Tai Chi is a low-impact, lifetime exercise with evidence-based benefits. This ancient Chinese martial art has been shown to help decrease stress while helping the body maintain strength, flexibility, and balance in all stages of life.
Our program introduce Tai Chi at any time during the school year with the goal of creating a warm-up and/or cool-down activity that will have a lasting impact on students.
ESSENTIAL TAI CHI PRINCIPLES
Tai chi contains essential principles, all of which are fundamental and similar in the different styles. When you concentrate on the principles, you speed up your progress and improve, no matter what style you do.
Make your movements slow, even, and continuous, maintaining the same speed throughout. In other words, control your movements.
Move as though there is a gentle resistance. Imagine that the air around you is dense and you have to move against this dense air. This will help you cultivate your inner force.
Be aware of your weight transference. First, centre yourself, then control your balance, keeping your body alignments, and when you move backwards, forwards or sideways, touch down first, then gradually and consciously transfer your weight forward or backward.jw mt ws outdoor
Body Alignments. Be sure you keep your body in an upright position.
Loosening the joints. It is important to do the tai chi movements in a relaxed manner but relaxation in this case doesn’t mean that your muscles go floppy. You should be stretching, loosening. Try consciously and gently to stretch every joint from within, almost like an internal expansion of the joints.
Mental Focus. Be sure not to become distracted from what you’re doing. Focus on your movements so that your internal and external are well integrated.
Exercise ONE – lower body
– sink between feet
– knees always over feet for a safe structure
– last inch gives ten times the benefit
– slow coming back up
For this exercise, I’d like you to getting onto a big, fat, grain fed, barrel-chested mare. This visualization will keep your knees in the proper position as you begin the exercise. (If you are sitting on a horse and you are knock-kneed — you have a very sick horse J).
Standing tall, feet slightly more than shoulder width apart.
Relax, and let your body sink down between your feet — not behind your feet.
If you sink behind your feet, you can almost sit on your heels and still not get a stretch.
But if you actually sink down between your feet, pushing your knees directly over your toes — you’ll keep your knees strong and get a significantly better hip stretch.
And then come up – but come up SLOWLY, slowly, slowly to increase the exercise potential.
At this point, as you go up and down — the exercise doesn’t feel that profound. This is where we incorporate a secret from tai chi practice. “The last inch gives you 10 times the benefit”. If you feel strong, if your knees feel fine, then when you get to the bottom of this exercise — totally relax all of your leg and bum muscles so that you sink another inch or two. The last inch is where you’ll start to increase your flexibility. The last inch is where you will find benefits.
(Do the squats a few times and then move on).
Exercise TWO – lower body
– caution with balance – an inch is just fine
– keep knee bent to act as shock absorber or spring
– do not step back into athletic stance – sink first, then place
This exercise will help you improve your balance. It is vitally important that you use caution here. Some of you know your balance isn’t good. And some of you who think your balance is good may find otherwise. So be cautious, use the chair in front of you if you need it (or use your walker or cane if necessary).
We are going to lift a leg off the floor. Even a quarter of an inch off the floor will begin to improve your balance, so lift slowly and just a little bit to begin with.
From your tall stance, slowly shift all your weight on to your right leg (presenter shifts onto the left leg to mirror or the audience). Keep your supporting leg bent — like a spring — to give you a better balance.
Now lift your left leg slightly off the ground. If your balance is good and you are athletic, then you can lift your leg as high as you wish — the higher the better.
Rather than simply falling back onto your left leg, continue holding the leg up and sink onto your supporting leg. Relax onto this leg and then slowly place your free leg into the shoulder with position. By sinking on the supporting leg, you further challenge to balance while at the same time you increase the strength of the leg.
(Repeat from side to side a few times).
Exercise two– upper body
– when arms scoop, do not raise shoulders
The arms scoop and cross in front of the body, coming up so the hands are just below the eyes. Notice if you raise your hands higher than your eyes, your shoulders elevate. We absolutely do not want to raise the shoulders at any time throughout the 4 Minute Fitness exercises.
Then let the hands separate and open the arms as if you are going to greet somebody with a hug.
(Repeat several times).
Exercise two – add breathing
This time as you scoop taking huge breath into your belly, expanding up into your chest. And as your arm separate, exhale slowly and completely.
(Repeat a few times).
Exercise two – all together
– feel as if arms are pulling leg up (to enhance coordination) – breathe deep into belly to improve balance
To put it all together, as you take a deep breath, scoop the arms up the front, shift onto the right leg and feel as if you are drawing the left knee up. Feel as if the arms are actually pulling the leg up — even if it only goes up an inch or two.
