Subway Tai Chi

In my last post I wrote about practicing Tai Chi on a mountain in the middle of nowhere, now I am bringing it closer to home….the subway!

No, I am not practicing my forms in the subway or at the station, but I am applying different concepts and different techniques. Below are some that I practice the most:

Peng – Expanding Energy

Anybody who has ever been in a subway in Beijing knows how busy it can get; it’s always fully packed, and even then people still try to get in. This is not only annoying; it is also not safe for children and the elderly. So this is where your Peng energy comes in! I usually stand with my back to the door and when I notice that the subway is already full enough, I breath in and then when the door opens I breath out and expand…making my body round and leading my energy outwards. Believe me, nobody is coming in anymore and the grandma that is standing in front of you can keep on smiling.

birdseye zen 1d


With any luck you are in a subway, bus or train that is not completely packed. No matter if there are free seats, I always stand during the trip without holding onto anything. Buses are changing speed and stopping all the time, so this is an excellent opportunity to practice your balance. Stand with both feet shoulder width apart, just like your Neutral position in the Kinetic Concepts and slightly bend your knees. Then try to sink your energy into the ground and root, like a tree. Is it getting too easy? Try standing on one leg!

Daily Zen

This is the most obvious and least visible practice. You can try all the meditations in Level 1 to 3, just make sure you not go stare at people when practicing your Meditation on Sight, people don’t tend to like that ;) I most recently meditated on sound and was surprised by how many different sounds there are that I never noticed.  Small beeps, people’s clothes rubbing against each other, breathing… there’s an infinite amount to explore.

Willow in the Wind

Not everybody will be familiar with this, but this is a game you will learn in Level 2 where you practice waist flexibility and body sensitivity. Great for when you want to go out of the subway and others are fighting to go in. Instead of going against them, be like the willow in the wind and let them move around you by staying relaxed and moving your waist.

General tips:

  • You might be thinking…. standing in the middle of the subway, with your Taijiquan pants on*, trying to maintain balance…. doesn’t that look silly? Won’t people stare at you? The answer to both questions is… yes! But who cares, this is your practice, this is you improving your Taijiquan!
  • Make sure not to hurt the people around you, if you have already learned Level 2…don’t go out to give people shoulder or elbow strikes in the subway. Stay nice ;)
  • Be mindful and really experience what you are doing. Leave your cell phone in your pocket, it will still be working after your practice… try to focus.
*Editor’s note – you don’t have to wear Tai Chi pants to practice these exercises.  Jimmy just really loves his Tai Chi pants.

About Jimmy

Although I am a young guy from the Netherlands, I am often compared to being an old traditional Chinese man from the 80's. Hobbies include practicing Taijiquan and Qigong, reading Chinese philosophy, studying Chinese language and mountain climbing. The comparison is still a mystery to me...

2 thoughts on “Subway Tai Chi

  1. I do this same thing. Haha. My girlfriend is always making fun of me because even when the subway isn’t busy I’ll stand in the aisle seeing if I can shift with the train and root against the momentum of the twists, turns and stops. When it’s packed I’ll use peng to keep from being crushed. Big, tough guys get the strangest looks when they can’t shove me aside.

  2. Since my knee ops, I have trouble with this. I don’t know exactly what’s going on but the slightest imbalance n I topple sideways (short of almost popping my knee back out :P )… thoughts on how to get my balance back? O.o

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