yeah ok…..those crazy taoists liked to give the tai chi movements some funny names; repulse the monkey, needle at the sea bottom, single whip etc. But one of these tai chi movements called Cloud Hands can also be done as an introductory chi gung exercise – to learn how to coordinate and connect the left and right sides of the body, understand the proper body alignments when shifting your body weight, and to help develop tan tien awareness as well as leg-spine connection.
As a self-contained chi-gung exercise it is highly effective; allowing someone with limited practice time available to not only learn core physical alignments, but also to benefit from the basic physical components of this exercise. One aspect of these benefits include being able to activate four fluid systems of the body; blood/circulation (activated as a result of the shifting of body weight from one leg to the other), lymph (activated through the specific movements of the arms/body/hips etc), synovial (activated through the alignment/coordination of the joints), and the cerebrospinal fluid (activated through the movement/coordination of the spine, body and head).
In tai chi, each movement has both opening and closing aspects. Opening can be thought of as expanding from inside to outside, and Closing is contracting from outside to inside.
For tai chi practice; when it is open, it is large and expansive and there is no more space outside. When it is closed, it is compacted and there is no more space inside.
Tai chi progressively develops gross and subtle physical coordination, and it is one of the most sophisticated methods of integrated whole-body movement. Tai chi training can be as strenuous and invigorating as aerobics, even though it can look deceptively easy and relaxed. Often those starting to practice tai chi use muscles that they didn’t know they had, and before you really learn to relax and soften your body, the habitual tension stored in your legs and shoulders may make your body tremble and ache during initial stages of practice.
However, you don’t have to be an expert to benefit from learning tai chi – even when done poorly, tai chi fosters vibrant health from deep within your body. As you grow in experience and are able to pay more attention to your body alignments and the energy mechanics of tai chi, you’ll find you gain more and more from your practice.
A core principle of tai chi practice is that of alignment – making sure all parts of the body are in an optimum place in relation to each other; this includes the position of the head, spine, knees, elbows, arms, hands and legs, as well as a number of aspects of the body below the skin. When the body is relaxed and in alignment everything that moves through it can do so in a less impeded way, helping to ensure a free-flow in the energetic system, oxygen, blood and nutrients as well as increasing the overall ease of movement.