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Using Tai Chi to become more balanced

Tai Chi stepping teaches us how to walk softly and with balance. This has the benefit of eliminating the damaging impact that heavy heal strikes have on the lower back and greatly reduces the risk of falls even on slippery or uneven ground. It seems almost ridiculous to say, but many of us really don’t do walking very well and learning to do it with a little more awareness will realign the joints to help prevent or relieve all sorts of feet, knee and hip problems.


Take your time trying this simple exercise and then go for a walk and feel the difference.


Stepping with the right foot:

Stand with the feet hip width apart but this time with the feet angled outwards slightly. Put your weight on the left foot and when you feel balance in it (not before) swing the “empty’ right leg forward, keeping all the weight still on the left. Let the heal of the swinging leg touch the ground followed by the whole foot (toes pointing forward) Then, when you are ready (not before) transfer the weight from the back (left) foot to the front (right) foot. Keep the now “empty” back foot flat on the ground.


Now transfer the weight back to the left foot again and when you feel balanced on it (and not before) pick up the right again and step back to where you started. This time lightly placing first the toes then the whole foot down flat and then (when you are ready) transfer all the weight back from left to right. The whole idea is to break the habit of ‘falling’ on to the foot and learn instead to take a step without automatically committing your weight to it. As you get the hang of it you can increase the speed of your stepping and let the arms just swing naturally as the body moves. Repeat all of the above for Stepping with left foot.

If your feet feel a little tired or unresponsive wake them up first by treading on a tennis ball. Be sure to find all the sore places and massage them away with the ball.

Keith Graham is a member of the Breathe London wellbeing team and is  a senior Tai Chi and Chi Gong Instructor with The Tai Chi Union of Great Britain. He lives and teaches on the Isle of Wight and in London. For more information about classes and workshops with Keith go to


Learning to feel energy using Tai Chi

Chi” is a kind of internal electricity which many eastern cultures believe is the very ‘life essence’ of all living things. Tai Chi players learn to feel Chi so that later it may be directed to specific areas where healing is needed or used for increased power and resilience during combat.

Try this exercise to bring powerful chi energy into your hands.


Stand in the Tai Chi posture with arms down and palms facing forward. Let your breath sink to the lower tan tien or abdomen (see last issue). After a few calming breaths, on the next ‘in’ breath let the palms float up to chest height. On the ‘out’ breath turn the palms over so that they face down and let the arms float down again. Repeat this cycle several times until you feel that the arm movements are completely in synch with your ‘in’ and ‘out’ breaths. Take care to keep everything relaxed particularly the shoulders and palms.


Now begin to imagine that as the hands float up that you are holding two small bags of sand, one in each palm. Feel the extra weight on your palms as you breath in. As you breath out imagine that you are pushing down through warm water. Feel the slight resistance on your palms as the arms once more float downwards on the ‘out’ breath. Repeat this sequence for at least 24 cycles and then after an ‘out’ breath with the arms down, slowly turn the palms to face each other, they will be about 18 inches apart at this point.

Slowly start to bring the palms together, very slowly as if it would take a week for them to touch. Notice any sensations that begin to occur between or around the hands. The feelings can be quite strong but don’t be alarmed it’s just ‘chi’. When you have finished exploring how it feels put this good energy back into your tan tien or share it to someone who may need it.
To read more about Tai Chi and Yoga go to Breathe Yoga, Tai Chi and Stress Management

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Learn a simple Tai Chi exercise


In order to have a relaxed, pain free body and achieve flowing and graceful movement, students of Tai Chi spend time paying attention to their standing posture. Try these visualizations and see if they help you to be more comfortable in your skin.

Stand with your feet hip width apart, your knees soft (not locked back) and feet relaxed, as if melting into the ground. Try to have your feet parallel, toes and kneecaps facing forward. If your normal habit is to stand with the feet and knees pointing outwards, this new position may at first feel a little odd and just means that the muscles in your thighs and buttocks are over tight. Now allow all of your weight to sink downwards through the strong bones of your legs and feet into the ground. Scan your body for places where you holding on and let the tension in these places sink into the ground through your legs too. Allow the muscles of the legs and thighs to go as soft as possible, let the bones do the work and know that the Earth can take it all.

Next, imagine that you are a giant jam sandwich, (you may choose your own flavour) The front piece of bread goes from the hip bones up to the collar bones. The slice at the back goes from the top of the shoulder blades down to the top of the buttocks (or just where a t-shirt would end). As you breathe in, imagine the front slice sliding up and the back slice sliding down. Finally, allow the head to float upwards like helium filled balloon tied by a light thread to your heart.

If you make it your habit to stand like this you will gradually start to notice that your posture improves, that you have more energy and your muscles and joints move more freely.

To read more about Tai Chi and Yoga go to Breathe Yoga, Tai Chi and Stress Management

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