Cheat Sheet

T’ai Chi For Dummies

From T'ai Chi For Dummies by Therese Iknoian

The ancient practice of T’ai Chi and Qigong includes postures and movements, as well as a philosophy. T’ai Chi also has its own lingo — words and concepts you need to know.

Basic T’ai Chi and Qigong Movements

If you’re practicing the ancient postures of T’ai Chi, you need to become familiar and fluid in adopting the basic stances and movements. The following illustrations show some elementary positions to master:

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How to Follow the Principles of T'ai Chi

T'ai Chi is more than just movements and postures. As with many disciplines that originated in the East, T’ai Chi incorporates a philosophy along with its physical practice. The principles of T’ai Chi in the following list tell you how to live in harmony in your world:

  • Slow down. This is the Grand Ultimate Principle because you begin to find all the benefits of T'ai Chi if you go slowly.

  • Take it easy. Forcing things is an antithesis in T’ai Chi. Physical and mental stress makes you tense up and get all the forms wrong.

  • Think in curves. Movement in T’ai Chi is always curved and circular, never straight and linear. This allows one movement to flow seamless to the next and promotes a better flow of your chi (energy).

  • Be simple. Live fully. Live naturally. And be simple at your core.

  • Sink lower. In other words, let your knees relax and bend at the joint. This grounds you, lets energy flow from the earth into your body, and allows you to overpower your opponent by getting beneath his or her energy and center.

  • Balance your movements. Just as all things in the universe are reciprocal, T’ai Chi is a about balancing your moves — for example, forward and back, weight-bearing and non-weight-bearing, and reach and pull back. This is based on the ancient Chinese philosophy of yin and yang, in which all living things are opposing yet complementary.

  • Stay balanced. Both physically and mentally, good balance is essential to good T’ai Chi — and to life.

  • Move the whole package. Your whole body, not just a wrist or leg, is a part of T'ai Chi movement. Think action-reaction. Think flow.

  • Go with the flow. Think smooth as silk. Move and think as if you are on wheels. Not herky-jerky with breaks. That cuts into your energy flow.

  • Stay rooted. Always feel that you are firmly planted on the ground. This applies not only to T’ai Chi but also to life — what else is new?

In The Writings of Chuang-Tzu, Chuang-Tzu offers a quote to live by:Flow with whatever may happen and let your mind be free: Stay centered by accepting what you are doing. This is the ultimate.”

T'ai Chi Terms to Know

T’ai Chi has its own lingo, like any other practice. The terms in the following list represent the basic concepts you need to know to enhance your practice of T’ai Chi:

  • Chi: Otherwise known as "life energy," chi is the life force that pulses through your body and keeps you vital. Blocked chi can cause sickness or unhappiness.

  • Meridians: Also known as "energy pathways," these are the streets, roads, and byways in your body through which energy flows. These pathways can get "kinked" from poor health and stress and, therefore, can block energy from flowing through your body.

  • Dan Tien: Literally meaning "elixir field," this area is located approximately between your navel and pubic bone and is a storehouse of body energy.

  • Yin and yang: The terms for opposites that are opposing, yet complementary. A concept used throughout all of T’ai Chi and Qigong.

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