an old practice and sign up for a tai chi class.