One of the most wonderful things to sit and take notice of is to observe a practitioner of Tai Chi undergo a sequence of graceful, relaxed, and slow movements (which are also known as postures or forms). Observing one, as he/she moves in a slow controlled flow and hypnotic-like movement (that appear almost effortless) whilst in a reflective state is to some extent, mysterious and quite fascinating. Personal trainers and martial artists have always been attracted to and extremely captivated by the multi-millennial Chinese Body¬- Mind art of Tai Chi.
While it may be difficult to determine the exact time when Tai Chi came about, some researchers believe that it evolved in China around 1200 A.D. From the start, tai chi practice was meant to be a martial art form, a form of self-defense, (Tai Chi Chuan) but people, over the course of time, started to realize how the practice of tai chi led to various kinds of health benefits.
As with yoga and other body-mind practices, one of the greatest benefits of practicing Tai Chi is to reduce stress. Tai chi not only can clear and quiet the mind through its graceful, flowing movements and controlled breathing, it tends to also alleviate pent-up tension all over the body. A state of intense relaxation takes over as your mind concentrates on being in the “present moment”. Quickly left behind is the real world and a fantastic calm feeling takes over and long after your tai chi practice has ended and you will carry these benefits for a long time. With tai chi, you will be repaired, refreshed, and rejuvenated.
Tai Chi also considerably enhances agility and balance and significantly boosts the strength of your muscles. It promotes over-all coordination, relieves depression and anxiety, during the day raises alertness, and at night enhances your quality of sleep. Practicing this therapeutic art on a regular basis can help treat various types of chronic pains, lowers high blood pressure, and increases endurance and cardiovascular fitness. Many people practice it for management of their health and for exercise and can be performed by practically anyone regardless of their current state of health or age. Tai chi is fairly easy on the body being a very low impact type of exercise, but as a weight bearing or load exercise, its benefits can be plentiful and can include toned muscles and better bone density.
As you start to study and practice both Yoga and Tai Chi, you will be amazed of the many affinities that exist between their practices and art forms. You will find that they have several various styles (Yoga came from India and Tai Chi originated from China) that tend to constantly overlap with both the body and mind apparently winding up in the same place. Since a lot of the martial and healing arts practiced today have been developed throughout those lands, we often think that there has to be a prodigious flow of life energy in that part of the world at some point in time.
Loosely translated, tai chi means “internal martial art or balancing the contradictory forces of nature.” Since we’re not certain when Tai Chi exactly began, the written description of its deep history significantly fluctuates. Much of Tai Chi’s history was never documented in text form as with a lot of martial arts history; instead, it was handed down from master to student, from generation to generation by oral tradition.
It was Chang-San-Feng, a Chinese Taoist Monk living in the 12th century, who was believed to be one of the legendary innovators of tai chi practice.
According to historical accounts, Chang-San-Feng had been observing the movements of five animals in nature: the crane, snake, leopard, dragon, and tiger. He fashioned out a series of exercises, forms, and movements based on the animals’ movements that he observed and studied, Tai Chi’s most basic form integrates 13 basic movements, while dozens of movements, postures, and forms involve more intensive forms of this practice.
In Tai Chi, there is almost constant motion in the relaxed body of the practitioner and one agile motion seamlessly segues into the next as the practitioner’s mind becomes calm and clear of any distractions, completely focused while his/her breathing becomes controlled, rhythmic, and deep. This is obviously meditation in motion.
Tai Chi is made up of three components: the Spiritual, the Mental, and the Physical. It is deeply rooted in Chinese philosophy and without getting into it, the principle of Yin and Yang is one of the more familiar concepts that are associated with Tai Chi. Yin and Yang are the forces that are believed to make up the Universe. These forces oppose each other and should always be in balance. They symbolize how opposing forces are intertwined, interconnected, and bound together (i.e. soft/hard, low/high, dark/light, female/male). Yin’s quality is associated with the feminine aspect of the universe, with night, birth, liquid, slow, wet, tranquil, diffused, soft, and female. On the other hand, Yang is associated with masculinity, with daytime, hot, aggressive, dry, solid, fast, and hard. There is a beautiful quote that goes, “Life is a Perfect Balance and Mixed Harmony of Yin and Yang.”
Tai Chi can be practiced by everyone, as mentioned before. One doesn’t be to be young, in excellent health, or a seasoned athlete. Every person, from children, teenagers, adults, to seniors, can enjoy the experience and attain the benefits that Tai Chi has to offer. Women should not hesitate since Tai Chi teaches technique over strength.
You don’t have to buy expensive footwear, special clothing or any costly equipment to practice Tai Chi. You can perform it in a group setting, alone, and you can practice it indoors or outdoors. The initial experience for lots of people is in the comfort of their home through an instructional video. If it’s a tape with high production quality, this is okay.
But if you have the time and the means, there is really no substitute to joining a “face to face” class under the supervision of a qualified instructor. The instructor can easily guide you through the movements especially during the start of your practice. He or she will make any required modifications needed, which can help you learn the right breathing techniques and movements instead of developing bad habits, which later down the road can sometimes be difficult to break. Some folks begin their practice by watching a video and once “addicted”, move quickly to a class.
While others who value their privacy prefer to practice alone inside their home. Others are more comfortable joining a class. With the help of the Internet, these days, searching for a qualified instructor/teacher is easier than ever, regardless if you prefer attending a group class or whether you enjoy private instruction in your home.
Before beginning a program, we recommend consulting with your health care provider first although it is deemed that tai chi practice is very safe and has proven to be easy on the body and to bring about good health. This is especially important if you have issues with your heart, lungs, spine, or joints.
So, now that you basically understand what tai chi is and what it’s all about, you need to go out there and try it. We are confident that in no time at all, you will enjoy the serenity and peace of its graceful and gentle movements while you connect your mind and body.