Is important here to breathe down into your belly even though you are lifting up. Too many people breathe high into the chest when they lift up their arms which dramatically raises their centers of gravity, increasing the odds of falling. The rule here — lift up, breathe down.
Then as you relax on your supporting leg, begin to exhale as you place your free foot into the athletic stance and open your arms. Exhale fully.
(Repeat several times).
Exercise THREE – lower and upper body
– caution with pregancy
– caution with the back – do not overdo it. (See Flexibility Module)
– second secret of Yang Style Tai Chi (see Core Module)
This exercise can make a huge difference in the health of your back.
(Core talk works well here).
I’m going to teach you the second secret of Yang style tai chi.
CORE: (Teach the second secret at this point)
This move can be taught standing or sitting. If you are sitting, then your bottom is fixed. When you are standing, it is important to keep the hips still.
SHOULDERS: 4 Minute Fitness will gently move and stretch all of your muscles and joints. This exercise will not only move your core, it will also give you a full range of motion exercise in your shoulders (be cautious if you have a frozen shoulder or rotator cuff injury).
Standing tall, rotate the shoulders to the right and reach behind with your right hand. Have the arm do a full circle from the bottom to the top as you turn your shoulders, and then — as you turn back to the front have that right arm/hand simply and gently fall down the front of the body (draw a line down the front of the body). The left arm simply follows the shoulder and comes for the ride.
Repeat going in the other direction.
Exercise three – add breathing
This time as you turn, take a big breath into your belly and your chest. It will feel tight, but this tightness is valuable, providing a deep internal massage, a massage that will dramatically help move the lymph in your body – further stimulating your immune system.
Exercise three – all together
Now simply repeat the exercise with the movement and the breathing.
Hips still, head still. Reach back with your right arm as you take a deep breath into the belly, with the left hand simply coming for the ride. Draw a large circle with your arm, then as you rotate back to the front, begin your exhale – completing the exhale as your right hand draws a line from the top of your head down your center. (The visualization will be that the hand is drawing energy or similar from the top of the head through the entire body and into the ground).
Exercise FOUR – lower body
– caution with hip replacements or pregnancy
– imagining someone pulling both arms will dramatically increase core movement
– keep both feet on the ground
– shoulders relaxed
The second last exercise begins with your legs further apart (as long as you have a good grip on the floor). In this exercise, you shift the weight from one leg to another, turning the body to the corner of the room (about 45 degrees). Turn both feet in the direction of the turn so that the knees remain safe. You’ll end up facing a corner of the room, with 70% of the weight on the front leg and 30% of the weight on the back leg. Keep both feet on the ground.
(Repeat a couple of times, shifting the feet with each turn).
Exercise FOUR – upper body
How many of you have ever been waiters or waitresses? I’d like you to take a cup of coffee in your right hand, and shift your weight and turn to the left side while reaching your right hand toward the left corner of the room.
If you want to double your tips, then reach your left hand behind you to the back corner of the room. Keep your shoulders fully relaxed. (This teaches the basic structure).
Now this exercise is good, but it can be made even more effective by imagining that two people are each pulling a hands. The effect is that you will end up twisting around your center, your chest will begin feeling as if it is turning to the back of the room. Remember — the last inch gives you 10 times the benefit. This extra pull will create a significant increase in torso (core) activity, an increase in spinal rotation, and possibly stretches up one or both legs. Remember to keep both feet on the ground.
Now repeat on the other side.
Exercise four – add breathing (and altogether)
Once again, begin shifting your weight to the left, bringing your right hand to the left corner. I should do this, take a deep breath into the belly and then into the chest. Feel as if someone is pulling your hands, creating a twist in the body. Fully inhale by the end of the twist.
Exhale as you come back.
Exercise FIVE – lower body
– wider stance
– neurochemicals lesson
– arch chest up (pushing out 45 degrees) and back
– shoulders relaxed
The lower body in this exercise is very similar to the first, except rather than feeling like you are on a barrel-chested mare, imagine sitting on a Clydesdale — a huge horse. Or perhaps even an elephant.
Once again we will sink down between the feet, but with the legs further spread — the stretch is different. If it feels safe to do so — remember that the last inch will give you 10 times the benefit.
Exercise Five – upper body
Press the back of your hands together in front of your body and then slowly raise them in front of your body. As soon as the shoulders feel like they want to rise, then open the arms (“like at Lotus flower opening to the sun”, “a satellite dish opening to the satellite” J or similar). Keep the hands below eye level.
Exercise five – add breathing
As you bring your hands together and raise them, take a big breath in. As you bring the arms down, fully exhale.
Exercise five – making it more profound
To help counter our tendencies to slouch and find balance in our posture, this time raise your hands up the center – and ARCH the upper back. Push the chest out and up, but do not let the head fall back.