Tai Chi for Beginners explained…

Tai Chi for Beginners explained…

Tai Chi for Beginners explained …

We hope to bring a smile to your face. With the motto “Love, Laugh, Yoga and Tai Chi” in our mind, we would like to enrich your days, motivate you, and keep your mind positive.

A Tai Chi Joke:


Student:” Master, what is the secret of a long life?”

Master: “Keep breathing as long as you can!”


Tai Chi for Beginners explained…

Tai Chi for Beginners is a first part of 24 forms Tai Chi. It is made of six to eight forms that flow easily into one another. As many of us know Tai Chi was created based on the understanding of nature and its relationship to humans. As Robert Chuckrow, Phd., states in The Tai Chi Book: Refining and enjoying a lifetime of practice, “the goal was for the mind, which governs and dwells in the body, to come into harmony with the laws of nature. Attaining this goal required emptying the mind of its preconceptions, distortions, and wasteful preprogrammed responses. The mind would then be able to allow the body to act in a natural and efficient manner. Only after the mind was in harmony with both the body and the life-force of nature could immortality be attained.”


There might be many reasons, why one comes to Tai Chi. One can learn Tai Chi for spiritual reasons or for health reasons. Through practicing concentration or focus one can also strengthen the mind and can become more mentally balanced. Tai Chi’s  main purpose is to build internal energy through movement, improve balance, flexibility, and strengthen the body. While using Dan tian or diaphragmatic breathing one’s body and mind can relax. All of mentioned leads to the moving meditation aspect of this internal martial art. As Dr. Paul Lam explains in his book Tai Chi for Beginners and the 24 Forms, “The internal martial arts like Tai Chi use “soft” strategies, such as yielding, absorbing, and redirecting incoming force. They also stress gentleness in combination with self-awareness and breath control. “(pg.128)  


Tai Chi for Beginners is a Yang style Tai Chi flow that is the first quarter of moves that are part of  traditional 24 Forms. These were developed in China in the second half of the 1950’s as a part of Chinese government’s attempt to create a simplified form of Taiji as exercise for the masses. This sequence is sometimes also referred to as a “Short Form” and it is very popular among many people.


However, the first part of the whole sequence is often taught to beginners because it is made of five basic forms, (if one does not count Commencement, Carrying The Ball and Finishing form) that are used also in Sun or Chen styles of Tai Chi and therefore belong to the “Must-Know List” of forms. If one wants to know Tai Chi, one has to first  familiarize themselves with Tai Chi walk. This is a way to learn to pay attention to weight transfer and stepping gently on the heal of foot first. After that one can add different hand movements that are specific for each form


What makes it different from the rest of 24 Forms is that the Beginners Flow focusses on walking forward and backward while transferring weight from foot to foot and pivoting on the heal. (Don’t one always transfer weight and steps on the heel? Well, yes, but…) It is relatively easy to learn because one uses limited amount of forms that are repeated on the left side, right side and then left again. Unfortunately, there is always an exception to the rule, which in this case means that this form might be hard for those who have numbness in their feet or issues with ankles. Also, from experience teaching it, it is much harder for those who have balance issues. Fortunately, I have previous experience and knowledge with other Tai Chi flows. So, as I was learning it, I was already familiar with the “Bow Stance” form, which is a base for the “Parting Wild Horse Mane” and also I knew the “Brush Knee” and “Play the Lute/Play the Guitar” Forms. Nevertheless, I had to learn transitions between the forms, which might be a little bit confusing for some practitioners. Personally, my favorite is the transition from the “White Crane Flapping Wings” to “Brush Knee”. On one hand side, it reminds me of “Shoo-Fly Don’t Bother Me” song and on the other of moving arms while making magic tricks. So while teaching it, I sometimes call it the “Abracadabra” move.


Overall, Tai Chi for Beginners is fun to practice, especially, if one feels comfortable with the moves and can truly relax. Then this short sequence becomes moving meditation with all its benefits.


