Tai chi is a form of movement meditation with origins in ancient Chinese martial arts. It is now practiced worldwide as a form of low-impact exercise by young to old with immense health benefits. It is also called Tai Chi Chuan or is sometimes referred to as shadow boxing.
Tai Chi is a movement meditation art form with origins in ancient China that has been popularized worldwide in the 21st century.
It is a low-impact form of exercise that nearly everyone in any age group or population can perform for its benefits.
Tai Chi helps the modern human slow down in a fast-paced world.
It is an internal Chinese martial art designed for defensive purposes to create a meditative state of flow. Regular practice of this art form has been shown to improve overall well-being.
The art of Tai Chi uses gentle movements that are accessible to most people to create peace between the body and mind. During the practice, one may enter what is called the flow state, where a sense of timelessness occurs through the practice of the flowing movements. According to Chinese philosophy, it also helps promote the flow of qi (pronounced chee) throughout the body. Qi is, quite simply put, life force energy. This gives the practice great spiritual potential beyond just the physical body and movements.
The movements themselves are slow, graceful, fluid, and circular, which is a part of its appeal and accessibility. Additionally, they are combined with deep breathing, which is the bridge between the body and the mind. It is a relaxing practice designed to balance the concepts of yin and yang in the body. Yin is the passive state while yang is the active state. They are opposing forces that not only complement one another but cannot exist without one or the other. The beauty of Tai chi is that it can be practiced anywhere: at home, in a studio, or in a park.
Physical benefits of Tai Chi:
- Improved coordination
- Better balance
- Increased strength
- More flexibility and mobility
- Lowered blood pressure
- Improved cardiovascular health
- Decreased pain from arthritis
- Less risk of falling
Mental and emotional benefits of Tai Chi:
- Stress relief
- Elevated mood
- Decrease in depression
- Less anxiety
- Better memory
- More focus
- Improved sleep
Studies have shown that a regular practice of Tai chi can prevent poor health and assist with any existing conditions. Life in the 21st century is often fast-paced and unbalanced, disconnecting us from our true nature of peace and serenity. The slow movements of Tai chi remind us to slow down, become grounded and live in the present moment. It is recommended to practice at least 10 minutes per day to begin seeing results, which can be gradually increased over time as your body allows.
Principles of Tai Chi
According to Tai Chi for Health Institute, there are three guiding principles to follow when practicing Tai chi. They include:
- Movement control: For example, move as if you were moving through the water with fluid grace.
- Body structure: Use good posture to stabilize the spine and even improve posture.
- Internal components: Keep the joints loose and soft, but not without some muscular control so they are not flaccid.
Styles of Tai Chi
There are a few different styles of Tai chi that have been developed over its lifetime, all named according to the family who developed them. Some are more common and widely practiced than others, for various reasons. The differences between them may include speed, hand and foot positions, and movement force. Here are the three most popular forms:
- Chen style is the oldest form that alternates between fast and slow movements.
- Yang style is the most popular in the 21st century with its characteristic slow and large movements.
- Wu style is a soft style of Tai chi with an emphasis on the internal aspect of the practice.
Yang and Wu's styles of Tai chi are the best recommended for beginners looking to start a new practice. As with anything, always consult your doctor first before starting a new exercise routine.
Tips for practicing Tai Chi:
- Drink plenty of water.
- Don’t rush the movements.
- Stop if you feel pain.
- Make sure your environment and clothing are comfortable (i.e., not too hot or windy, and wear loose clothing).
- Always prepare with a warm-up and cool-down as prescribed by your teacher.
- Find a teacher who can guide you properly.
Who can practice Tai Chi?
Anyone can practice Tai chi. Even those with disabilities can practice from a chair or wheelchair and gain benefits from the practice. Children to the elderly can practice and this can be a uniting practice for the whole family, passed down through generations as it has been in China for hundreds of years.
Tai chi is a safe and effective exercise not only for many populations and generations of people, but is low impact and creates an overall sense of well-being. It can help many conditions as the body ages such as arthritis and even help diabetes patients. Additionally, it is effective for lower back pain.
Tai chi is an ancient movement art form turned low-impact exercise that has been popularized worldwide from its roots in China, traditional Chinese medicine, and Taoism. Almost anyone can practice this movement form which has various styles suitable for different levels of practitioners. Overall, it increases bodily health and mental well-being.