Tai Chi Series Part 11: Cloud Hands with Side-Step
The Cloud Hands Tai Chi move alleviates anxiety and helps your whole spine find alignment. Unlike the other movements explored so far in this series, it involves taking steps with your feet- slow and careful steps from side-to-side. With each step your momentum is used to slowly twist your hips and shoulders, carrying your arms and hands into the spaces at your sides.
To begin, take a few slow and deep breaths in a basic stance. Inhale as you raise your arms, and when you exhale, flex your right ankle so your toe points upward, and slowly raise your foot in a large semi-circle further to the right, extending into your hip-flexors and rotating your whole leg to the right, until you touch down again, at which point your right foot should be flat and relaxed again in order to support your weight. Notice the circles your hip, knee, ankle, and toes make during this movement. Next, follow with your left foot in the same circular step so that you end up in the basic stance again. As your body shifts to the right with this side-step, your center of balance should remain consistent from the crown of your head to your tailbone.
The upper-body during this step also rotates from side-to-side from your hips. As you step from left-to-right, raise your arms in front of you so one is level with your eyes and the other with your navel, and sweep them from left to right. Let your gaze rest on your upper-hand. Your palms should cup around, so that they face back at you as you sweep them to the right.
The side-step and sweep of your arms is one step. The rest of this movement is simply repeating by sweeping your arms back and forth as your side-step across your practice space. As you near the end of your space, make your sweeps from side to side less extreme so that your last step is only a small shuffle to the right, and then let your hands fall into a resting position and notices how your body rises and falls with a few slow breaths. Perform this maneuver in both directions across your practice space.
Combine these two elements for this advanced Cloud Hands technique. The Cloud Hands movement is very beneficial for your spine and nervous energy, especially with the extra attention, balance, and rotation the lateral movement requires.
The spine benefits from this exercise from the side-to-side weight being shifted on the hips, and also from the slow twisting of the torso. Notice the weight of your body slowly being distributed across your spine, and the rigid areas in your back will become apparent. Allow your body to relax these stiffened muscles as you become aware of them, and you will find yourself with new balance, strength, flexibility, and overall much less tension in your movements thereafter.
Previous Tai Chi posts:
Part 1: Overview
Part 2: Basic Stance
Part 3: Patience
Part 4: Cloud Hands
Part 5: Healing
Part 6: Raising Arms
Part 7: Breathing
Part 8: Hands Above Head
Part 9: Internal Martial Arts
Part 10: Circle Forms