Tai Chi Standing Exercise
. Tai chi standing may not sound very difficult or useful. But paradoxically and perhaps oddly enough --at least from a Western perspective--one of the most essential warm-ups for a tai chi workout is to simply stand.
The process of standing is a way to develop proper body alignments—for tai chi but also for walking, talking, and all other moments in life.
Tai chi standing is also a way to develop a better awareness of one’s body, and to know when it is better or less aligned. Standing teaches you how to be comfortable in your body. Tension that has built up in muscles or other body parts contributes to poor posture and discomfort.
When standing, one becomes aware—sometimes painfully aware—of where tension is held in the body. Habits such as clenching one’s teeth or hunching in front of the computer--will lock tension into the head and shoulders—two very common tension spots.
When standing, you can put attention to these tense areas to dissolve the tension and to relax.
How to Stand. The tai chi standing practice isn’t quite as simple as just getting up from a chair. There’s a physical process and quick checklist of standing alignments.
There are a number of different standing positions, but the neutral standing position is the most suitable for beginners.
The Neutral Standing Position
. Here’re some pointers for your standing practice:
• Begin by relaxing your mind and body.
• Your feet should be parallel and pointing directly ahead.
• The feet should be hip- or shoulder-width apart. Pick a distance that’s comfortable. Your weight should drop down evenly to both feet.
• Bend your knees slightly. But, don’t bend too far forward. Look down to make sure you can still see your toes. If not, adjust your stance until you can.
• Gently stretch your spine so your tailbone points to the ground. This reduces the normal S-curve of the spine. Let the spine relax into this position, without force or tension.
• Keep your neck and head straight. A head normally weighs about 8-12 pounds, which can create a lot of pressure on the spine. To avoid this, the head should feel slightly lifted above the vertebrae. Pull the chin back slightly and downwards.
• Tongue tip is at the roof of the mouth. This is the same position it would be in, when singing “la la la”.
• Relax your chest , keeping your spine straight. Avoid the normal military pose.
• Rest your hands lightly on the sides of your thighs. The arms are relaxed and the palms face backward at thigh level.
• Breath softly through your belly. Keep the breath soft and circular, without pausing between the inhale and exhale. Read here for more tips on
When standing, try to stand for a minimum of 5 minutes. This is the time needed for noticeable results. But, if your body or mind is especially stressed, more time will be needed to obtain the benefits of standing.
Be gentle and build your tai chi standing practice slowly, gradually increasing the length of our practice in 2 or 3 minute increments.
The practice of tai chi standing isn’t as easy as it may sounds. Some would even say the practice of standing isn’t easy at all. It may immediately bring thoughts and sensations of aches or itches to the forefront, along with a list of other things one might be doing.
The Chinese have a term for this, and speak of the taming the ‘Monkey Mind’.
Standing: An Important Exercise for Tai Chi. Taming the Monkey Mind isn’t easy and you may want to ease into a regular standing practice.
But, holding a standing position can yield incredible benefits in terms of body and energy awareness as well as better body alignments. It is also a way to develop strong roots and a sense of groundedness.
Sooner or later, serious practitioners will find that tai chi standing is essential to developing a strong tai chi practice.