Improbable though it might seem, Boston Celtics center Robert Parish credits tai chi with extending his career and making him one of the oldest dominant players in NBA history. Tai chi protected Parish’s body from the stresses of pro hoops, and in the same way can help protect regular folks, writes Bill Douglas in “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to T’ai Chi and QiQong.” An understanding of tai chi can improve your practice at home or help you follow your tai chi master or a DVD while you perform beginner-level exercises in this moving meditation.
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart to start a beginner routine, recommends master Lam Kam Chuen in “Step-by-Step Tai Chi.” Rest your hands on your hips. Gently let your head roll around clockwise and repeat twice. Follow with three counterclockwise head circles. Inhale and raise your shoulders; exhale and lower your shoulders.
Raise your hands gently in front of your belly, as if lifting a balloon. Shake your hands as if shaking water drops off of them. Continue for three full breaths. Lower your hands and stand still for a second.
Raise your hands up for the “painting the wall” motion as if your hands are paintbrushes and your fingers are the bristles of the brushes. When your hands reach head height, lower your hands with your fingers tilted upward as if still painting. Raise and lower your arms six times.
Slowly raise both arms in front of you until they are overhead then behind you and down to describe a full circle for the “two full moons” exercise. Complete six full circles. Follow with the “brushing the air” motion, raising your arms behind you and up, slowly raising your arms to head height and lowering them in front you. Complete six full circles and rest your arms by your side.
Raise your hands in front of your chest for the “playing the accordion” motion. Move your arms gently outward as if playing the bellows of the accordion and bring your arms gently back in. Make six movements out and in and rest your arms at your sides.
Raise your hands in front of your chest as if doing the breaststroke for the “swimming on land” motion. Extend your arms forward in a smooth, calm fashion. Move your arms apart and bring them back to your chest to make six complete strokes. Lower your arms.
Continue your beginner tai chi with hip circles, gentle forward bends, back bends and side bends. Raise your ankles and make small circles with each foot. As you master the beginner moves, advance to higher levels by doing additional repetitions of each routine.
Beginner tai chi might whet your appetite for more evocative tai chi motions, such as “opening the curtain,” “waving hands like clouds,” “eagle spreads its wings” and “working the oar.” Your balance and agility should improve as you practice this ancient art.