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“Tai chi can help us fight the many battles we face in life today, starting with fatigue, stress, and joint pain,” says Hugh Koh, a Life Time group fitness instructor. “It also helps with flexibility, posture, strength, balance, and coordination — all while calming the mind as you work toward a deeper state of inner peace.”

Improve spinal flexibility and breathing patterns by incorporating these four moves into your day.

Stretch Toward the Sky

This movement helps balance the energy in your internal organs while stretching both sides of the body.

Repeat 5 to 8 repetitions, moving slowly.

Full Instructions
  • Stand with your feet shoulder width apart, knees slightly bent, head and eyes facing forward, arms by your sides, and tailbone tucked in.
  • Maintain a straight spine and keep your feet grounded on the floor.
  • Bend your arms at your elbows, and slowly begin raising both arms in front of your chest with palms facing up and thumbs facing away from your chest.
  • When your arms and hands reach heart level, turn your palms 180 degrees and continue to slowly raise your arms up past your head until they are straight. (As your hands pass your head, begin to slowly lift your head up to face the sky.)
  • As you move your arms up, inhale deeply, and fill your lungs with air.
  • Hold for a few seconds in this position.
  • Exhale slowly while you extend your arms out to the side and then down to the starting position; slowly lower your head and look forward as your arms lower.
  • End with a deep breath at the starting position.

Drawing the Bow

This exercise brings energy to the waist area, focusing on your kidneys and spleen. It also helps realign the muscles in your back.

Repeat 5 to 8 repetitions, moving slowly.

Full Instructions
  • Stand with your feet shoulder width apart.
  • Cross your arms in front of your chest, palms toward your heart.
  • Lift your left leg to move into a low, wide stance with your knees bent, tailbone tucked in, and spine straight. (Modification: Stay standing with feet shoulder width apart).
  • As you breathe in, turn your head to look toward your left. Slowly raise your elbows and arms parallel to the ground; push and extend your left hand and arm straight out and away from the right hand while pulling back with and bending your right arm. This should resemble the action of drawing a bow.
  • Point your left index finger toward the sky with your thumb pointing outward.
  • Form a fist with your right hand.
  • Breathe out as you return your arms to the center, resuming the position of arms crossed in front of your chest, palms facing toward your heart. (As you recenter your arms, let your eyes follow your left index finger.)
  • Repeat this exercise on the right side.
  • End with a deep breath at the starting position

Massaging Back and Reaching Toes

This exercise stretches the body from your spine to your toes and increases the flow of oxygen to your brain.

Repeat 5 to 8 repetitions, moving slowly.

Full Instructions
  • Stand with your feet shoulder width apart, arms by your sides and head and eyes facing forward.
  • Turn palms facing out and slowly begin to raise both arms out to your side and up over your head.
  • Bend your arms at your elbows and slowly bring your hands back down past your head to shoulder level, palms facing down.
  • At shoulder level, turn your hands so your palms now face up.
  • Draw your shoulder blades together to pull your elbows back and then place your hands at your midback so your palms are touching.
  • Slowly slide your hands down along your back while bending forward.
  • Continue moving your hands down your back, thighs, and calves, all the way to the ground.
  • When your fingers touch the ground, sweep your hands in a circular inward motion to the front, gathering energy from the earth.
  • Hold for a few seconds before gradually rising. Slowly begin to straighten your body, with arms extended in front, wrists and elbows slightly bent. Continue to raise both arms above your head and repeat this move.
  • End with a deep breath at the starting position.

Body and Mind Balance

This exercise is all about practicing your ability to balance.

Repeat 5 times on each side.

Full Instructions
  • Stand with your feet together.
  • Shift your weight to your left leg.
  • Slowly extend and straighten your right leg in front of you.
  • Extend your right arm and hand behind you, and your left arm and hand to the front of you.
  • Stay balanced in this position for a few seconds.
  • Now, begin to swing your right leg to the back as you simultaneously swing your left hand to the back and your right hand to the front.
  • Continue to repeat, swinging back and forth toward the front and the back as you continue to balance on your left leg. (Start with one or two gentle swings, progressing to eight swings on each side.)
  • Return to the starting position.
  • Repeat this same sequence on the opposite side, extending your left leg and right hand forward, and your left hand to the back.
  • End the exercise by taking a deep breath with your feet together at the starting position.
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