The Benefits of Tai Chi:

  • Improve your health and quality of life
  • Enjoy the gentle tai chi movements
  • Improve relaxation and harmony
  • Enjoy learning an art that you can continue to grow and progress
  • Improve muscular strength, fitness and flexibility
  • Enjoy camaraderie of tai chi friends
  • Improve balance and confidence

Spring, the Sweet Spring”


Spring, the sweet spring, is the year’s pleasant king,

Then blooms each thing, then maids dance in a ring,

Cold doth not sting, the pretty birds do sing:

      Cuckoo, jug-jug, pu-we, to-witta-woo!


The palm and may make country houses gay,

Lambs frisk and play, the shepherd’s pipe all day,

And we hear aye birds tune this merry lay:

      Cuckoo, jug-jug, pu-we, to-witta-woo!


The fields breathe sweet, the daisies kiss our feet,

Young lovers meet, old wives a-sunning sit,

In every street these tunes our ears do greet:

      Cuckoo, jug-jug, pu-we, to witta-woo!

         Spring, the sweet spring

Here are the first eight forms:

  • Commencement movement
  • Parting Wild Horse’s Mane: left-right-left
  • Crane spreads his wings
  • Brush Knee: left-right-left
  • Play the Lute
  • Repulse Monkeys: left-right-left-right
  • Holding the ball and 
  • Closing Movement

Commencement movement

Parting Wild Horse’s Mane: left-right-left

Crane spreads his wings

Brush Knee: left-right-left

Play the Lute/Play the Guitar



Repulse Monkeys: left-right-left-right

Holding the ball


Closing Movement

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Yoga Poses for Spring

Yoga Poses for Spring

Yoga Poses for Spring

We hope to bring a smile to your face. With the motto “Love, Laugh, Yoga and Tai Chi” in our mind, we would like to enrich your days, motivate you, and keep your mind positive.

Spring is a time of awakening, growth  and renewal. After three or more month of resting and stillness the nature is waking up and with it also human body. If we listen to it we feel like moving. Our yoga practice is starting to pick up. We might feel more energized and also willing to start being more active as the days become longer. It is important for us to establish a regular routine and practice at the same time of the day between sunrise and 10:00 am. Of course, we get best results if we keep being consistent. If our schedule doesn’t allow it, any practice is better than none.

Yoga poses that can be beneficial for practicing in the Spring


Warm-up Phase:


We are always staying within our comfort zone.


  • Shoulder rotations: We start with back-roll shoulder movement. As we inhale we can take our shoulders up. As we exhale we can  take them back and down. We can repeat this gentle back roll 4 times. If we have healthy shoulders we can add forward-rolls and repeat them 4 times.


  • Neck warm-ups: Inhaling looking straight forward, chin tucked in slightly. As we exhale, we can gently look to the one side past our shoulder, keeping our neck tucked in. As we inhale, we are bringing our chin back to a neutral position. On the next exhale we look to the other side over our shoulder. Repeat 4 times on each side.


  • Hip circles: Keeping our feet at least shoulder width apart and toes facing forward we are placing our hands on our hips. We start drawing circles with our hips with the breath 4 times in the clockwise direction and then slowly 4 times in the counterclockwise direction.


  • Knee circles: We are starting in a position with feet closer together and hands on our quadriceps. We gently bend our knees and draw circles to one direction four times and then the same amount to the other side.


  • Ankle rotations: We shift weight to one foot and lift the heel of the other foot to keep possibly 15-20 % of our weight on the ball of the foot. Rotating our ankle to one side 4 times and then 4 times to the other side. Switching weight to the other fool and repeating the exercise with the other ankle. 




Work Phase:

Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutation), which is used in many Vinyasa (Flow) focused yoga practices is excellent for Spring. It is made of 12 poses, that can be easily modified. Sun Salutation is a great way to create heat in our body. By practicing it often, we connect to our inner fire and make our body feel more energized and our mind happier.

