Tips for bettering your Tai Chi practice

White Crane pose

White Crane spreading its wings in Hawaii

Your tai chi practice will improve greatly once your body learns to move gently, your breath slows down, you stop forcing the movements and learn to feel the natural movements. Basic skills of movement, made deeper by awareness of the body. Know where you have tension, that your body is rooted yet able to move gently and smoothly. This list is a great reminder of the first steps to improving your Tai Chi.

It’s not how deep your knees bend, how low you get to the ground, or how high you can kick. I used to admire the graceful long fingers of my teachers, thinking my hands would never look as graceful as theirs. I’ve come to realize it’s not the long thin fingers, but the internal grace of movement that I was missing. Feeling comfortable within my body, feeling the energy flow through the fingers and joints, rather than stressing the muscles to move.

Relaxing the fingers doesn’t mean leaving them limp, it means allowing the energy to flow naturally. Relaxing the body doesn’t mean slumping into a soft chair, it’s loosening up the tension in the muscles and joints. Allowing the body to breathe naturally, deeply.

Start with the breath, breathe slowly, deeply into the abdomen, a gentle, smooth even breath between inhale and exhale. Move in time with your breath if you can. Don’t hold your breath, or move too slowly that your breath doesn’t feel natural. When the breath is natural, add one movement, either a step, or an arm movement. Practice until that is as smooth as silk. Let the mind focus on being calm and still, feeling the body move. Take it one small bit at a time. When you are ready to add on, take another small bit and practice that. Slowly. Or as Alfredo Rolando Ortiz says, slowlier. Your practice should be at your own comfortable rhythm. Enjoy your practice!

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