What is Tai Chi?

A form of traditional Chinese soft style martial art.

Tai Chi (Taijiquan or t’ai chi) is a Chinese health exercise and martial art practiced daily by millions of people around the world for its health, relaxation, and self-defense benefits. As a health exercise, Tai Chi helps to:

As a martial art, Tai Chi uses the method of “softness overcomes hardness.”

Tai chi chuan is generally classified as a form of traditional Chinese martial arts of the Neijia (soft or internal) branch. It is considered a soft style martial art — an art applied with internal power.

Since the first widespread promotion of Tai Chi’s health benefits in the early twentieth century, it has developed a worldwide following among people with little or no interest in martial training, for its benefit to health and health maintenance.

Medical studies of Tai Chi support its effectiveness as an alternative exercise and a form of martial arts therapy. Focusing the mind solely on the movements of the form purportedly helps to bring about a state of mental calm and clarity.

The physical techniques of Tai Chi Chuan are described in the Tai Chi classics as being characterized by the use of leverage through the joints based on coordination in relaxation, rather than muscular tension.

The slow, repetitive work involved in the process of learning how that leverage is generated gently and measurably increases, opening the internal circulation of chi (life energy) and increasing circulation.

Thus, the blood supply to muscles increases, and more blood flow means there are more nutrients available to help cells and tissues regenerate, and speed up healing.

The core training involves two primary features: the first being the solo form (ch’üan or quán), a slow sequence of movements which emphasize a straight spine, abdominal breathing and a natural range of motion; the second being different styles of pushing hands (tui shou) for training movement principles of the form in a more practical way.

Tai Chi Chuan – the solo form – is complete, natural range of motion over the center of gravity. Accurate, repeated practice of the solo routine can:

  • Retrain posture
  • Encourage circulation throughout the body
  • Maintain joint flexibility
  • Promote balance and coordination

Western Science recognizes the following benefits of practicing Tai Chi:

  • Decrease stress, anxiety, and confusion
  • Decrease insomnia and fatigue
  • Decrease depression
  • Promote state of mental calm and clarity
  • Elevate good mood and motivation
  • Increased oxygen uptake and utilization
  • Increased blood circulation
  • Help cells and tissues regenerate and speed up healing
  • Reduced blood pressure
  • Opens the internal circulation of chi (life energy)
  • Slower declines in cardiovascular power
  • Increased bone density
  • Increased strength and range of motion of joints
  • Greater leg strength, knee strength, and flexibility
  • Improved balance and coordination
  • Reduced levels of stress hormones during and after practice
  • Improved immune function

 

 

Practicing Tai Chi regularly can reduce stress, anxiety, and depression as well as enhance mood.

Researchers from Tufts University School of Medicine analyzed 40 studies that looked at the psychological benefits of practicing Tai Chi.

These studies involved nearly 4,000 participants who were healthy or who suffered from chronic health conditions. Overall, 21 of 33 controlled studies that compared Tai Chi to another practice or no practice at all demonstrated that engaging in Tai Chi regularly can reduce stress, anxiety, and depression as well as enhance mood. These results were supported by seven additional studies that observed the effects of Tai Chi among those who practiced it.

The impact of Tai Chi on psychological well-being was modest, however, and the authors noted that rigorous studies that assess the benefits of Tai Chi in a controlled environment are lacking.

Today’s research suggests that while practicing Tai Chi may help improve psychological well-being, further study of the practice is needed.

Precautions:

Alcohol and smoking are prohibited during activities.

There are several precautions you need to consider before participating in Tai Chi:

Although tai chi is generally safe, consult with your medical practitioner before starting. This is particularly important if you have any problems with your joints, spine or heart, if you are pregnant, if you have any fractures, or if you have severe osteoporosis.

 

Contraindications:

There are no specific contraindications with therapeutic or traditional Tai Chi. As with all exercise; care must be taken to work within the specific abilities. If you are experiencing too much dizziness or discomfort with the activity, please inform your tai chi practitioner.

The 24 posture sometimes called the Beijing form for its place of origin, is a short and most common version of Yang style Tai Chi composed of 24 unique movements:

  1. Opening Posture of Tai Chi Chuan
  2. Wild Horse Shakes Its Mane
  3. White Crane Spreads Its Wings
  4. Brush Knee
  5. Playing the Lute
  6. Step Back and Repulse Monkey
  7. Grasping the Sparrow’s Tail – Left
  8. Grasping the Sparrow’s Tail – Right
  9. Single Whip
  10. Waving Hands Like Clouds
  11. Single Whip
  12. Pat the Horse on the Back
  13. Kick with Right Heel
  14. Hitting Your Opponent’s Ears with Both Fists
  15. Kick with Left Heel
  16. Snake Creeps Down, Golden Rooster Stands on Left Leg
  17. Snake Creeps Down, Golden Rooster Stands on Right Leg
  18. Fair Lady Works the Shuttles
  19. Pick Up the Needle from the Bottom of the Sea
  20. Flashing the Arms Like a Fan
  21. Deflect, Parry and Punch
  22. Apparent Close and Push
  23. Cross Hands
  24. Closing Posture of Tai Chi Chuan

An Ancient Form of Exercise Therapy That Eases Pain and Reduces Stress

Tai Chi, or Tai Chi Chuan, is also called “moving meditation.” It’s considered a gentle form of exercise and a way to relax your body and reduce stress. While it’s a Chinese practice that dates back to the 13th century or earlier, it’s become very common worldwide in the last decade.

Tai Chi is widely recommended for people with disorders that limit movement or energy.

Tai Chi is a no-impact form of exercise. It contains no strenuous movements, no jumps, no running and no aerobics. Instead, you move your body fluidly and slowly through a sequence of deliberate movements along with synchronized breathing.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), chi means life energy. Traditional Chinese Medicine teaches that chi moves through your body, keeping you vital and healthy.

Problems with the flow of chi are linked to disease, and Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners believe that restoring its proper flow will bring about good health. Acupuncture and Tai Chi are both believed to promote the circulation of chi.

Tai Chi can be a way to get your body moving, increase your energy, and promote flexibility and strength. Much of Tai Chi keeps your feet rooted firmly on theground, which is especially good for people who may have balance problems.

A no-sweat, non-impact exercise with multiple benefits.

Tai Chi is a non-impact series of slowly flowing movements and shifts of balance that strengthen the legs while conditioning the tendons and ligaments of the ankles, knees, and hips, increasing their range of motion and making them more resilient and less prone to injury.

The constant weight shifts train balance and body awareness, leading to confident ease of movement within the form and in everyday life. Tai Chi is a physical exercise that focuses the mind, while conditioning the body.

Practicing twenty minutes a day dissipates stress and reduces stress-related debilities, increases stamina, and strengthens the body and will.

Western Science recognizes the following benefits of practicing Tai Chi:

  • Decrease stress, anxiety, and confusion
  • Decrease insomnia and fatigue
  • Decrease depression
  • Promote state of mental calm and clarity
  • Elevate good mood and motivation
  • Increased oxygen uptake and utilization
  • Increased blood circulation
  • Help cells and tissues regenerate and speed up healing
  • Reduced blood pressure
  • Opens the internal circulation of chi (life energy)
  • Slower declines in cardiovascular power
  • Increased bone density
  • Increased strength and range of motion of joints
  • Greater leg strength, knee strength, and flexibility
  • Improved balance and coordination
  • Reduced levels of stress hormones during and after practice
  • Improved immune function