4 Tai Chi Back Stretches

Unkink and heal your back with tai chi moves

The ancient martial art of tai chi is known for its unique stretches, movements and techniques, all of which are beneficial to aching muscles and good for relieving constant pain. Whether you've taken classes or are just learning some tai chi moves on your own, with any luck, these stretches will bring relief to your sore back.

Back twist

This doesn’t mean twisting your back like a pretzel. In this very basic sore-back stretch, you simply turn to one side as far as you can go. Don't move too quickly or attempt to over-twist. Just stand naturally with your feet pointed straight ahead, turn to one side, hold it for a moment, then slowly return to face forward. Now, twist to the other side. Allow your arms to relax and just naturally follow the movement of the rest of your body.

Matthew Scott, a graduate of the Endeavour College of Natural Health and an expert in traditional Chinese medicine, recommends doing at least 10-15 repetitions per side, building up speed with each twist, and then gradually slowing down to a stop.

Upper back stretch

Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart. Then, with your fingers interlocked, palms facing away from your body, stretch your arms out in front of you as far as you are able. Try to relax your upper back.

According to the Feng Shui Institute, which was founded to offer education to the public on the ancient Chinese arts, this is a good back stretch for the muscles around your shoulder blades. Repeat this stretch about 10 times.

Autumn breeze

This tai chi back stretch relaxes muscles, and it's a very low-impact exercise.

  • Stand naturally, knees slightly bent, and hold your arms out in front of you.
  • Turn your right hand so that it is perpendicular to the ground.
  • Keep your left hand parallel to the ground and begin to turn your waist to the left. Imagine your right hand is an autumn breeze blowing from right to left across your body, and think of your left hand as a leaf being blown by the wind.
  • Allow your arms to flow left as your body turns.
  • Then, once you've turned as far as you can go, reverse everything; turn your left hand 90 degrees so it is perpendicular to the ground, make your right hand parallel to the ground, and start turning your waist back to the right.

Everyday Tai Chi, an organization of tai chi and qigong experts dedicated to helping people develop healthier lifestyles, says this exercise will make the spine more flexible and strong, as well as relieve stress and improve coordination.

Ruler exercise

  • Stand with feet about a foot apart.
  • Turn your left foot out 45 degrees, and then place your right foot slightly in front.
  • Lift your arms away from the side of the body just a couple of inches, and turn your palms so they face each other in front of you. If you have a one-foot ruler, hold it lengthwise between your hands. If not, just try hold your hands about a foot away from each other.
  • Then, shift your weight onto your right foot, stretching your arms forward at the same time.
  • Then, as you stretch your arms, move them upward.
  • Shift your weight onto the left foot now, and slowly lower your arms down until they're a few inches in front of your waist.
  • Then repeat the movement, and continue for about 5 minutes.

According to Dr. Michael Mayer, a tai chi instructor, award-winning author and licensed psychologist, the ruler exercise can be a basic component for achieving unity in the body and mind, and it’s a great remedy for a stiff and sore back.

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