Fitness

Your Beginner's Guide To Tai Chi

A rundown of the graceful exercise.

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Tai chi is way more than a moving meditation people do in the park. According to Mike Taylor, a tai chi expert with Strala Yoga by Tara Stiles, it’s also a form of exercise that promotes strength, agility, and — most importantly — a feeling of well-being.

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Studies show that doing tai chi on a regular basis can lead to improved immune function, reduced inflammation, better balance, and lower stress and anxiety levels, Taylor says. Interested in trying it for yourself? Read on for a tai chi for beginners guide.

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Get The Proper Setup

To start, it helps to get into the right frame of mind. Pierre Couvillion, director of Santosha School, suggests finding a nice place to practice, possibly by running water, under a tree, or in a decluttered living space. Then, connect to your breath.

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Gather Your Chi

Place your feet hip-width apart, lift your arms, and give them a shake to summon your chi, or energy. “The idea is to wake up your energy and also notice where you're holding too much tension, so you can literally shake it off and move more easily,” Taylor says.

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Beginning Stance

1. Keep feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent.

2. With arms at sides & palms facing backward, take a deep inhale.

3. Allow wrists to rise to should height, elbows soft.

4. Exhale, straighten arms.

5. Feel the energy extend from your core through your fingers.

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Flow Freely

- Keep moving.

- Inhale again with elbows softening in toward you.

- Exhale & lower arms gently, as if you’re pressing through water.

- Repeat this movement, making it softer each time.

The idea is that you’re “doing without doing,” says Couvillion.

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Breathe

Breath begins and ends each movement,” Couvillion says. “Think of the inhale energy coming into your core and increasing the space within you, and the exhale energy distributing outward — like water pressure — to express from the core to the outer surface of the body.”

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Lift A Leg

Once you feel balanced, shift your weight from left to right. “Keep going with this side to side rolling movement, allowing your arms to swing without trying to control them, and pulling your weight out of one leg and then the other, rather than pushing,” Taylor says.

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Rising Sun

When you’re ready, try the “rising sun” movement.

- Stand with feet hip-width apart, arms hanging easily in front of you, crossed at wrist.

- Take a big breath, allow body to lift a bit, then breathe out & relax.

- Take another breath, now lift arms & reach up.

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Hold this pose, stretch up, then relax down with a long exhale. “This practice creates a moving and healing relationship between your breath and body, so not only can you move more easily, but you can also remain relaxed and destressed even when things get hard,” Taylor says.

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Final Tips

- Resist the urge to be “perfect” when practicing tai chi, Couvillion says.

- While you can follow videos online, it helps to practice with a group.

- Look for teachers who seem peaceful, since “that is what we each ultimately seek,” he says.

- Practice, practice, practice.