Tai Chi is an ancient Chinese exercise that has existed for several centuries. Originally, Tai Chi was developed as a form of self-defense, but today it has been transformed into a graceful form of exercise. It consists of slow, flowing movements and shifts of balance that strengthen the arms and legs while conditioning the tendons and ligaments of the ankles, knees, and hips, increasing their range of motion and making them more flexible and resilient, less prone to injury. The constant weight shifts help with balance and body awareness, leading to increase confidence and ease of movement that carries over into life, long after practicing Tai Chi.
Tai Chi focuses the mind while conditioning the body. Tai Chi has been often described as "meditation in motion”. It is a graceful dance-like, self-paced exercise consisting of gentle movements, stretching and breathing. Tai Chi reduces stress, improves balance and agility for people of all ages.
The Yang style is the most popular and it consists of slow continuous, soft and circular movements in a flowing form. To do Tai Chi, you perform a series of postures or movements in a slow, graceful manner. Each posture flows into the next without pausing. All forms of Tai Chi include rhythmic patterns of movement that are coordinated with breathing. In order to perform Tai Chi properly, the body moves as a unit. Timing of movement is very important--all parts of the body start and end at the same time. During transitions and weight shifts the weight ideally is on one foot, keeping the body upright. Commonly referred to as "separating the weight, " or substantial and insubstantial. The slower and lower the movement, the greater the strength and endurance benefit.
One of the great joys of learning this art is that there seems to be no end to its depth. This means that people who do Tai Chi are continuously challenged to improve their movements and mental focus. Learning Tai Chi is very individual in that there are various levels of refining. Above all, it is self-paced. The individual learns and progresses at his / her own pace. The key to learning Tai Chi is to have patience. Don't rush to learn and feel compelled to learn every movement by a given time. Enjoy the peacefulness you gain as you gradually learn this ancient Chinese art of exercise. In other words change your mind set and relax and be patient.
Tai Chi may also help your overall health. It is generally safe for people of all levels of fitness. Older adults may especially find Tai Chi appealing because the movements are low impact and put minimal stress on muscles and joints. Attention is focused on the position and feeling within the body. Surroundings are experienced with the senses. There are many benefits of practicing Tai Chi: increase oxygen (more efficient breathing), reduce blood pressure, improve cardiovascular fitness, increase bone density, and improve immune function. Tai Chi elevates your mood, reducing anxiety and depression, improves sleep quality, such as longer restful sleeping at night and greater alertness during the day. Natural diaphragmatic breathing patterns are maintained throughout the entire sequence. Tai Chi trains breath awareness with movement. Active relaxation involves being both alert and calm at the same time and promotes the flow of the Chi or life force throughout the body. Allowing your Chi to flow can improve everyday physical functioning and above all provide a feeling of peace and well being.
Important Points of Tai Chi Principles
Empty the mind, uplift spirit
Chest contained/sinking, back stretched –
Loosen/Relax the waist and hip joints
Differentiate empty and solid (steps or energy)
Sink the shoulders and elbows
Use the mind and not blunt force
Top and bottom follow each other
Internal and external are together, united in harmony
Connected and unbroken (energy)
Seek stillness in movements and activeness in stillness