Cloud Hands is a traditional tai chi form which moves from right to left as the arms circle and the feet step. Named after the Yang family who created it, the popular version is derived from the Yang Form Tai Chi. In this form, next to the left foot, the right foot steps as the person turns his arms around and passes across his body an imaginary ball from his left side to the right side through the shifting of his bodyweight. His left foot then laterally steps out while his arms are turned around the ball and his body swings to the left once more.
Although the Yang form merely completes three sets of Cloud Hands movements all at once, instructors often utilize this posture over and over to teach students its applications to martial art, or to assist them into a state of Tai Chi. Warding off energy (“Peng” structure) is to be kept all through the movements, and can be easily lost the instant a student starts to move.
A stiff or aching low back is a sign that you’ve lost peng and structure. This occurs when there is movement in your pelvis and hips and when you step sideways, shift weight, and turn your torso. The best way to address this problem is to re-tuck the pelvis gently with every movement. These tiny corrections are like the corrections an airplane or a rocket makes to stay on course.
Relaxing the ribcage completely is one other thing a student should do. This combining of – tension lessening off the chest (hanxiong) and elimination of unneeded tension (song) will bring the ribs, shoulders, and chest into a balance-fortifying but relaxed structure. Any excess tension in your feet and into the ground will be released through your back.
Relaxing your ribcage and re-tucking your pelvis is simple and should be done in a natural manner. All the benefits will be lost if a student slouches the thorax or over-tucks his pelvis. But if he mindfully releases excess tension and aligns with gravity, Cloud Hands can grant him a durable and solid physique and relieve any pain.
Cynthia Chamberlain is a licensed acupuncturist in Overland Park, KS.