T’ai Chi, tai qi, t’ai qi, or tàijí, either way you want to learn T’ai Chi and see if it really is beneficial to your health?
A bit of history
T’ai chi was first seen being practised in the small Chen village about 500 years. There are a few theories about how it came to be and what it is based on. Today we generally recognise that T’ai Chi is a relaxed form of martial arts that combines the components of the acupuncture meridian system, the philosophical techniques of Daoylin (exertion of inner force) and Tuna (Breathing exercises), and combines some Chinese medicine too.
Chen Wangting is the popular name given to the originator, though that is at its best hypothetical. Upon leaving the Royal Guard, Chen used his knowledge of martial arts and his appreciation for Taoism philosophy to combine the two and form T’ai Chi. This became the village secret and it was only during the nineteenth century that Yang Lu Chan learned the form and then went throughout China teaching.
Today T’ai Chi is practised for his harmonising and balancing nature. It has many health benefits as well as the reduction of stress and with more than 200 million practitioners worldwide, there may just be something to it!
Who can take part?
Simply put – Everyone! There is no age limit, although being younger means you are more able to have a life learning the movements and gain the maximum benefits from T’ai Chi.
Ideally, if you are able to visit a local T’ai Chi class you will certainly be better served initially as movements can be taught to you through a teacher who can see what you are doing.
Is T’ai Chi a strange cult?
This needs to be addressed because often times a different name or when someone mentions the term ‘philosophy’ it can be taken to mean something more.
This is not a strange cult. You are free to keep your religion and practice T’ai Chi for all the health benefits it offers.
Now that we can all relax, let’s rather ask the question about the philosophy. T’ai chi is based on the word ‘chi’, or rather ‘qi’, meaning the energy force that flows through us all. In scientific terms, we would say life force. (I know there is far more depth to this)
T’ai Chi is using and improving our ‘life force’ for the betterment of ourselves. Think of it as you would when eating healthy food… You are improving your ‘qi’ because healthy food gives you strength and allows your body to repair itself more efficiently.
What are the benefits?
This is where learning T’ai Chi really offers such remarkable improvements to our health. Known to reduce stress and improve balance, T’ai Chi is also known for improving Arthritis and there are ongoing studies to show how T’ai Chi can reduce the effects of Diabetes and back pain.
To list some of these benefits:
- improved energy
- increased core strength
- reduction in falls
- lower blood pressure
- reduction in stress and anxiety levels
- increased flexibility and balance
- improved mood
- improved sleep
- Other benefits have been show to help with:
- Chronic Heart Failure
- Drop in Cholesterol levels
T’ai Chi is adaptable too, allowing even chronic patients the ability to make small movements to improve their overall health.
I want to Learn T’ai Chi, How do I start?
There are 5 major styles of T’ai Chi that you can take part in and many other forms which have spread around the world as spin-offs of these.
They are the Yang, Wu, Chen, Sun and Wu Hao styles each holding the core principles of T’ai Chi, but each with a different form of exercises and stances.
When you are starting out, you will need very little in the way of gear. Loose-fitting clothing is the best as you will be moving your body in different ways throughout the class.
Begin by looking in your local area for T’ai Chi classes that are available. It will always be easier for you to maintain your exercises if you don’t have too far to travel. Once you have found a few, why not go for a few sessions at each to see how the class feels and how the instructor act towards you.
There is no point going and stopping because you feel uncomfortable. Rather find another class and start gaining those benefits.
Don’t be alarmed by the small deliberate movements either. Many folks come from a background of aerobics or running and suddenly you are in a room full of people moving their arms very slowly.
This is all normal, and as you progress you will see that the benefit of the exercise is in the precise nature of the movement. Using your concentration and slowing down so as to ensure you can achieve the position with accuracy.
Should I Start Learning T’ai Chi?
The only way to know if T’ai Chi will benefit you is if you try it. Now, we are all supporters of videos and tutorials online, and they offer some great help but what they do not do is give you vital feedback.
In our opinion find a T’ai Chi instructor and learn first how to do some of the movements, then progress from there. You can always add to your knowledge and skills later on, but initially take a few classes and meet some other folks.
Their enthusiasm and energy will really encourage you to get healthy.
To learn more you can visit Tai Chi for Health Institute and also visit the Harvard Medical School to learn about the benefits and current thinking on T’ai Chi. For a deeper introduction to T’ai Chi before you begin, visit Beginners T’ai Chi.