One of the most refreshing things to sit down and observe is a person practicing Tai Chi as he goes through a series graceful, calm, and slow motions (occasionally referred to as postures or forms). Watching a person perform slow flowing movements that seem to take no effort while in a meditative state can be spellbinding and somewhat mystical to the observer. Most of Tai Chi practitioners are Certified Personal Trainers and many are Martial Artists as well. Tai Chi, the Mind-body ancient Chinese art is fascinating and intriguing, to say the least.
Although it may be unclear as to when Tai Chi exactly originated, it is believed to have been established in China sometime in the 12th century A.D. The activity of Tai Chi was initially intended to be a form of martial art self-defense (Tai Chi Chuan), but over the course of time, it showed that it can also provide various health benefits for people who often practiced it.
As with Yoga and other body-mind activities, the relief of stress is one of the primary benefits of Tai Chi. It does not only entail graceful flow movements and controlled breathing, Tai Chi also helps clear and quiet the mind and alleviates accumulated tension throughout the body. A tremendous feeling of relaxation takes over as your mind concentrates on being in the “now”. As you meditate, you quickly leave behind the physical world and a feeling wonderful calmness overcomes you; what’s more, this state of calmness lingers on long after your exercise has ended. Your body will be refreshed, reinvigorated and repaired.
Additional benefits that can be derived from Tai Chi include marked improvement of your agility and balance and stronger muscles. Tai Chi improves your sleep quality at night, enhances attentiveness during daytime, relieves depression and anxiety, and enhances over-all coordination. Practicing this exercise on a regular basis would alleviate various types of chronic pain, boost endurance and cardiovascular fitness, and lower high blood pressure. A lot of people use Tai Chi for the management of their health as well as for exercise. It can be performed by practically anyone regardless of current state of health and age. Since it’s an exercise with an ultra low impact, it’s quite easy on the body, but since it’s a weight or load bearing activity, it can also provide musculoskeletal benefits like toned muscles and higher bone density.
There is a lot of comparability between the practice and art form of Yoga and Tai Chi. Both healing art forms have several different styles. Yoga originated in India, and Tai Chi, in China but their paths constantly overlap and the body and mind seem to end up in the same state. Since a lot of the martial and healing arts performed these days have originated from those countries, it only seems natural to imagine that, at one time, a tremendous life force or energy may have been flowing in that region of the world.
In English, Tai Chi roughly means “internal martial art or balance of opposing forces.” Since no one is certain on what date Tai Chi really began, the depictions of its long history greatly varies. This is also the case for a lot of the martial arts. Most of the history of Tai Chi was never written or documented; instead, it was passed on from master to student and from generation to generation through oral tradition.
Chang-San-Feng, a Chinese Taoist Monk who lived in the 12th century is believed to be one of the innovators of Tai Chi. According to Chinese legend, Chang-San-Feng thoroughly studied five animals in the wild, the crane, snake, leopard, dragon, and tiger; he then set about to invent a series of movements, exercises, or forms that mimic the movements of these animals. Tai Chi’s simplest form involves 13 basic movements; dozens of movements, postures, or forms make up the more comprehensive styles of this activity.
In a Tai Chi activity, the body is relaxed while it is in an almost constant state of movement. A graceful motion seamlessly segues into the next as the mind of the practitioner is completely focused, bereft of any distractions, and hi/her mind clear and calm. Breathing is controlled, in rhythm and deep. Tai Chi is basically meditation in motion.
The practice of Tai Chi has a Spiritual, Mental, and Physical aspect. The principle is deeply infused with Chinese philosophy and so you may encounter the words Yin and Yang when you get into this practice. Yin and Yang are two forces that according to Chinese philosophy make up the Universe. These two forces continuously oppose each other but at the same time also complement each other. To attain balance and harmony, they always need to be kept in balance. Yin and Yang are intertwined, interconnected and bound to each other (soft/hard, low/high, dark/light, female/male, etc.). Yin represents liquid, slow, wet, tranquil, diffused, soft, and the female principle and is associated with night, birth, and feminine. Yang, on the other hand is: hot, aggressive, dry, solid, fast, and hard, and associated with daytime and masculinity.
As mentioned before, practically anyone can perform Tai Chi. You need not be young, in tip-top shape, or a high class athlete. Children, young adults and adults, and seniors can enjoy it and attain the benefits that it offers. Women should not hesitate practicing it since Tai Chi espouses technique over strength.
You don’t need to buy special footwear or clothing nor purchase expensive equipment to practice Tai Chi. It can be performed outdoors or at home, in a group or by yourself. For most individuals, their first experience of Tai Chi is within the comfort of their own home through an instructional DVD. That’s no problem since most instructional Tai Chi DVD’s today are created with the help of a Tai Chi master.
But, if you desire a much more meaningful experience, there’s no substitute in joining a “face to face” class under a qualified instructor or master practitioner. An experienced instructor will guide you from the start, especially through the different forms or movements and will assist you in making important and necessary adjustments, as needed. In no time at all, you will learn the proper breathing and movements and avoid developing any bad habits that may be difficult to break later on as you progress.
People have different preferences on how to approach Tai Chi. Some would prefer to perform the activity in their own home while some prefer the social interaction that occurs in a class setting. The Internet has made it easy to find a qualified instructor/teacher, regardless if you opt for a group class or practice at home with a private instructor or a DVD.
To be on the safe side, it may be wise to consult with your health care provider before getting started with a program. Be that as it may, Tai Chi is considered extremely safe, good for your health, and quite easy on the body. Talk to your healthcare provider first if you have heart, lung, spine, or joint problems.
We hope that this article has given you a better understanding of what Tai Chi is all about. If you think Tai Chi is good for you, it’s time to go out there and experience it. This practice is very easy to do and can provide you with highly desired benefits like serenity and peace of mind, among many other things.
Amy-SuiQun Lui, L.Ac.
Asian Health Center
27059 Grand Army of the Republic Hwy
Cleveland, OH 44143
Tel: (440) 833-0983