You didn't say how old you were. Distributions depend on your age, an IRS defined "reasonable interest rate" and 1 of 3 amortization methods. If you are 40 (or so) years old then you can take out, penalty free, around 4.33% of the balance every year (that's $2165/year or $180/month for a $50k account). At 50 years old it's maybe 4.88% and so on.
What people do is figure out how much they need and then they leave only that amount in a particular IRA account which gets the 72t treatment. Other money gets transferred to a different account.
The IRS makes you go by the letter of the law. Mistakes can be costly here. If your money is in a mutual fund then the mutual fund company can help you set up a 72-t.
Notice that the withdrawals are penalty free but not income tax free.
Also once you start taking distributions you must continue for at least 5 years.
here's a fun calculator:
72(t) Calculator - Financial Calculators from Dinkytown.net
You need to read about 72t withdrawals:
a 72t Works | 72t Distribution | 401k Rollover | IRS 72t | 72(t) Calculator