The Purpose and Benefits of Tai Chi Walking, and How to Do It
The purpose and benefits of Tai Chi Walking, and how to do it.
Tai Chi walking is an exercise intended to:
- Improve physical balance,
- Focus and quiet the mind (the Chinese call a mind that is unfocused and restless 'monkey mind' - jumping from one thought to another)
- Aid physical and mental relaxation leading to contemplation and ultimately meditation.
- Lower one's chi (the Chinese word for energy). The Chinese believe that the majority of chi should be in the lower body and stored in the Dan Tien which is about 2 to 3 inches below the belly button.
The lessons learnt from Tai Chi Walking help a person to improve their Tai Chi Form (The slow, graceful movements most people identify as Tai Chi).
What is needed for the exercise?
The exercise is performed either in bare or stocking feet (but not on a slippery floor), or low heeled foot ware so that the person's weight is not pushed forward on to the toes.
Where should the exercise take place?
Any flat non-slippery surface free of obstacles, but the larger the space the better, as there will be less turning to continue the walking. A quiet place environment free from distractions is best. Some people like to listen to gentle music or sounds of nature. This is personal preference, but should not distract the mind from becoming quiet and listening to itself.
How to do Tai Chi Walking?
Tai chi Walking is performed by the slow, deliberate shifting of weight from one foot onto the other.
1. Begin with feet together, weight even, knees off-lock (just slightly bent)
2. Move weight onto one leg, slowly lift up the foot of the other leg, take a slow step forward and out to the side by moving in a little arc, do not over step, but take a natural step forward and to the side,
3. Place the heel on the floor first, with the toes pointing forward, and slowly roll the rest of the foot onto the floor - Do Not Place any weight on this foot yet. Focus on the feel of the floor beneath your foot.
4. Slowly transfer weight onto the front foot, as if shifting sand or water from back leg which is becoming empty (Yin) and filling the front leg which is becoming full (Yang).
5. Continue until the back leg and foot is empty and front foot and leg is full. Keep the whole of the back foot on floor - don't lift the heel.
6.Reverse this by slowly shifting weight on to the back leg and foot, emptying front foot and leg and filling back foot and leg until all the weight is on the back foot,
7. Once all the weight is on the back foot, slightly lift the toes of the empty front foot and turn on its the heel so that the toes point 45 degrees outward.
8. Replace the whole foot onto the floor. Slowly transfer weight to the out-turned front foot.
9. Raise the back foot from the floor (keep it as close to the floor as possible) and move it in towards the front foot, then in a gentle arc, take a natural step forward and to the side. Place the heel first then roll onto the rest of the foot.
10. With all the weight on the front out-turned foot, raise the back foot (keep it as close to the floor as possible) and move it in towards the front foot, then in a gentle arc, take a natural step forward and to the side. Place it heel first then roll onto the rest of the foot, BUT with the toes pointing forward.
11. Repeat from 4 until an obstacle is met, such as the far wall, and turn as described below.
How to turn:
Turn when the front foot is turned 45 degree outward with all the weight on it. Raise the back foot and place it on the floor above the front foot to form the top of a 'T' with the front foot. Transfer weight to this foot and turn to face the way you came. Continue from 3.
The above is easier to do than to describe.
Focus the mind on the bottom of the feet and move as slowly as possible to quiet and eventually empty the mind. The ultimate aim is to just walk, becoming 'walk' with no distinction of self and 'walk'.
When to do Tai Chi Walking?
Any time, but probably better on an empty stomach and when the mind can focus.
Who can do Tai Chi Walkling?
Tai Chi Walking is a gentle exercise that almost anyone can do at any age, unless there is injury, physical disability or medical problem, in which case the advice of a medical practitioner is best before doing this exercise.