T'ai Chi Mini-Form for Improved Balance

You can follow a T'ai Chi mini-form routine that targets a specific area, such as balance, if you don't have enough time for a complete T'ai Chi practice. The mini-form described here can help you achieve better balance, staying upright and walking steadily, and not wobbling or risking spraining an ankle.

In this routine, you walk T’ai Chi style — being slow, flowing, focused, and stabilized. Along with the balance that comes from slow, deliberate T’ai Chi walking, you also develop leg strength. You stop relying on momentum to get around, and instead appreciate each step.

You may want to pick a long hallway, large room, or a driveway so that you have plenty of room in front of you to move before you have to break the flow and turn around.

  1. Stand with your heels together, feet turned out slightly to create an angle of about 45 degrees between your toes. Keep your arms relaxed at your sides.

    Having your arms hang relaxed at your sides makes the walk unstable and, therefore, more challenging because you have to keep your arms from flapping around.

  2. Inhale and then exhale as you bend your right knee, allowing your weight to sink lower on your right leg. Make sure that you feel grounded and stable.

    Tuck your tailbone under as you sink lower so you don't end up swaying your back and sticking your behind out. That means you should relax your tailbone downward while avoiding collapsing over your ribs and pelvis. (Your posture should still look normal.)

  3. Inhale and slowly lift your left foot; then, just as slowly, put your left foot down in front of you and slightly to the left of your body as you exhale. Let the heel touch the floor first, and slowly roll down onto the entire sole of the foot. Allow your weight to shift onto the left side while you bend your left knee.

    This should feel and look nearly like a regular walking step but in slow motion. Also, make sure that your forward-stepping foot doesn't slam down to the ground, but rolls down from the ball of the foot to the heel smoothly and quietly.

  4. When you are finished wobbling on the left leg and feeling nice and stable, inhale and pick up the right foot; then exhale and place the toes lightly on the ground beside your left ankle. Do not move your right foot until you are completely wobble-free and well-rooted on the full sole of the front (left) foot.

    You wobble less if you not only sink well, but use your abdominal muscles for centering strength.

  5. Now step out to the right side of your body — just slightly — with your right foot, making sure that the heel goes down first and you roll smoothly and quietly onto the entire foot).

  6. Continue walking the T’ai Chi Walk until you run out of room; then turn around and head back the way you came. You move in a zigzag fashion, stepping slightly out to one side of your body and then out to the other.

    Avoid lunging forward onto your front leg with a bent knee. Practice putting the heel out in front of you without moving the rest of your body then bringing it back underneath you. You should not have to push off with your front leg to return the foot to the starting position. Only step as far as you can without lunging forward with your weight.

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