Janu Shirshasana (Head-to-Knee Forward Bend)

Marichiyasana III, (Marichi’s Pose)

Pigeon Pose (with optional King pigeon variation)

Dhanurasana, Bow Pose

Parsva Dhanurasana, Side Bow Pose

Cool Down Phase

Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose)

Apanasana (Knee to chest): alternating knees to chest or both knees to chest


Supta Matsyendrasana (Supine Spinal Twist)





Happy Baby (Ananda Balasana)

Savasana (Relaxation Pose)

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Spring and Breathing

Spring and Breathing

Spring and Breathing

We hope to bring a smile to your face. With the motto “Love, Laugh, Yoga and Tai Chi” in our mind, we would like to enrich your days, motivate you, and keep your mind positive.

“The Spring”

By Thomas Carew

Now that the winter’s gone, the earth hath lost

Her snow-white robes, and now no more the frost

Candies the grass, or casts an icy cream

Upon the silver lake or crystal stream;

But the warm sun thaws the benumbed earth,

And makes it tender; gives a sacred birth

To the dead swallow; wakes in hollow tree

The drowsy cuckoo, and the humble-bee.

Now do a choir of chirping minstrels bring

In triumph to the world the youthful Spring.

The valleys, hills, and woods in rich array

Welcome the coming of the long’d-for May.

Now all things smile, only my love doth lour;

Nor hath the scalding noonday sun the power

To melt that marble ice, which still doth hold

Her heart congeal’d, and makes her pity cold.

The ox, which lately did for shelter fly

Into the stall, doth now securely lie

In open fields; and love no more is made

By the fireside, but in the cooler shade

Amyntas now doth with his Chloris sleep

Under a sycamore, and all things keep

Time with the season; only she doth carry

June in her eyes, in her heart January.

     “JUST BREATHE…,” they say.

Happy May!

In this post I would like to address the connection between breathing and the way we feel, as well as the similarities of breathing methods in Tai Chi and Yoga.

Firstly, I must admit that May is my favorite month of the Spring season. That is not only because many of my dear family members were born during May or because all mothers can celebrate their special day, but mainly, because we safely made it past the cold days. Everything comes back to life again, birds are back from the South singing happily, bees are starting to come out and collect pollen and new animal babies are being born. Also, it finally feels like Spring is in the air! (Of course, I do not mean it just because all the pollen is flying and causing all possible allergies to us.)

Maybe the last time you walked outside, you noticed the buds on trees and their intricate shapes and colors, such as Dogwood. Or perhaps, you’ve smelled the sweet aroma of Lilac or Honeysuckle. Or you admired the vast variety of Daffodils and  Tulips. The air truly smells like flowers! 

Often, we do activities and move around without even noticing our breath. Only when we have a hard time breathing or are bothered by allergies, we notice the lack of it. Then from being outside we move back inside into the safety of our homes with closed windows, filters and AC, where we can breathe. 

As I am writing this, I have realized how the practice of Tai Chi and Yoga brings our awareness to our breath. Both arts are practiced for health and relaxation reasons. But it is not just the movement from form to form or pose to pose that makes one calm down. It is the breath, Qi or Prana. It is seen as the life force without which our bodies would be just an empty shell. We call it Qigong if we practice moving the Qi and every Tai Chi practice has some Qigong elements in it. In Yoga when we practice different types of breathing we call it Pranayama. 

 Although, we think we know how to breathe, many times we tend to hold our breath at the wrong moment, or breathe too fast or breathe with the upper part of our body tensing our shoulders and neck areas. As Dr. Paul Lam mentions, “Stress tends to increase the rate of breathing. An increased breathing rate leads to taking in too much oxygen and releasing too much carbon dioxide. Since carbon dioxide is acid, the pH levels of the blood rise, disturbing our body chemistry. This can cause the blood vessels to tighten, increasing blood pressure (Dr. Paul Lam, “Teaching TC Effectively,” Tai Chi Production, 2006; (138)). Even though we heard many times that with this kind of breath we are stressing our whole system (activating our flight-and-fight response, causing anxiety, clenching our jaws, etc.) we continue doing it.

