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The Tai Chi Netguide 
a full and comprehensive online step-by-step guides to the Yang Forms and warm-ups

Neck/Cervical Vertebrae Exercises

 

These three exercises concentrate entirely upon the neck or more specifically the seven uppermost vertebra bones or "cervical" section of the spine. Although very easy to self administer, these 'head manipulation' exercises can help prevent the stiffening of the neck muscles, improve posture, promote more efficient breathing, swallowing and eating - and aid in the prevention of "Sialorrhoea" a.k.a. dribbling.

These three exercises are are specifically targeted and involve no other part of the body therefore they may practiced either sat or stood to equal effect. Indeed, without some training or advice on the establishment of a sound yet relaxed standing posture, it is often better if not safer to, within the individuals level of ability - and the individual is the best judge of that) to self administer these very simple exercises simply sat in a straight back chair.

"Connecting Heaven and Earth"
connecting heaven and earthIn Tai Chi we talk of "the silken thread". We imagine that an invisible thread that connects the crown of our head to heaven. At the other end - on the soles of our feet there is a spot called "the bubbling spring". If you do these exercise sat you may still visualise both of these element - including the bubbling spring - as long as you can get your feet flat on the floor. Either way, the silken thread idea is very important. Between them (silken thread/bubbling spring) they 'connect' us up and down between 'heaven and earth'.

As you breathe in you feel it pull the crown of your head upwards; heavenwards. As you breathe out feel your belly sink - and it is as if you can feel the silken thread become taut or tighter - like an incredibly long and incredibly thin bungee chord.

Relax your shoulders and then, focus you attention upon the position and placement of your head. In Tai Chi we call this "exquisite self examination". Find the place (there is one!) where your neck can be as relaxed as your shoulders and your head may 'rest' there without effort. This (eyes looking directly ahead/chin up a fraction) is the only 'effort' this exercise requires!

The most frequently used visualisation in Tai Chi is that of a ball … or more precisely, balls and circles of various sizes; from that of a beach-ball (held between hands and belly) to marbles (between the fingers) or - as follows - a tennis ball.

holding a ball on the neckWe visualise or imagine that we 'rest' our chin on a small ball that we hold there, against our neck.

This … … … just 'thinking about it'; the silken thread, the bubbling spring, the ball beneath the chin and, most important of all, the rising of the in breath and the sinking of the out breath; this is all effectively stage 1 of exercise.

You should now be ready to take a good deep breath in and move on to the next stage of this exercise - as follows:


Tai Chi style (T.C.M./Traditional Chinese Medicine) Neck/Cervical Vertebra Exercises

EXERCISE 1. "NODDING"

BEGIN: Breathe out as you lower your chin for the first time.
Nod your head gently to and fro - 6 times down, 5 up - first chin down and then chin up.

a) Breathe out on the way down.
a) Breathe out on the way down.
b) Breathe in on the way back up
b) Breathe in on the way back up
c) reaching 'full' when looking heavenwards
c) reaching 'full' when looking heavenwards
d) Breathe out on the way back down;
 
e) being 'half empty' half way down …
e) being 'half empty' half way down …
f) and 'empty' at the bottom.
f) and 'empty' at the bottom.

REPEAT ANOTHER 4 TIMES UP ON THE IN BREATH AND 4 TIMES DOWN ON THE OUT BREATH


CONCLUSION: Breathe out as you lower your chin for the last time. When you then become empty of breath, leave your head relaxed in this lowered position for three in/out breaths. On the third in breath in, gradually raise your chin to its normal or upright position.

Think again now about the silken thread, the bubbling spring, the ball beneath the chin and, most important of all, the rising of the in breath and the sinking of the out breath.


EXERCISE 2. "LOOKING EAST AND WEST"

Bearing in mind (thinking about) the visualisations described earlier - with your head held, neck relaxed, looking straight ahead.

a) Take a good deep breath in. a) Take a good deep breath in.
b) Breathe out & begin turning to the left b) Breathe out & begin turning to the left
c) reaching 'empty' when looking over that shoulder. c) reaching 'empty' when looking over that shoulder.
d) Breathe in - and begin to turn your head back to face front.  
e) being 'half full' half way back … e) being 'half full' half way back …
f) and 'full' when facing front. f) and 'full' when facing front.
g) Breathe out - and begin to turning to the right.  
h) being 'half empty' half way back … h) being 'half empty' half way back …
i) and 'empty' when looking over that shoulder. i) and 'empty' when looking over that shoulder.
j) Breathe in - and begin to turn your head back to face front.  
k) being 'half full' half way back … k) being 'half full' half way back …
l) and 'full' when facing front. l) and 'full' when facing front.

 

REPEAT ANOTHER 4 TIMES. 'EMPTY' WHEN LOOKING OVER EACH SHOULDER AND 'FULL' WHEN FACING FRONT.

FINISH FACING THE FRONT.

Breath out and think again now about the silken thread, the bubbling spring, the ball beneath the chin and, most important of all, the rising of the in breath and the sinking of the out breath.


EXERCISE 3. "OVER THE RAINBOW"

BEGIN: Breathe out as you lower your chin

a) Briefly 'hold empty' (of breath) - and begin to turn your head in a circular motion. b) Begin to breathe in at about "chin to shoulder" (or 8 o'clock). c) Coordinate your breath so that you are again 'full' as your eyes reach about 10 o'clock. d) 'Hold full' (of breath) as you eyes travel "over the rainbow".

head in a circular motion
e) Continue to 'hold full' - as your eye-line continues and then completes its trip over the top. f) Breath out - as your eye-line continues around and downwards. g) Coordinate your breath so that you are again 'empty' as your eyes reach the lowest point. h) Continue to make these circles with your head - and continue to coordinate your breath with the movements.

continuing circular motion


REPEAT ANOTHER 4 TIMES IN THAT DIRECTION.

'EMPTY' when chin down - BREATHING IN at 8 o'clock REACHING 'FULL' at 10 o'clock - 'HOLDING FULL' "over the rainbow" - BREATHING OUT at about 2 o'clock - 'EMPTY' at 4 o'clock - 'HOLDING EMPTY' at the bottom.

COMPLETE 5 ROTATIONS IN THAT DIRECTION - REMAIN 'EMPTY' AT 6 O'CLOCK AND THEN - WHEN STILL 'EMPTY' - SET OFF IN THE OTHER DIRECTION AND COMPLETE ANOTHER 5 ROTATIONS IN THIS THE OTHER DIRECTION.

5 ONE WAY
rotations one way

AND THEN 5 THE OTHER
rotations the other way

FINISH WITH YOUR CHIN DOWN - AND JUST BRIEFLY, EMPTY OF BREATH.

CONCLUSION: Leave your head relaxed in this lowered position for three in/out breaths. On the third in breath in, gradually raise your chin to its normal or upright position.

Think again now about the silken thread, the bubbling spring, the ball beneath the chin and, most important of all, the rising of the in breath and the sinking of the out breath.

 

 
 
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