The Tai Chi Way to Better Balance

Balance difficulties are a major problem in the over-60 population, as well as for individuals with medical issues such as neuropathy, poor circulation, visual impairments, inner ear issues, or medication side effects. Addressing these concerns may involve various approaches, including considering a vitamin for neuropathy to help manage the symptoms.

Most of us have family members, friends, colleagues, or students who are dealing with these problems. One in three adults over 65 will have a fall this year, and falls are the single largest cause of serious injury in the senior population.

Although Tai Chi has been shown in several studies to be beneficial in preventing falls, it’s hard to find a coherent, systematic, user-friendly program to lead people to better balance through the time-tested methods of Tai Chi and the Internal Martial Arts.

You might not realize it, but what you feel in your own practice can be translated into an accessible, form-free, direct method for improving the balance of someone you love.

Take this exercise, for example. Here, Don Ethan Miller demonstrates an exercise called The Five Movement Centers:

Shifting weight is, for many people, where their balance problems begin.

Neurologically, maintaining equilibrium as you propel the body through space is infinitely more complex than maintaining equilibrium in a static position. But many people make this task even more difficult by the way in which they shift.

Balance loss frequently occurs when our head and/or upper torso are the “origin points” of the movement, such that by the time the brain registers that the weight of the upper portion has shifted, it is already at or beyond the limits of the base of support, and our balance is in jeopardy.

Watch as Don progresses through the Movement Centers in the video, starting with head-driven movement and finishing in the legs. Do the head- and torso-driven movements remind you of anyone? Does it look stable?

As Don sinks his awareness into the Movement Centers of the Hips and the Legs, can you see how much more rooted the movement becomes?

Explore Your Movement Centers

Stand up and shift your weight back and forth. How precisely do you feel the source of your movement? Now, try to “locate” yourself in, or focus on, the designated point or area of the body, and when you move, to move from that point or area, allowing it to “lead” the movement of the rest of the body.

Note the differing feelings, both of physical balance and of psychological/emotional qualities, in each location.

After you have completed Moving from 1 through 5, take a few seconds of stillness, then move without deliberately thinking about any specific area. See how your movement feels. How has it changed from your usual way of shifting

Rooted Movement – Tai Chi’s Specialty

For many people, simply becoming aware of which Movement Center they tend to use will shift how they carry themselves – but Tai Chi goes further.

As you build body awareness, you actually learn how to combine multiple Movement Centers at the same time.

Working with multiple Movement Centers, we are exploring what gives us the most stability while moving.

The sense of stability in motion always varies a little from person to person, but as a general Tai Chi principle: the Upper Centers (Head and Chest) are considered Yang while Lower Centers (Legs and Feet) are considered Yin. The Hips/Kwa is considered to be a mixed point, where Yin and Yang meet–although it is perhaps a bit more Yin than Yang, in keeping with the Tai Chi “bias” toward the earth and nature.

Therefore, moving from the Head or Chest must always be balanced by at least one of the Lower Centers. If you move from only one Center, it should be Hips, Legs, or Feet.

Experiment with this, test it out, observe yourself when you are moving unconsciously and see which Centers are most active, work to balance upper and lower, and pay special attention to the lower belly/hips area, which corresponds to your approximate center of gravity, and is given particular importance in Tai Chi. It holds the key to balance within movement.

When you understand the Five Movement Centers, it almost doesn’t matter what movement you teach your loved one. All you need to do is teach them how to balance movement from the right combination of Centers. In fact, the more you can show them how to activate the Movement Centers in everyday activities, the more profound an impact it will have on their daily lives.

The complete Tai Chi Way to Better Balance is made up of exercises just like this: authentic Tai Chi concepts, free of excessive form and choreography, layered in safe progressions, and accessible to all levels of movement ability. Learn more here.

One final note for practitioners: don’t be fooled by the simplicity of the Five Movement Centers. The correct combination of awareness and intent in the Centers gives you a power, agile root, with the potential to deliver power and stay connected simultaneously. Try it and see.

About the Author: Don Ethan Miller, 40-year Master practicioner of Tai Chi (and Yiquan, Kuntao-Silat, and many other arts), a 4-time National Champion in Tai Chi Tuishou (Pushing Hands) competition, has developed a unique, powerful program that will take anyone—of any age or current state of physical ability—to better balance, and improved health, energy, and well-being.

Don has distilled and adapted practices from every style of Tai Chi, combined with other systems of Qigong (energy cultivation) and martial arts, into an easily-accessed program, in downloadable e-book and DVD format.

The book is profusely and beautifully illustrated, with photos of Don, famous Tai Chi masters past and present, and Don’s students demonstrating and practicing the Tai Chi Way to Better Balance exercises. The practices are organizing in 3 Levels, beginning with basic Tai Chi Standing Work and progressing to Shifting, Stepping, holding and moving objects, and Multi-Directional Movement. The companion DVD presents the material as 3 separate Tai Chi Balance Workouts, each requiring only between 15 and 20 minutes to complete.

To order this vitally important Instructional Set, for yourself or someone you care about, click here.


  1. Thanks for this offering. I am a long time Taiji student and as my Mom’s primary caregiver ,I hope to share this advice with her. At 94 she is unsteady and frail but still is willing to take on new ideas. It seems to me that your presentation will be helpful to her .Thank you . Ric

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