Gaining skill in Tai Chi is closely tied to becoming more aware of your body's balance. Learning to allow tiny shifts in balance to guide your movements will help your awareness of balance grow. Raising your hands above your head will slightly shift your center of balance, and so this move is especially effective for discovering how your movements and breathing are related to balance.
This exericise follows the basic stance and raising arms exercises. The third stage of lifting your hands above your head involves shifting your balance along your entire body, from your feet, through your spine, and up to your fingers as they stretch upward.
When you move your hands above your head, your balance will be affected more than you might anticpate. When I practice this exercise, I have to move my legs closer together in order to maintain my center balance, and I usually have to make slight adjustments with every repetition.
Upon moving your hands from the horizontal position at your sides to the vertical position above your head, you may find your feet need to rotate slightly outward in order to maintain a position of balance, and you may also need to bring your feet closer together. Don't resist this movement. Actually, every different Tai Chi movement and posture should be accompanied by a slightly different posture and movement in order to maintain as close to perfect balance as you can.
In this movement, it's beneficial to imagine a beach-ball sized circle between your knees, and another ball between your hands as your stretch them above your head. These imaginary circles are integral to every Tai Chi movement. They help provide an element of forgiveness in your joints, and your body will more naturally lend itself to the roundness of a circle rather than the rigidity of a straight line. So, your legs and your arms should be slightly bent to best accomodate the weight of gravity pushing them down.
In relation to the pressure of gravity, allow your larger muscles to accommodate the weight. You hands should bestow their weight down to your arms, which bend at the elbow, which will affect your shoulders, which contribute to the alignment of your waist. Your legs and feet provide the foundation for finding the most efficient way to distribute your weight with the help of your entire body. Attuning yourself to your balance is the path to find this efficient posture for your own unique build.
The hands, as always with Tai Chi practice, must be given special consideration. While moving abouve your head, try to take a circular path outward from your sides. While holding them above your head, try to breath with the intention that your hands will embody a relaxed posture that is constantly shiftng along with your breath. Breathe into this stance for at least four brteaths, and up to as many as you feel are beneficial.
Finally, wind down by bringing your hands to a resting posture in the basic stance of Tai Chi, with your arms at your sides. Reflect on your attunement to your balance as your center of gravity again shifts lower as your hands and arms are lowered. Continue to practice this exercise during your Tai Chi routine, and feel out how you become more efficient in maintaining your center of gravity in relation to the position of your arms and legs.
Outside of being very beneficial for your balance, this move is very good for easing tensions and irregularities in your shoulders and posture.
Over time, you will become more efficient in carrying yourself, and you will become more aware of your posture. This sequence is a foundation in learning further Tai Chi movements.