How to Do Tai Chi's Horse Stance

This posture is Tai Chi. It is the most common of all the tai chi (taiji) and qigong (chi-gung) postures, and is often used as a separate exercise to increase leg strength, concentration, deep breathing and chi (qi) flow.

The stance and directions shown here are for a posture and standing meditation known as the Zhan Zhuang or Embrace the tree posture. The advice is sound for this posture though readers should be aware that Tai Chi and Yiquan (a standing meditation internal art) work a traditional Horse Stance as well which is a wide and low position.


  1. Image titled Do Tai Chi's Horse Stance Step 1
    Turn the toes in so the outside of the feet are parallel.
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    Sit back to bend the knees and fold in the hip joints to go into a shallow squat (up to a 45 degree bend in the knee).
    • If you tend to be "knock-kneed" (valgus), gently roll the knees out a bit without moving the feet. This will tend to lift the arch. Don't allow the big toes to lose contact with the floor.
    • If you are bow-legged (varus), gently roll the knees in.
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    Release the lower back to allow the coccyx (tailbone) to hang down.
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    As your tailbone hangs down, lengthen the back of your skull up.
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    Hold arms as if embracing a tree with elbows hanging down.
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    Sink the shoulders down.
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    Use inhalation to expand body and exhalation to release unnecessary tension down into the ground using the bones as conduits.
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    Hold. Most teachers recommend building up to a minimum of 20 minutes, but beginners may feel fatigued far earlier, and it is advisable to practice caution.
  9. Image titled Do Tai Chi's Horse Stance Intro


  • Don't lean towards the front. That is the most common mistake. Look in the mirror from the side view to check. Sit back-yes. Lean back-no.
  • If it hurts the front of the thighs (quadriceps), that is a good sign.
  • It is important to keep your back straight when assuming the horse stance as because if you lean towards the front, you will unconsciously use the toes to support your stance.
  • It should not hurt your knees or lower back if done correctly.
  • If you lean keep your back straight and almost 90 degrees, you will be using your heel to support your body weight instead of using more of your toes to support your body weight.
  • Gently pull your chin in (as if to your spine.)Imagine your body suspended from a thread attached to the top of your skull.
  • Make certain the weight is directly center of the feet. This means the weight is centered directly down through the Yong Quan Point (Bubbling Spring, K 1) 湧泉 on the feet.
  • This position is also referred to as "Hug the Tree", embrace tree, and standing stake.
  • In many Tai Chi classes you will hear the instruction "tuck the tailbone under", meaning you deliberately pivot the pelvis forward trying to "flatten out" the lower back. In no uncertain terms, "DON'T DO THAT!" The forced over-extension of the lower back muscles by doing this alignment wrong can be detrimental. So instead of "tucking the tailbone under", simply "sit into the legs". Align your hips and torso as if you were sitting in a poised position on a chair and then bend the knees.


  • If you are just beginning to learn Qi Gong, take it slow. Only assume this stance for a few minutes at a time. Then increase the length for about a minute per day.
  • If it hurts in the knee joint, then you are doing it wrong. Put more weight to your heels and bend the knees less.

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