T'ai Chi letters


  1. Feet parallel, shoulder width apart. Weight is evenly distributed along the ball, outside edge and heel of the foot. Toes touch the ground but do not bear weight. Bottom of the foot makes soft, relaxed contact with the ground.
  2. Knees are relaxed, slightly bent. The rear of the knee is soft and open.
  3. The hips are soft and relaxed and slightly sunk, as if you have just begun to sit down.
  4. Tailbone (coccyx and sacrum) hangs plumb. This is a matter of intent, practice and relaxation, and will happen over time. We don't “make” it so.
  5. Abdomen is relaxed. The belly gently inflates on the inhale and gently deflates on the exhale.
  6. Breastbone is soft and sinks back toward the spine. The ribs hang like Venetian blinds and float slightly forward as if wrapping around the front of the torso. The upper back expands (unforced) slightly upward and outward.
  7. Shoulders hang downward from the neck and head and float outward laterally. The “shoulder nest” is soft and open all the way back to the inside surface of the shoulder blades. The armpits are open inward to the center of the shoulder joint.
  8. Elbows hang downward from the tip of the shoulder (A/C joint) and are slightly bent (bowed) away from the ribs. The lower arm and hand are suspended from the elbow. Palms face to the rear. The ground pulls lightly at the fingertips. The “line” from the elbow through the wrist to the fingers is straight.
  9. Head floats free of the top of the spine at the occiput “as if suspended by a thread attached to the heavens.” To this end, the chin is slightly tucked inward to straighten the cervical spine and relax the occiput.
  10. Eyes are closed and free of tension. The eyelids are suspended like window shades.
  11. The tip of the tongue rests lightly on the upper palate as if you were about to utter the sound “la”.

Note: The word “relax” appears often in this outline. Relaxation in this context means to be open, light and expansive; not heavy, limp, collapsed or “couch potatoed.” This qi-gong standing exercise is basically about gradually dissolving away all unnecessary effort, that is, doing away with what is not needed.