Even in a time of Gameboys and Wii, most of us can remember the simple childhood fun of playing with a ball.
The exercises here are likewise simple and relaxing. The only difference is that instead of using a tangible ball like a high-bouncer, you’ll be creating and using an tai chi ball of energy.
These exercises are useful in developing an awareness of energy and skill in working with energy. This skill is easier to learn in focused exercises such as described here, and then applied to your tai chi set.
Start with the first exercise and get comfortable with that. Then, when you’re ready, move on to the other exercises.
Exercise 1: Creating The Tai Chi Ball of Energy.
Rub your hands briskly together. This is the same motion you’d use to warm your hands on a cold day. But this time, add your intention and awareness to the move.
Intention. Hold the intention of bringing and feeling your qi or life force to your hands.
Awareness. Be aware of your hands and feel for this life force energy in each hand. Also feel the connection of energy between your two hands.
Pull your hands gently apart. After your hands feel that they’re filled with warmth and qi, and the connection between them is strong, pull them apart gently and slowly.
Keep your hands and fingers soft. Let them flow smoothly through the air. Keep them relaxed and fluid.
Bring your hands closer together. When you feel the connection between your hands weaken, bring them back slowly together.
Don’t let your hands touch.
Continue to pull your hands apart and bring them closer together. Repeat this process of slowly moving your hands apart and then back together. Maintain a slow and steady rhythm. Feel the energy in your hands as well as the energy connecting them. See if you notice any changes in these energies as you complete the exercise.
At first, it may be more of a mime routine. Your body may simply go through the motions. With a bit of practice, you’re likely to notice a sensation between your palms. Some feel this as heat while others describe it as the force between two repelling magnets.
To end. At the end of this exercise, simply pull your hands slowly apart and let them drop down at your sides.After you’ve mastered the basic energy ball exercise, here’re some variations.
Exercise 2: Rotating the Energy Ball.
• Create and feel the ball of energy between your hands, just as described above.
• Keep your hands a constant distance apart. Slowly move them so one hand is on top and the other is on the bottom. Or, one may move forward while the other moves back toward you, but always maintaining the same distance between the hands. Continue rotating the energy ball.
Those with interests in the martial arts can rotate the ball quickly, but always smoothly.
Exercise 3: Shrinking, Growing and Rotating the Energy Ball.
Now combine Exercises 1 and 2.
• Create and feel the energy between your hands.
• Keeping the connection between your hands, move them slowly apart and then back toward each other.
• At the same time, rotate your hands. You will be pulling and shrinking the energy ball from different directions.
Exercise 4: Projecting and Receiving Energy.
• Create and feel the energy ball as in the first exercise.
• Now, start to project energy from your right hand. You may have a sense of throwing the energy ball to your left hand. Catch it with your left hand and then project the energy back to the right.
• Enjoy the sensation of throwing and catching the energy ball between your hands—or feel your hands projecting and receiving the energy.
Exercises like this help to develop energy awareness. With this awareness, you’ll be able to deepen your tai chi practice by working directly with energy as you execute the movements.
Tai chi is not about visualizing energy, but about working directly with it. The energy ball exercises are a useful step in learning to work with energy smoothly and powerfully in tai chi.