Begin breathing first. Whatever form you begin with — five golden coins, eight pieces of silk, the full tai chi form you know, whatever — begin breathing first. Breathe in the pattern which you wish you maintain throughout the form. Breathe for a good two or three minutes before beginning, in order to establish the rhythm. Then move into the pattern, still maintaining the breath in the same pattern with which you began. Breathe so that your body’s posture expands on the inhale, and contracts on the exhale. Keep breathing in on each posture until you are full. Keep breathing out on each posture until you are empty. Keep going.
My lungs stuttered to a halt about halfway through the form, after a good twenty minutes in the two qi gong routines with which I began. The breath work cleared up some lingering sinus obstruction, and filled me with energy. But I couldn’t maintain that same breathwork pace all the way through the form. I keep discovering renewed respect for the form, actually. From the outside, it must look like a weird combo of strange postures, none of which actually do anything. From the inside, it’s a whole series of challenging postures that affect me internally and externally; the ideal positions all the way through the form, with the breathwork and the mental attention and the physical position of my body, still eludes me day after day after day. Today during the half-spin just before kick with heel is when I could no longer maintain my breathing cycle . That’s pretty far. But it’s still another half of the form to master with a flowing breath-cycle properly.
One of the keys seems to be starting the breathing cycle before the body begins moving.