What is tai chi?
Tai chi is an ancient Chinese tradition that, today, is practiced as a graceful form of exercise. It involves a series of movements performed in a slow, focused manner and accompanied by deep breathing.
Tai chi, also called tai chi chuan, is a noncompetitive, self-paced system of gentle physical exercise and stretching. Each posture flows into the next without pause, ensuring that your body is in constant motion.
According to the Mayo Clinic Tai chi is a type of low-impact, weight-bearing, and aerobic — yet relaxing — exercise. It began as a martial art. As it developed, it took on the purpose of enhancing physical and mental health. Practiced in a variety of styles, tai chi involves slow, gentle movements, deep breathing, and meditation. The meditation is sometimes called “moving meditation.”
It is believed that tai chi improves the flow of energy through the body, leading to better wellness and a wide range of potential benefits. Those benefits include:
- Improved strength, conditioning, coordination, and flexibility
- Reduced pain and stiffness
- Better balance and lower risk of falls
- Enhanced sleep
- Greater awareness, calmness, and overall sense of well being
As with tai chi, a variety of benefits have been linked to qigong. They include:
- Greater stamina and vitality
- Reduced stress
- Enhanced immune system
- Improved cardiovascular, respiratory, circulatory, lymphatic, and digestive function
- Lower blood pressure
- Less risk of falling
In tai chi, both the mind and the body are constantly challenged. It is hard to say which benefits more, say experts.
”Initially, benefits are physical. For learning purposes, you start with the body. You learn a set series of movements, all in the same order, and you have to pay attention. When you pay attention, you purchase awareness.”
Santa Fe tai chi instructor Robin Johnson says it’s more like thinking of the two as one.
”Tai chi (and qigong) demonstrate how inextricably interwoven the mental and physical body is,” says Douglas, author of Stalking the Yang Lu-Chan: Finding Your Tai Chi Body. ”Your mood, your emotional states, and your physical states are all beginning to improve at the same time.”