Tai chi is many things. For some, it is a simple and easy form of exercise that improves balance, strength, mind, and body. For others is a lifetime journey of meditation and movement. Tai chi is an art with great depth of skill and knowledge, however, it can be easily learned and it soon delivers its health benefits to the body and mind; despite the age of the learner. No matter if you are a young teenager or an older adult and are looking for new ways to improve your physical and mental health, you should start thinking of Tai Chi as an option.
This gentle form of exercise is often described as “meditation in motion”. Tai Chi, also known as Tai Chi Chuan, originated as an ancient Chinese form of martial art can help maintain strength, flexibility, and balance; these three benefits can be the pillars for a healthy life, which will allow you to be strong and physically independent much longer compared to others who do not practice it. An amazing thing about Tai Chi is that you can start at any time. It does not require an advanced level of fitness or perfect health, so no matter what your strength, age or physical capability, you can begin to receive the benefits from this amazing exercise.
Tai Chi is very different from other exercise or forms of martial arts. The movements made with Tai Chi are circular and never forced; the muscles are never tensed, they are relaxed. Connective tissues are not stretched and the joints are not fully bent or extended. The simplicity of this exercise makes it possible for anyone to try, from the strongest and fit to people recovering from surgery or seniors. This simple form of exercise does not require any fancy equipment and it is a very easy process to get started.
What is a Tai Chi class like?
Every instructor and class might be slightly different; like any other form of exercise such as yoga, bodybuilding or sports, trainers will always do things in their own special way. However, when it comes to the standard necessities and requirements, all Tai Chi classes have things in common. Tai Chi can be done in big groups of people of all ages or it can be in done alone at home; it all depends on the person and their preferences. A standard Tai Chi class might include these simple parts and stages:
Warming up – Like any other form of exercise, Tai Chi has simple and easy warm-up movements and exercises, such as turning the head from side to side, shoulder circular motions and rocking back and forth. Warm up exercises might differ, but the goal of these movements is to loosen the muscles and joints and to focus on the body and breathing patterns.
Tai Chi instruction and practice – For beginners, a short form (sets of movements) with slower, smaller movements are recommended; especially for those who are not in top condition or who are older. Depending on the styles of Tai Chi, it might require larger or smaller movements. Short form can include 12 or fewer movements while long forms can include hundreds. Don’t get intimidated by the big number. Tai chi is not like other forms of exercise that require a lot of physical strength, meaning that many movements or forms will not exhaust your body.
Tai Chi usually goes without pausing through a series of motions. Tai chi motions are named for animal actions, such as “white crane spreads its wings”. Okay, don’t start getting spectacle about tai chi just because of its unique names and movements. Try it once and you will definitely want to try it again. With these martial art moves, you breathe deeply and naturally, focusing deeply on your bodily sensation. Others might call it a form of meditation; call it what you want, Tai chi is relaxing, in powering and beneficial to the mind and body.
Qigong – Tai chi Qigong or chi kung is translated as “energy work” or “breath work”; and it is exactly that. This usually consists of gentle breathing that is sometimes accompanied or combined with a movement which lasts for a few minutes. The goal of Qigong is to mobilize the body’s energy and relax the mind completely. This may be practiced sitting, standing or lying down. Just like yoga, sports and other forms of exercise, the Qigong section of Tai chi lets your body relax after the movements and motions, closing the “cycle” and bringing the session to an end.
Begin to receive the benefits of Tai Chi
Begin Tai Chi now! There is nothing to hold you back from the benefits it offers. As mentioned above, it does not require any equipment or complicated training to begin. It is recommended to begin Tai Chi before developing a chronic illness or functional limitation, but don’t worry, this doesn’t mean you will not receive the benefits from this amazing form of exercise, it simply means it will be easier to begin and easier on the body. There are a few simple things you might want to check out before beginning the Tai Chi journey. Here is some advice:
Check with your doctor – Given Tai Chi’s excellent safety record, you will most likely be encouraged by your doctor to try it; no matter what your age. Any form of exercise is overall beneficial to the body, especially those that do not require too much strength or physical strain. However, if you have a medical condition, a limiting musculoskeletal problem or you take medication that makes you dizzy or lightheaded, check with your doctor before beginning the tai chi journey. This is usually recommended for any and all types of exercise. It is always a good idea to know what is good for you and what is not.
Check out or take a class – A class might be the best way to learn Tai Chi correctly and receive all of its benefits. Teachers and instructors know what they’re doing; they will give feedback and show you the correct way to do things. Seeing an instructor in action and experiencing the camaraderie might be a big eye-opener that will make you want to be a part of the Tai Chi community. Many teachers will allow you to observe or “feel out” the class and see if it for you or not. If you would rather learn at home, you can check out online videos or buy and rent DVD’s that allow you to stay in the comfort of your home while learning Tai Chi.
Keep an eye on your progress – By keeping an eye on your progress, you will know at the end of the 12 weeks if you enjoy Tai Chi and know if it perfect for you. Furthermore, you may already notice grand positive psychological and physical changes. Try it out; you won’t lose a thing by beginning something new.
The Amazing Benefits of Tai Chi
Balance – This slow and gentle exercise improves balance, reducing falls and the overall fear of falling. It has been shown in some studies that fear of falling raises the possibilities of actually falling; Tai Chi helps reduce both. The ability to sense the position of the body in space, better known as proprioception declines with age. Tai chi is the absolute best exercise to train this sense. By also improving stretch receptors and muscle strength, it makes it easier to recover from stumbles.
Muscle strength -Tai Chi can be comparable to resistance training if practiced regularly. It improves both upper-body and lower-body strength and also strengthens the back and abdomen muscles. Although Tai Chi is nothing like weight lifting or other intense workouts it actually makes you stronger.
Aerobic conditioning – Tai Chi can provide some aerobic benefits, depending on the size and speed of the movements. If your doctor has advised you to do more intense cardio workouts with a higher heart rate, you can do Tai Chi and something more aerobic as well.
Stress relief – The “meditation” involved in Tai Chi are an incredible distraction and outlet for hectic lifestyles. The mental concentration, movement and breathing required for Tai Chi all help you let go of stress. Any form of exercise is good for stress relief, it allows the body to release happy chemicals” and distracts us from our stressful thoughts and worries. Tai Chi in general is calming and it great for those who are super stressed and need a healthy solution.
Internal organ health – Tai Chi’s breathing and meditation components as well as its bending and spiraling movements message the internal organs and releases them from damaging constrictions. These constrictions are brought about by stress, difficult working conditions and bad posture. It also promotes a healthy digestive system and aids the exchange of gases in the lungs. Tai Chi not only helps strength and balance, it promotes healthy organ health.
It is not all just fancy talk – Tai Chi has been practiced in China for over a thousand years and is now being practiced world-wide by people seeking its amazing benefits. No matter your age or your physical capability you can try Tai Chi and allow it to work wonders in your life as it has in so many others. Have fun with the process of becoming a healthier and happier person!