This is a chi kung exercise, and we know it as ‘tai chi ruler’. You may know a variation under a different name. The ‘ruler’ part refers to an invisible ruler (or pen, whatever) approximately 6-8 inches long, which is ‘held’ between the palms of both hands. You envisage holding this ruler throughout the exercise. It helps concentration, keeps the palms at the correct width apart and keeps their correct posture.
The hand movements and breathing during this exercise are all circular in motion. As you push the hands outwards in the circle, you breathe out – yang. As the hands reach the bottom of the circle and return to the body, you breathe in – yin. The visualization of the circle should include the hare, spine, shoulders and head as it journeys, and the breathing should be deep – ‘suck, your breath in, and ‘throw’ your breath out. Your hands are always held with the ‘ruler’ keeping them apart at all times.
Start off in a relaxed stance with your arms at your side. Bring your right leg into a cat stance, and sweep your hands up the centre of your body, with the palms facing each other about 6-8 inches apart as if you were holding a ruler between them. Suck your breath in as you do this. Begin to step from the cat stance diagonally to the right, into a right forward stance, breathing in and ‘scooping up’ your hands to shoulder height as you do so. As you transfer your weight into the right leg, breathe deeply out and ‘throw’ your hands outwards (still holding the ruler!) in an arc. Try to envisage this idea of ‘throwing’ both your hands and your breath away from you. As you finish the breath, arc the hands down to waist height, stepping forward into a left cat stance, and then pivoting so that you are now facing diagonally left. Now repeat in the new diagonal left direction, pivoting diagonally right as you finish, ready to repeat again on the right (then left, then right, etc.). You can do this as many times as you like, moving diagonally forward first in one direction, and then the other. Always ‘hold the ruler’, throw the arms in a large circle, and suck the breath in as the arms come to your your body and up, and throw the breath out as the arms are thrown out and away from the body. However many times you go forward, end your run facing diagonally right, with your left leg in a cat stance. To turn round and go back, this time do not pivot to the left, but step with the left leg diagonally back behind you, and turn and pivot first the right leg and then the left, so that you are now facing in the diagonally opposite position. Repeat the exercise now going back. You can carry on going backwards and forwards for as long as you want. It’s a wonderful breathing and relaxing exercise, with a little bit of tai chi moving thrown in. When you are ready to stop, come back into a relaxed pose, and ‘close down’ with the hands (bring them down to your sides) and relax for a couple of moments. A variation on this exercise might be that when you finish going forward, don’t pivot so that you are facing in the opposite direction, but instead do the exercise by moving backwards. You may also want to try it with your eyes closed – its quite a bit different!.