Tai Chi, translated "grand ultimate motion," improves your flexibility and mobility. Further benefits include increased bone density, physical fitness and less mental depression. However, if you ask 100 tai chi instructors to name the best moves for health, you'll get 100 different answers and 10,000 heated arguments. For sustainable health over a lifetime, Dr. Mehmet Oz, author of "You: The Owner's Manual" recommends low-impact enxercise that encourages proper breathing and builds strength and flexibility in a gentle fashion. The following is an incomplete list of tai chi motions that fit that description.
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Move Hands as Clouds
Stand with your feet parallel and shoulder-width apart, your entire body facing the front. With both palms facing left, stack your right forearm, elbow down, atop your left forearm, elbow up. Press to the left with both arms as if opening a window. Move your arms from twisting at the hips and waist rather than reaching with the arms. Pause for a moment, reverse your arms, facing your palms to the right and stacking your left arm atop your right and complete the movement to press to the right.
Balancing the Chi
Stand facing forward, feet parallel and shoulder-width apart, your hands at hip height with palms up and fingertips touching. Inhale as you simultaneously raise your hands to chest level and your heels off the ground. Balance on the balls of your feet as you hold your breath. Exhale as your simultaneously face your palms downward, lower your hands to hip level and drop your heels back to the earth.
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and parallel. Turn your head and shoulders to face over your left hip. Hang your hands loosely at your sides. Step back with your left foot behind your right foot, crossing your legs at the knees. Raise your hands, palms up, to shoulder level. Unwind your legs to stand naturally. As you unwind, push forward with your right hand and allow your left hand to rotate back with your left shoulder. Repeat on the opposite side.
Stand facing forward with your feet parallel and shoulder-width apart. Keep your neck and spine straight, but not locked, eyes forward, hands hanging at your sides. Exhale as you bend your knees and raise your hands, palms out, to chest level. Hold the position for several breaths. Avoid stressing your knees by lowering your weight only until you begin to feel a burn.
Crane with Wings Spread
Stand with your feet together and hands hanging loosely by your sides. Inhale deeply as you bend your left leg and raise your left foot 1/2 inch off the floor. Simultaneously raise your right arm, parallel to the floor, above your head and move your left arm parallel to the floor and at waist level. Hold the position and your breath, then exhale as you return to standing naturally. Repeat on the other side.
Bowing In and Out
Stand with feet parallel and shoulder-width apart. Keep your spine, neck and knees straight, but not locked. Breathe in as you raise your arms, palms down, to shoulder height. Slowly bend your spine as you breathe out, one vertebra at a time from top to bottom. Relax, holding your breath, as you swing your torso from your hips. Breathe in as you stand back up, vertebra by vertebra from bottom to top.