Most nights in the winter of 1999, after teaching a tai chi or yoga class, I’d lean against the rail on the porch of my old log cabin and watch Orion drift across the southern sky of Kentucky, and I’d look for the constellations that I knew, breathing in the cool night air.
One such night, thinking about how tai chi and chi gong had been described as “connecting to nature through movement” by Dr. David Eisenberg and “physical attitudes” by Bill Moyers, it occurred to me, “What if there was a form of tai chi that could connect to human nature through movement?”
Stomping the snow off my boots, I went in to heat some water for tea. A steaming mug later, as I was looking at the yin and yang aspect of my astrology chart—with its opposite pairs of signs around a wheel—I had a series of creative flashes, and dove for my journal to scribble down my ideas:
- The famous psychologist Carl Jung called the Zodiac “a complete projected theory of human character” and “the summation of all the psychological knowledge of antiquity.”
- What if a movement for each sign could help you to know thyself and move into balance?
- Just like the yin and yang/tai chi symbol, each sign has a yin and yang opposite/complement: Aries/Libra, Taurus/Scorpio, Gemini/Sagittarius, Cancer/Capricorn, Leo/Aquarius, Virgo/Pisces.
- What if a movement could activate the energy of a sign, just like accessing an app on your phone or PC?
- After all, who doesn’t know their Zodiac birth sign?
- What does it look like when a sign is online? How does one carry oneself? How does it feel?
- Each of the twelve signs has certain characteristics, or a way of expressing itself. Each sign also is a particular element and mode, and “rules” certain body parts or functions. What if these could all could be combined into a movement for each sign?
- As biceps balance triceps and chest muscles balance the upper back, what if, through movement, people could become familiar with and balance every sign of the Zodiac, and experience healing by moving into balance on a powerful body-centered, instinctive and archetypal level?
Exhilarated at the idea, I resolved to make an appointment with Jeff Baugher, my friend and professional astrologer, to discuss possibilities of a collaboration. And soon Jeff and I were creating an astrological form of tai chi. And as we searched for the proper movements for each sign of the Zodiac, we found clues everywhere!
There were intellectual clues for each sign. With Jeff’s knowledge of the descriptions of each sign of the Zodiac, we knew what characteristics to look for in each movement.
There were body-centered clues for each sign. Just like in external chi gong where energy is focused in certain body parts, we noted which body-parts were ruled by each sign of the Zodiac, and tried to incorporate them into a fluid movement. For example, because Cancer rules the breast and lap areas, the Cancer movement literally feels like holding a child and rocking, alternating with a reminder to “step back” and allow others to nurture you as well! And Aries is the ram and rules the head. Most of us don’t actually “head butt” people (like that funny Mountain Dew commercial where the young man butts heads with a ram) but we do strike out at others, literally or figuratively. And the most common form is with the hand or fist. So instead of creating a movement where we put our head down and run at someone in slow motion, we created a slow, martial-arts type of strike as the essence of Aries. This physicalizing approach was how we honored the body in the creative process.
Furthermore, there were clues about how each element determines the form and content of each sign’s movement. We asked ourselves, “Is this sign fire, earth, air or water?” The element’s characteristics would certainly have a bearing on what the movement would feel like. And there were clues to be found in the mode: “Was the sign cardinal (initiates movement forward or backward) fixed (set in its ways somehow) or mutable (could go back and forth)?”
We used astrological timing in creating the movements for the signs. Each month at the new moon – when the unconscious and conscious are more closely aligned and it is easier to access our intuition – we would invite guidance on what the movement should look like. Sometimes we had a vision of what the movement could look like, other times we were inspired to move spontaneously, expressing the essence of the sign.
Over the course of a year, we fleshed out all these clues into the living, breathing reality that we call Astrological Tai Chi.
As the years passed and the movements took on a life of their own, we were also inspired to create several unique long forms and fascinating partner exercises. And as we have continued to offer classes and private training over the years we have arrived at several beliefs and assumptions:
- The movements can help you to know thyself in ways that the brain alone cannot, especially when you slow them down and move with intention and mindfulness.
- The first step is to familiarize yourself with all twelve movements.
- Like yin and yang, the twelve signs of the Zodiac are actually six pairs of signs. So the second step is to learn the six pairs of movements.
- Cross-training the pairs of movements helps balance the pairs of signs and prevent the archetypes/signs from going to extremes.
- In the proper area and context, cross-training the pairs of movements with a trusted friend or partner is a powerful way to deepen self-awareness and relationships.
- The AM Form—The Dance of Life—is a great way to start the day. With a powerful beat, it awakens and energizes you as you perform all twelve movements, and helps you to glide through the day, responding to life with grace and ease. However, it is also a great way to give your spirits a lift, day or night.
- The PM Form – the six pairs of movements of The Dance of Peace – is a great way to end the day. It calms and soothes the body and mind and invites you to end the day on a peaceful and balanced note.
- The Four Element and Three Mode Forms are powerful ways to experience the movements and understand the motivations of the signs on a deeper level.
- Some of the most important movements of your life are—but are not limited to:
- The movement for your sun (birth) sign—it helps you to know what deeply motivates you.
- The movements for your moon sign give you a felt-sense of what makes you feel comfortable and safe.
- The movement for your rising sign (ascendant) helps you to see how others may see you and some powerful characteristics that your body will have.
- The movements for your north and south nodes help you to learn to move easily and gracefully between the themes of the lunar nodes and understand your ultimate life’s goal according to your astrological chart.
- The movements can be combined with sacred wisdom, helping you to integrate your beliefs into the ways you move and think.
- New moon and full moon rituals can help you to experience the movements and signs of the Zodiac on an even deeper level.
It is an honor and a pleasure to share this practice with you.