T’ai chi, also called t’ai chi chu’an, is a form of mind-body exercise, originated as martial art in China. It utilizes slow, gentle movements along with deep breathing and relaxation in a graceful manner to build strength and flexibility. Each posture flows into the next without pause, ensuring that your body is in constant motion.
T’ai chi has many different styles, such as yang and wu. Each style may have its own subtle emphasis on various t’ai chi principles and methods. There are also variations within each style. Some may focus on health maintenance, while others focus on the martial arts aspect of t’ai chi.
The result of all this variation is that there are more than 100 possible movements and positions with t’ai chi, many of which are named for animals or nature. Regardless of the variation, all forms of t’ai chi include rhythmic patterns of movement that are coordinated with breathing to help you achieve a sense of inner calm. The concentration required for t’ai chi forces you to live in the present moment, putting aside distressing thoughts.
In China, it is believed that t’ai chi can delay aging and prolong life, increase flexibility and strengthen muscles and tendons, and aid in the treatment of heart disease, high blood pressure, arthritis, digestive disorders, skin diseases, depression, cancer, and many other illnesses. Unfortunately, there hasn’t been a good deal of scientific evidence to support all of these claims, but it doesn’t hurt to get your body moving by doing some of these gentle movements.
The intensity of t’ai chi varies depending on the form or style practiced. Some forms of t’ai chi are more fast-paced and exerting than are others. However, most forms are gentle and suitable for everyone. So you can practice t’ai chi regardless of your age or physical ability — t’ai chi emphasizes technique over strength. In fact, because t’ai chi is low-impact, it may be especially suitable if you’re an older adult who otherwise may not exercise. You may also find t’ai chi appealing because it’s inexpensive, requires no special equipment, and can be done indoors or out, either alone or in a group.
T’ai chi chu’an primarily involves three aspects:
- Health: An unhealthy person may find it difficult to meditate to a state of calmness or to use t’ai chi as a martial art. T’ai chi’s health training concentrates on relieving the physical effects of stress on the body and mind.
- Meditation: The focus and calmness cultivated by the meditative aspect of t’ai chi is seen as necessary in maintaining optimum health (in the sense of relieving stress and maintaining homeostasis) and in application of the form as a soft-style martial art.
- Martial art: The ability to use t’ai chi as a form of self-defense in combat. T’ai chi chu’an is the study of appropriate change in response to outside forces, the study of yielding and “sticking” to an incoming attack rather than attempting to meet it with opposing force. The use of t’ai chi as a martial art is quite challenging and requires a great deal of training.
*Remember to please seek medical advice when starting a new exercise regimen.
Trainer Tip by Christina Perez.