WHAT IS TAI CHI?
Tai chi, short for t'ai chi ch'üan or tàijí quán, was originally developed as a martial art for self-defense and has evolved over the years into a graceful form of exercise that's now used for stress reduction and a variety of other health conditions. Its origins date back in China over 700 years, some say even up to 1500 years. Tai chi involves a series of gentle flowing movements performed in a slow, focused manner, accompanied by deep breathing. It integrates the mind and body, generating internal energy, mindfulness, serenity and total harmony of the inner and outer self. The ultimate purpose of tai chi is to cultivate the qi or life energy within us to flow smoothly and powerfully throughout the body thus promoting health.
Why Practice Tai Chi
Throughout history tai chi has been used by Chinese scholars, monks, sages, artists, intellectuals, emperors and commoners, because of its extraordinary versatility and proven effectiveness. Whilst it draws from Chinese spiritual and philosophical thought it is not tied to any religion and is available to anyone. Tai chi is now practised around the world by millions as a health-promoting exercise. Studies have shown that it can help reduce stress, improve posture, balance and general mobility, increase muscle strength in the legs and be helpful for many of the body's ailments.
What are the Benefits of Tai Chi
Tai chi is perhaps the most effective way to develop balanced health for the body and the mind. Listed below are some of the benefits:
Improves overall health and well-being
Induces calmness and focus of mind
Decreases stress and symptoms of depression and anxiety
Improves suppleness, strength, co-ordination, balance, and agility
Reduces joint pain
Strengthens the internal functions of the body, such as the immune system, metabolic functions, and cardiovascular system
Balances the mind and body
Harmony with the natural laws of human life
In China, it is believed that tai chi can delay ageing and prolong life and is often described as “meditation in motion”. This mind-body practice can help treat or prevent many age-related health problems. It may be the perfect activity for the rest of your life.
Is Tai Chi Suitable for You
Get advice from your GP before starting tai chi if you have any health concerns or an existing health condition. You may need to take certain precautions if you're pregnant, have a hernia, back pain or severe osteoporosis. Tai chi is ideal for inactive older people wanting to raise their activity levels gently and gradually. Many of the tai chi movements can be adapted to people with a disability, including wheelchair users.
Where Can I find a Tai Chi class?
There are various styles of tai chi such as yang, chen and wu. Some teachers often practise a combination of styles. The main differences between the various tai chi styles are in the speed of movement and the way the body holds the postures. It is better to learn the basics of tai chi from an instructor to make sure your style is correct to avoid injury. You can search online or your local newspaper for tai chi classes in your area or find one using the Tai Chi Union for Great Britain website.