Tai Chi - Do's & Don'ts

Dos and Don'ts

In order for the vital energy to flow unimpeded through the entire body, you need to keep your spine and limbs correctly aligned and your joints open and loose. The following advice will help you maintain this proper alignment during your tai chi practice. It is worth referring to this section occasionally, even when you feel you have learned the form thoroughly. In times of doubt or whenever you suspect your tai chi is not flowing smoothly, check you are not doing something fundamentally wrong to upset your equilibrium.


Traditionally when we learned tai chi we are told to imagine a point of suspension situated on the crown of the head. From this a golden thread goes, up to the heavens, so that we move as if suspended always vertical. Another way to think of this is to compare the base of the spine to the bob on the end of a plumb line. No matter whether the plumb line moves forward or back the string always remains upright.


This rule also goes for all the joints in the body. A useful analogy here is to think of water in a hose. When the hose has a twist in it or a tight bend, the water ceases to flow smoothly or may stop altogether; the same applies to the chi in the body. So try to maintain a relaxed and flexible look to the limbs without tension. This again enables the blood and other vital fluids of the body to flow easily and without obstruction.


Our vital energy center is situated in the abdomen - it is a point just below the naval called the tan tien. In tai chi all of the turns steps and rotations should be directed from here- like a searchlight guiding the movements of the limbs. We also try to direct our breathing down into that area: even though the air itself obviously goes into the lungs we imagine the essence of the breath sinking to the tan tien, a constant focus of attention. Try to retain this quality of self-awareness throughout your tai chi practice.


When you do your tai chi always allow your weight to sink down. A slight bend to the knees helps to create the typical tai chi appearance, which is somewhat low slung and stealth like. This characteristic should be cultivated during all of your work so that the movements flow one into the other without bobbing up and down.