Originally a Chinese form of self defense martial arts, today Tai Chi is primarily seen as a low-key form of physical exercise used to reduce stress and increase flexibility and muscle strength through slow flowing movements. Tai Chi benefits you health, well-being and stress levels.
Tai Chi can be done alone or in a group, inside or outside, and there are many different forms of Tai Chi, so depending on how and where you learn, you may know different movements and sequences of movements than others. It is, however, recommended to learn Tai Chi from a certified Tai Chi instructor rather than a book or DVD. Your instructor can show you the proper ways to perform the movements so as to get the most out of the Tai Chi benefits and also to reduce injury.
Tai Chi Benefits Your Health
One of the best things about Tai Chi is that it can be done by those who are just beginners to physical activity, those who have physical disabilities, and by the elderly. Almost none of the movements of Tai Chi are straining to the body. Instead, each movement goes very slowly and in addition, can be modified according to the capabilities of the individual. The movements are never separate, so all of the movement sequences that you will learn in are meant to be strung together without letting your body be static. Although Tai Chi is not necessarily meant to burn a major amount of calories or help people lose a lot of weight, the physical exertion of the practice allows for the same dopamine-producing effects as heavy physical exercises like running. Therefore, it is a great form of exercise for those who may not be capable of “working out” at the gym or running a 10K race.
Another health benefit of Tai Chi is overall peacefulness of mind and reduction of stress and anxiety. Some people call Tai Chi “moving meditation.” Whereas meditation is generally done sitting upright on a meditation cushion–the practitioner sitting quiet and still in the full lotus or half lotus–Tai Chi is done standing and moving around by using the traditional, slow and flowing movements with the head, arms and hands, feet and legs, and core. But traditional meditation and Tai Chi are similar because you are practicing mindfulness as you perform either one.
During both practices, it is suggested that you “clear your mind,” forget your troubles, and focus on your breath. Breathe deeply in from the abdomen, and as you do so, realize that you are breathing in; don’t think about what you ate for lunch or what movie you’re going to see that night. As you breath out, do the same thing and realize that you are breathing out–thinking about the carbon dioxide leaving your lungs and escaping your mouth, only for the oxygen to flow right back in, repeating the whole process.
Focusing your mind like this can have effects in your daily life when you are not practicing Tai Chi. If you go to work and find that you are stuck in a stressful meeting with clients, try using these same breathing techniques that you used in Tai Chi class. Over time, you should learn and be able to do this without losing focus on the task at hand either (i.e. your clients).
If you are interested in learning Tai Chi, look online for classes in your area or call a nearby fitness center, hospital, or nursing home. Colleges and universities often offer classes as well. Don’t be intimidated as you begin, remembering to learn at your own pace. If you take your time and practice consistently, you will be reaping the benefits of Tai Chi in no time.