Health & Wellness Articles

An Introduction to Tai Chi

Meditation in Motion

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High-flying fighters. Hand-to-hand combat. Is this what you picture when you think about Tai Chi? Perhaps it is time to re-examine your notions about this ancient Chinese discipline, which is most commonly used as a system of meditative movements practiced as exercise—not quite the aggressive martial arts you might have imagined.
 
Tai Chi, also known as Tai Chi Chuan, has a rich history. Historians debate over when this form of martial arts first appeared, but experts believe it goes back well over 1,500 years when fighters initially imitated the movements of a snake and crane clashing. Originally, Tai Chi was used as a form of combat, but today, it is often used as a gentle form of exercise, popularized in the Western world in the 1980s and 1990s. Now, people of all ages use these movements to gain strength, balance and flexibility.
 
As a low-impact exercise, Tai Chi is great for people with joint problems because it can help strengthen connective tissue and improve circulation. Additionally, this form of exercise improves balance and posture, by emphasizing correct form with each movement. Instead of developing bulky muscles and brute force, exercisers tackle tension and stress while improving body awareness.
 
Sometimes called “meditation in motion,” a Tai Chi workout is a series of soft, flowing movements choreographed into a slow routine. Each specific movement corresponds with either the inhalation or exhalation of a deep, gentle breath. This coordination of movement and breath is believed to free the flow of “chi” (also spelled “qi”), a life-force energy that when blocked, purportedly can cause stress and illness. By improving the mind-body connection, Tai Chi brings the yin and yang of a person back into natural harmony, exercising emotions just as it does the muscles.
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About The Author

Liz Noelcke Liz Noelcke
Liz is a journalist who often writes about health and fitness topics.

Member Comments

  • There are many health benefits to Tai Chi. It improves: immune system function, blood pressure, blood sugar, mood, arthritis pain, balance, bone density, strength, flexibility, and more.

    While most people choose to practice Tai Chi for its health benefits, it is important to recognize its martial origins. The gentle flowing movements are derived from effective self-defense techniques. Every movement has applications for defense. Some people consider it to be the ultimate martial art.

    -----

    Sparkers: You're welcome to try 2 weeks of free tai chi classes at Jing Ying Institute in Arnold, Maryland.. There are a variety of classes that are suitable for different levels of fitness and interests. A broad range of ages attend, mostly from ages 22 to 92.

    Go to http://www.jingyi
    ng.org/TaiChi
    .htm for more information.

    - 1/7/2014 11:32:00 PM
  • PUGGLEMONKEY
    Sounds like a wonderful way to improve joint issues and work on the mind/body connection as well. As someone with joint issues - and general lack of coordination, lol - I think this may be an option for me. Thanks for the article! - 3/21/2013 10:36:38 AM
  • Giving Tai Chi a try on Monday. - 3/2/2013 12:09:52 PM
  • Anyone ever tried TaiCheng system? - 2/24/2013 11:49:35 AM
  • WOLRING
    Tai chi can vary WIDELY from instructor to instructor. People need to understand this. And beware of tai chi taught in gyms or community ed centers - usually (though not always) they are taught by people who do it on the side, apart from their real jobs and careers. That's going to be very different than tai chi taught by a real, full-time instructor who lives the lifestyle and keeps educated about human anatomy and health conditions - even if for martial arts training. I invite everyone to explore and comment on this on my free tai chi blog: www.internalgarde
    ns.com. And beware that ALL tai chi instructors - me included! - are biased about how tai chi should be taught and with what degree of client care and professionalism. :-) After all, an art cannot be standardized. This is both its beauty as well as its curse. - 7/1/2012 7:45:07 PM
  • WOLRING
    Tai chi can vary WIDELY from instructor to instructor. People need to understand this. And beware of tai chi taught in gyms or community ed centers - usually (though not always) they are taught by people who do it on the side, apart from their real jobs and careers. That's going to be very different than tai chi taught by a real, full-time instructor who lives the lifestyle and keeps educated about human anatomy and health conditions - even if for martial arts training. I invite everyone to explore and comment on this on my free tai chi blog: www.internalgarde
    ns.com. And beware that ALL tai chi instructors - me included! - are biased about how tai chi should be taught and with what degree of client care and professionalism. :-) After all, an art cannot be standardized. This is both its beauty as well as its curse. - 7/1/2012 7:43:55 PM
  • SANDIBETTS1
    Thanks for the article--the comments were very informative as wel. - 6/18/2012 7:45:49 AM
  • I hope that the woman who wanted to take classes but was turned off by the age factor went for it anyway. The reason so many older folks take it is because it's *very* gentle on the joints, and *does* improve balance - two important problems with being overweight that tai chi addresses. The class I take has a very wide age range, but I can tell you - the older folks in our class are far from having "one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel"! One other comment worth considering: tai chi is called "the ultimate workout." You won't break a sweat as you do with aerobics, but almost every aspect of physical health is covered: breathing, posture, movement, and yes, even cardio health. AND you get a great sense of peace from doing it. I can't think of any better exercise for a heavy person. Or a thin person. Or an old person. Or a young person... - 5/17/2012 12:19:42 PM
  • I have been doing tai chi for just over a year now. I started it as part of my rehab after smashing my knee to pieces. It has been wonderful for building the strength back up in my leg, as well as for balance and general wellbeing. I also practice qigong which most tai chi instructors will also do. I really do recommend it for anyone one that would like a sport that is good for the soul and gentle yet challenging for the body. K. - 12/6/2011 1:20:50 PM
  • The article offers some widely accepted beliefs about 'Tai Chi', most of which are incorrect as regards Taijiquan, the orginal martial art. - 10/9/2011 7:21:30 PM
  • Here's a link to our Tai Chi Society, I would imagine many other cities have them too and I would bet they could direct you to the right qualified place...
    http://buffalo.
    newyork.usa.t
    aoist.org/
    - 9/3/2011 12:00:43 PM
  • I have been wanting to do this for years and found a beginners class that teaches all the moves in three months, I start in two weeks, I can't wait! - 9/3/2011 11:57:41 AM
  • I have taught Tai Chi for 12 yrs and I believe the reasons for Senior Citizens classes is for balance, and the freedom of the day/and time for them. If your younger and want a class in the day with seniors-
    1) after a class go up to the instructor ask Sifu (teacher) if you can join in
    2) and go to the office and ask the same thing
    Before teaching, I was the only young person thier with seniors and was self taught by VHS. I went up the the Sifu and she wanted to see my Form. She excepted me. Reason you need a teach is many. My suggestion is GET A SIFU TODAY!!! - 6/19/2011 1:26:42 PM
  • COUNTYGRRL
    I was first introduced to Tai Chi as a way to become more focused in the theater when I was a high school student and I have been wondering if I should get back to it. However, it's not taught in my area. I am hesitant to relearn off videos as I remember the instructor being very hands on in manipulating our posture and stances as well as hand placement. - 6/16/2011 6:56:38 AM
  • I'VE BEEN CURIOUS I DO YOGA(NOT AS OFTEN AS I'D LIKE) BUT WAS LOOKING FOR OTHER OPTIONS AS WELL. - 5/27/2011 10:08:33 AM

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