Warm Up and Stretching Exercises

Dr Paul Lam
This set of exercises is adapted from the Six Easy Step Tai Chi for Beginners program. They are stretching exercises containing Tai Chi elements.

Step One – Warm Up Exercises

Steps One and Two of this chapter are warm up and stretching exercises combined with tai chi movements. Practicing them regularly will enhance your flexibility and tune up your muscles.

Before You Start

  • Wear loose, comfortable clothing and flat, well-fitting shoes.
  • Don’t continue doing any movement that is painful or causes you discomfort.
  • Do all movements slowly, continuously and smoothly.
  • Move well within your comfort range. The first time you do a movement, stretch to only 70 percent of your normal range and increase that range gradually.
  • When appropriate do both sides.

(Chose any one or more choices below)

  • For one or two minutes, walk around, gently shaking your hands and legs, and clenching and unclenching your hands. This loosens your body and joints in preparation for the exercises that follow.
  • Give yourself a massage. First, rub your hands together. This makes them warm by increasing the qi. Massage your legs, ankles and feet, lower back, and shoulders, rubbing your hands together intermittently.
  • Take a short walk.
  • Take a hot shower

Step Two Stretching Exercises

  • Do each stretch 3-5 times. It doesn’t matter which side you do first.
  • If you have any difficulty balancing, use a chair or the wall for support. Remember, in each session, to stretch to only 70 percent of your normal range and gradually increase that range.
  • We’re going to gently stretch six parts of the body- neck, shoulders, spine, hips, knees and ankles – with two exercises for each body part. It might help you to remember them by knowing we are working from the top down, starting with the neck, and ending at the ankles.
    Unless otherwise specified, keep your feet shoulder width apart.


Head Back
As you inhale, bring both hands up slowly, imagining your wrists are being lifted by two balloons..

Turn your palms so that your fingers are pointing upward. Bring them toward your chest, push your chin backward gently.

Head Down
Exhaling, push both hands outward, extending them in front of you, and then press your hands down slowly and gently. At the same time, slowly bring your head down toward your chest.


Turning Head
Bring your left hand up and look at your palm. Your right hand should be down near your hip, palm facing the ground.

Move your left hand to the left, turning only your head to the left and keeping your eyes on your palm. Now come back to face front. Change palms so that your right palm is now facing you and the left is down near the left hip. Turn to the right while looking at the right palm.


Shoulder Roll
Roll shoulders gently forward and then backward.

Gathering Qi
Inhaling, extend both arms to the side, elbows slightly lower than your hands. With palms facing up, move your arms up in a curve to above your head.

As you exhale, gently press your hands down in front of your body to just below your navel.


Stretch Spine
Hands in front, as though you’re carrying a large beach ball. Inhale.

Exhaling, push one hand up as though your palm is pushing against the ceiling, fingertips facing inward. At the same time, push the other hand down by your side. Then change hands.

Spine Turn
Hands in front, as though you’re carrying a large beach ball. Left hand on top.

With knees slightly bent, turn your waist gently to the left. Then change hands, putting the right hand on top and turn to the right. Keep your back upright and supple.


Forward Stretch
Placing your left heel out in front of you, push both hands back to help balance.

Step backward with your left foot resting on the toes, and stretching your hands forward to about shoulder height. Repeat on the other side.

An easier alternative is to step your toes near the right foot before steeping backward.

Side Stretch
Push your hands to the side as though you’re pushing against a wall. At the same time, stretch the opposite foot sideways.


Make loose fists, palm side up, resting at the sides of the hips.

Stretch out one foot (like a kicking motion but slowly and gently). At the same time, punch out gently with the opposite fist, turning it palm down. Bring your arm and leg back in and repeat on the other side.

Step Forward
With fists next to hips as above, bend your knees slightly and step forward with one foot.

Shift your weight on to the front leg, and as your body moves forward, punch out with opposite fist as in Figure 18. Bring your foot back and do the other side.


Tapping ankle
Tap foot with heel.

Tap foot with toes

Toe down, lift up the heel and gently rotate your foot in one direction three times, and then in the other direction three times. Change feet.

Alternative: Resting your foot on your heel, turn your foot inward and outward several times. Change feet.