The practice of tai chi promotes the circulation of Qi (life energy/force) within the body. Tai chi developed in China in about the 12th century A.D. Although Tai chi started as self defense practice, it has become widely used for health purposes as well. Tai chi practitioners move their body in a series of movements. These movements make up forms in which each movement flows into the next. There are over 100 possible movements. The simplest style of tai chi uses 13 movements, the more complex could have dozens. Tai Chi is often called meditation in motion. Most forms are gentle and suitable for everyone. During practice, focus is on breathing and movement which creates a state of relaxation and balance.
There are five major styles of tai chi, each named after the family that originated it. There are also a variety of offspring styles as well. Each style shares in their underlying theory and principles, but may offer different approaches to training. It is important to take into consideration, age, health, as well as personal goals when choosing a style. For example, the Sun style is less strenuous than the Chen style and the Yang style promotes peace and tranquility.
The benefits of tai chi focuses on three areas:
- · Health – tai chi focuses on concentration to relieve the effects of stress on the body and mind. According to mayoclinic.com, tai chi has been show to reduce anxiety and depression, improve balance and coordination, improve sleep quality, lower blood pressure and improve cardiovascular fitness.
- · Meditation – tai chi facilitates focus and calmness and is seen as necessary for maintaining optimum heath and balance in the body.
- Martial Art – many of the original movements of tai chi were developed as a martial art form, emphasizing strength, balance, flexibility, and speed. Through time it has developed into a soft, slow, and gentle form of exercise which can be practiced by people of all ages.
The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) is sponsoring studies to find out more about tai chi’s effects, how it works, and diseases and conditions for which it may be most helpful. According to NCCAM, practitioners believe tai chi has many benefits, such as massaging the internal organs, aiding the exchange of gases in the lungs, helping the digestive system work better, increasing calmness and awareness and improving balance.
There are many great benefits to this eastern system of practice. Tai chi classes are offered at health clubs, senior centers as well as self standing studio’s in which people of all ages and health levels can participate.