Tai Chi Warm Ups Part 1: Upper Body

Tai Chi Warm Ups are an essential part of your tai chi training. They are important to understand tai chi basic movements and they prepare you for the more advanced training exercises and forms that follow.

Benefits of the Tai Chi Warm Ups

Through this series of 12 simple whole body loosening up exercises you will:

  • Loosen up your muscles and joints
  • Increase qi (vital energy) and blood circulation
  • Relieve and prevent joint pain and injuries
  • Reverse the “normal” effects of aging

The 12 Tai Chi Warm Ups aka The Daily Dozen

The 12 Tai Chi Warm Ups are also known as the “Daily Dozen”. Here is a list of their names:

  1. Neck Rotation
  2. Shoulder Rotation
  3. Elbow Rotation 1
  4. Elbow Rotation 2
  5. Wrist Rotation 1
  6. Wrist Rotation2
  7. Finger Rotation
  8. Waist Rotation
  9. Hip Rotation
  10. Knee Rotation
  11. Ankle Rotation
  12. Three Leg Stretches

Part 1: Upper Body Warm Ups

In Part 1, we will cover the Upper Body Warm Ups. In Part 2, we will cover the Lower Body Warm Ups.

At the bottom you will find a video link that demonstrates the entire Daily Dozen series.

Neck Rotation

  1. Stand with your feet parallel and shoulder width apart. Exhale as you drop your chin toward your chest.
  2. Inhale as you rotate your head to the left side, and then gently extend to the rear. Keep your eyes open.
  3. Exhale as you rotate your head to the right side, and then forward, dropping your chin toward your chest.
  4. Move by “letting go” and allowing gravity to cause your neck movement rather than tensing your neck and shoulder muscles.
  5. Remember these are joint isolation exercises – move only your neck. If your shoulders are also moving, then make a smaller rotation until you move only from your neck.
  6. Rotate your head 10 times in each direction.

Shoulder Rotation

  1. Stand with your feet parallel and shoulder width apart. Inhale as you lift your shoulders up, and rotate them backward, gently opening your chest and closing the area between your shoulder blades.
  2. Exhale as you lower your shoulders down, and rotate them forward, gently closing your chest and opening the area between your shoulder blades.
  3. Make sure to relax and “let go” your shoulders to reach the complete bottom of the circle before beginning the next rotation.
  4. Rotate your shoulders backward 10 times. Then change directions.

Elbow Rotation 1

  1. Stand with your feet parallel and shoulder width apart. Extend your arms up and out to 45 degrees, slightly in front of the sides of your body. Silk reel arms inward until palms push out. Relax shoulders, sink elbows, and relax your wrists and fingers.
  2. Keep upper arms extended out to 45 degrees. Inhale as you bend your elbows and silk reel hands outward (right hand clockwise, left hand counterclockwise), and circle your hands up to shoulder level, palms up. The axis of rotation for the silk reeling motion is a line extending from the center of the elbow joint to the tip of the middle finger.
  3. Continue to bend your elbows and silk reel hands outward, and circle hands up and in, until little fingers are close to your face. Relax shoulders, chest, and upper back. Keep a little space under your arms during this motion.
  4. Silk reel hands inward (right hand counterclockwise, left hand clockwise) until thumbs face toward chest. Let your wrists drop down with gravity.
  5. Exhale as you circle your hands down and out. Continue silk reeling hands inward, back to the starting position.
  6. Rotate your elbows 10 times

Elbow Rotation 2

  1. Stand with your feet parallel and shoulder width apart. Extend your hands up and out to shoulder level, slightly in front of the sides of your body, palms up. Lengthen from your spine to your fingertips.  Relax your chest and shoulders and sink your elbows.I
  2. Inhale. From the tips of your middle fingers, silk reel your hands inward (right hand counterclockwise, left hand clockwise), as you bend your elbows and touch the backs of your wrists to your hips. Keep your upper arms stationary.
  3. Exhale. From the tips of the elbows, silk reel your hands outward (right hand clockwise, left hand counterclockwise), as you extend your hands up and out to shoulder level and slightly in front of the sides of your body. Palms face up and fingers extend out to the sides (back to the starting position).
  4. Rotate your elbows 10 times.

Wrist Rotation 1

  1. Stand with your feet parallel and shoulder width apart. From your shoulders to your fingertips let your arms hang down fully relaxed, and join the backs of your wrists together on the centerline of your body.
  2. Inhale as you bend your elbows and raise your hands up close to your chest. Silk reel your hands and fingers in toward your chest. Back of wrists touch together.
  3. Extend your elbows and stretch your hands forward away from your body.  Silk reel your palms to face up and stretch your fingers forward at chest height.
  4. Exhale as you lower your hands down. From your shoulders to your fingertips let your arms hang down fully relaxed, backs of wrists joined together on the centerline of your body (back to the starting position).
  5. Rotate your wrists 10 times. Then change directions.
  6. Inhale as you stretch your hands forward and up away from your body. Silk reel your palms to face up and stretch your fingers forward at chest height.
  7. Bend your elbows and circle your hnds in close to your chest. Silk reel your hands and fingers in toward your chest. Back of wrists touch together.
  8. Exhale as you lower your hands down. From your shoulders to your fingertips let your arms hang down fully relaxed, backs of wrists joined together on the centerline of your body (back to the starting position).

Wrist Rotation 2

  1. Stand with your feet parallel and shoulder width apart. Interlace your fingers loosely and form a circle with your arms in front of your chest.  Imagine your elbows are resting on balloons floating on water.
  2. Keep your palms apart and rounded as if holding a ball.
  3. Relax your shoulders, open your back, and hollow your chest.
  4. Alternately rotate your wrists 10 times in one direction, and then change directions.

Finger Rotation

  1. Stand with your feet parallel and shoulder width apart. Touch your fingertips together and form a circle with your arms in front of your chest.  Imagine your elbows are resting on balloons floating on water.
  2. Keep your fingers and palms apart and curved/rounded as if holding a small ball.
  3. Relax your shoulders, open your back, and hollow your chest.
  4. Separate your thumbs and rotate them alternately, slowly and smoothly 10 times in each direction.
  5. Do the same with each pair of fingers, 10 times in each direction.

Click here to follow along with Tai Chi Warm Ups Part 1: Upper Body

Click here to follow along with complete Tai Chi Warm Ups.

For more information on the benefits of tai chi warm up exercises click here .

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