Tai Chi is a form of meditative movement. Similar to yoga, it combines breath and movement to improve overall physical and emotional health. Over the years, Tai Chi has grown in popularity due to its low impact nature. It can be adapted to just about anyone’s level of fitness and is relatively inexpensive with no special equipment needed.
While the origins of Tai Chi are made up of a combination of legend and fact, the most reliable sources date the beginning of Tai Chi back to the 16th century when Chen Wangting developed the foundational Chen Style Tai Chi.
Tai Chi is a major branch of the traditional Chinese martial arts that infuses the philosophy of Taoism into its movements. Taoism stresses the natural balance in all living things. Have you ever seen the Yin and Yang symbols? This is where those originate. According to Taoism, the world is full of these opposite but complementary halves. These halves work together in a balance that creates inner peace and outer tranquility. The movements in Tai Chi work with this balance, which is what makes it so effective as a form of meditation.
Tai Chi Basics
Tai Chi is non-competitive and self-paced. As you practice you’ll flow between movements without pausing so that your body is in constant motion. The meditative quality of Tai Chi is in its focus on how your body feels while going through these movements.
The sets of movements are called forms. Some forms are short and made up of less than 12 movements. Others are much longer and can be made up of hundreds. Movements are usually circular and never forced. The muscles are meant to stay relaxed and the joints are never fully extended or bent.
Check out this video to see what Tai Chi looks like!
While Tai Chi hasn’t been studied quite as extensively as other forms of exercise, here are some of the great benefits that can come from regular Tai Chi practice.
- Helps reduce arthritis pain
- Decreased stress
- Improved mood
- Increased energy
- Improved flexibility, balance and agility
- Improved muscle strength and definition
- Better Sleep
- Lower blood pressure
- Improved overall well being
While there are some great books and DVD’s out there to learn Tai Chi, it’s generally suggested to attend a class before striking out on your own. Since Tai Chi instructors don’t have a training or certification program, you should make sure to ask about your instructor’s background and experience.
If you’re not sure about a class, ask about observing first to check out if it is a place you might like. If you’re looking for Tai Chi classes, check out these awesome places,
- Raleigh Shaolin Martial Arts, Raleigh, NC
- Breath Yoga Studio, Atlanta, GA
- Freed Body Works, Washington DC
As with any new exercise program, check with your doctor before starting Tai Chi. Otherwise, check out a class near you and start feeling the benefits of this moving meditation.