And yes, I am not a pulmonologist, but what I’ve learned from years of practicing yoga and tai chi, we have the ability to change the way we feel if we bring our attention or mindfulness to our breathing and in that way take control of our breath.

“More efficient breathing improves gas exchange, massages body tissues, including internal organs, helps regulate the nervous system, improves mood, and balances and moves Qi within the body and between the body and environment”(P. M. Wayne, PhD et al., “The Harvard Medical School Guide to Tai Chi,” Shambhala; 2013(30)).

One of the ways to relax is through breathing. It is well known that we can connect our body to our mind through mindful breathing. In Tai Chi and Qigong we practice so-called dan tian breathing or Diaphragmatic breathing to help us sink the Qi. As we focus on an image of an inflating balloon, we are fully inhaling air into our lungs pulling the Diaphragm down. Thanks to this visualization our breathing causes our abdomen to rise and our lungs can expand sideways. With practice, we can enlarge our lung capacity up to 20 %.

In Yoga, one of the first breaths a student learns is the three-part breath. We fill up the lowest part of our lungs and in that way, allow our tummy to rise first, then fill up the middle lungs and expand our ribcage to the sides and lastly, fill up the top lungs. As we exhale we empty the top part of our lungs first and then we descend towards the deeper parts of lungs exhaling the stale air from them. In addition to that, if we focus on the name of the part of our lungs (lower lungs, middle lungs, upper lungs) we can help ourselves stay in the present moment. We can practice three-part breath seated, standing or laying down. This way of breathing is very similar to the above mentioned dan tian breathing. 

As we focus on fully inhaling and exhaling without force, we can extend our breathing-out time, which leads to more relaxation. What always works for me is if I place my hands on my abdomen and my chest, following the rise and fall.


Spring (Kapha) Season Recipe

Quinoa Asparagus Salad:

Pour water into a saucepan and bring to boil

Add quinoa and salt, stir, cover and reduce heat to low

Simmer mixture until quinoa is tender, approximately 15-25 minutes.

Remove saucepan from heat and let quinoa rest for 5 minutes, fluff up it up with fork



For Salad:

1.5 cups of water

3/4 cups of quinoa

1/5 teaspoon salt

1 bunch fresh asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1.5-inch pieces

4 ounces crumbled feta cheese

⅓ cup toasted slivered almonds

2 green onions, thinly sliced, or to taste

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

1 lemon, zested

For Dressing:

¼ cup lemon juice

2 tbsp. Olive oil

1 tbsp. Honey

1 clove garlic, minced

1.5 teaspoons Dijon mustard

Freshly ground black pepper to taste


Quinoa preparation

Pour water into a saucepan and bring to boil

Add quinoa and salt, stir, cover and reduce heat to low

Simmer mixture until quinoa is tender, approximately 15-25 minutes.

Remove saucepan from heat and let quinoa rest for 5 minutes, fluff up it up with fork

Veggie mixture preparation

        • Stir asparagus, feta cheese, almonds, green onions, parsley, thyme, and lemon zest into quinoa.
            • Pour water into a saucepan and bring to boil
            • Add quinoa and salt, stir, cover and reduce heat to low
            • Simmer mixture until quinoa is tender, approximately 15-25 minutes.
            • Remove saucepan from heat and let quinoa rest for 5 minutes, fluff up it up with fork

          If you do not have a steamer:

          • You can bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil
          • Add asparagus and cook uncovered until tender
          • Drain in a colander and immerse in ice water for several minutes to stop the cooking process
          • drain

           Asparagus preparation

        • Steam for 3 minutes so it is still crisp

        • Dressing preparation
            • Whisk lemon juice, olive oil
            • Add honey  and garlic,
            • If you like, add Dijon mustard, and black pepper together in a bowl until the dressing is smooth.

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