An overarching goal of Tai Chi is to become more aware of your body, but special emphasis is placed on the awareness of your hands. This is because there are many nerve endings in your palms, and so the hands are a useful place for your mind and body to meet in order to begin the discovery of feeling across the rest of your body.
Cloud Hands is a simple movement meant to engage your hands, and in turn your arms, shoulders, neck, and spine. This is the next movement to use after the basic "rooted" stance explored in a previous post.
After a few moments of deep breathing in the basic stance, bring your attention to the palms of your hands. Next, as your breathe in, raise your arms and spread your fingers outward. Your inward breath should finish as your hands reach a 90-degree angle from your body- perfectly horizontal to the ground. Now release your breath, and allow the weight of your arms to carry them downward while gently guiding their descent with the intention of your mind. Pause for a moment to appreciate the stillness of your breathing and balance, and then begin the movement again. Repeat as many times as you wish.
During this exercise, your lower half should seek balance and to draw power from the stability of the ground. There is much power to be gained from translating the stability of the ground up through the feet, legs, hips, and up into the back. From there, your shoulders can take this power to begin the movement of Cloud Hands, culminating in the gentle and precise outstretching of your hands.
This is the exercise known as Cloud Hands. The metaphor in the name is a useful reminder of the gentle quality of movement your hands should embody- as slow and soft as the vapors of a cloud.