Tai Chi

An Overview

Tai Chi originated in ancient China. Tai means “supreme”, Chi means “origin”. So Tai Chi refers to “supreme origin”. It is, in general, a safe and effective exercise for health of body and mind. It focuses on one’s ultimate inner power and wellbeing. Tai Chi practice is based on a holistic understanding of human as part of the universe and constant interaction between inner body and external body– universe.

Tai Chi has been practiced and developed for centuries in China before spreading to other parts of the world. It has gained worldwide recognition and popularity in recent years due to its health benefits. The slow and graceful movements of Tai Chi relax and strengthen the body and mind, help to relieve stress, develop flexibility and coordination. The high level of Tai Chi requires diligent and persistent study and practice for many years; however, it is said to be one of the most effective options for the majority of people to begin the body-mind exercise. It is easy to learn, suitable for any age, fun and cost-effective. Once you feel the harmony of the flow of Qi (life energy) through the body smoothly and powerfully, you are on the way to achieving your ultimate goal – the optimal health of your body and mind.

Tai Chi practice reflects the philosophy of Daoism – returning to the origin of things, including your own nature. The more practice you have, the more understanding you will gain about yourself and your inner wellbeing under the context of the universe. Unlike some sports, it does not require one to compete against others. By contrast, you are on the way to discovering who you truly are – your natural spontaneity, vitality and freedom in your own way and at your own pace through Tai Chi practice.

There are five major Tai Chi schools worldwide, namely Yang style, Chen style, Sun Style, two Wu (second and third tone respectively in Chinese pronunciation) styles. Though each style has its own distinctive character, – for instance, Yang style gestures appear gentle, slow and graceful whereas Chen style performers demonstrate more vigorous and slow-fast mixed movements, however, these five styles share fundamental Tai Chi practice principles.

According to Peter Wayne, the author of the Harvard Medical School Guide to Tai Chi, there are eight active ingredients of Tai Chi well worthy of sharing here.

1. Awareness, including mindfulness and focused attention.

2. Intention, including belief and expectation.

3. Structural integration, including dynamic form and function.

4. Active relaxation. Tai Chi’s circular, flowing motion helps shift the body and mind into deeper levels of relaxation, and is a form of meditation in motion.

5. Strengthening and flexibility.

6. Natural, freer breathing.

7. Social support.

8. Embodied spirituality.

And there are a lot of more unlisted here for you to explore at your own pace and your own time.

What is Tai Chi?

Tai Chi originated in ancient China. Tai means “supreme”, Chi means “origin”. So Tai Chi refers to “supreme origin”. It is, in general, a safe and effective exercise for health of body and mind. It focuses on one’s ultimate inner power and wellbeing. Tai Chi practice is based on a holistic understanding of human as part of the universe and constant interaction between inner body and external body– universe.

Tai Chi has been practiced and developed for centuries in China before spreading to other parts of the world. It has gained worldwide recognition and popularity in recent years due to its health benefits. The slow and graceful movements of Tai Chi relax and strengthen the body and mind, help to relieve stress, develop flexibility and coordination. The high level of Tai Chi requires diligent and persistent study and practice for many years; however, it is said to be one of the most effective options for the majority of people to begin the body-mind exercise. It is easy to learn, suitable for any age, fun and cost-effective. Once you feel the harmony of the flow of Qi (life energy) through the body smoothly and powerfully, you are on the way to achieving your ultimate goal – the optimal health of your body and mind.

Tai Chi practice reflects the philosophy of Daoism – returning to the origin of things, including your own nature. The more practice you have, the more understanding you will gain about yourself and your inner wellbeing under the context of the universe. Unlike some sports, it does not require one to compete against others. By contrast, you are on the way to discovering who you truly are – your natural spontaneity, vitality and freedom in your own way and at your own pace through Tai Chi practice.

There are five major Tai Chi schools worldwide, namely Yang style, Chen style, Sun Style, two Wu (second and third tone respectively in Chinese pronunciation) styles. These five styles share fundamental Tai Chi practice principles; however, each style, at the same time, has its own distinctive characteristics. For instance, Yang style gestures appear gentle, slow and graceful whereas Chen style performers demonstrate more vigorous and slow-fast mixed movements.

Tai Chi Health Benefits

How can Tai Chi practice benefit you?

Tai Chi generally provides health benefits. Tai Chi can help you achieve one of the following health benefits if you can practice Tai Chi on a regular basis.

  • To improve your health wholeness, physically and mentally
  • To increase your flexibility and muscle strength
  • To improve your posture and balance
  • To alleviate or improve existing medical conditions, such as osteoarthritis, back pain, diabetes etc
  • To improve the flow of Qi (essential life energy), body circulation and strengthen immunity system
  • To improve relaxation, concentration and mental health

Tai Chi set practice can be seen as a flow of moving. According to one Chinese old saying, the movements should be done like slowly dragging the silk out of a silk worm, consisting of long-stretching without forcing; slow, gentle and continuous movements. In all Tai Chi forms, circular movements of the shoulders and wrists may improve suppleness and circulation; constant spinal movements may improve body’s coordination and flexibility; movements involving briefly standing on one leg may improve balance. The social atmosphere can sometimes forge friendships and alleviate loneliness and anxiety; and the exercise itself can boost a person’s mood and alleviate depression.

“Doing Tai Chi makes me feel lighter on my feet”, says Kerr, a Harvard Medical School instructor, “I’m stronger in my legs, more alert, more focused, and more relaxed – it just puts me in a better mood all around”. She has devoted her professional life to studying the effects of mind-body exercise on the brain at Harvard’s Osher Research Centre.
Research on Tai Chi in general, carried out at the University of Toronto by Dahong Zhou, MD, shows that Tai Chi provides moderate exercise, equal to brisk walking. Zhou also notes that Tai Chi in general reduces stress levels and emotional problems while improving “concentration, attention, composure, self confidence, and self control”. Zhou indicates that Tai Chi generally reduces hypertension, relieves chronic headaches, dizziness and insomnia, has benefits for people suffering with mild arthritis and rheumatism, improves breathing and blood circulation and is “an excellent exercise for the mind.” His research shows that due to the low intensity of most forms of Tai Chi, this exercise regime does not lead to fatigue or stress.

Daoist Tai Chi Society states many of the health benefits claimed are related to the relaxation aspects. The long stretches in the set may reduce tension at a muscular level and the slow pace of the set can create both mental and physical relaxation. The society claims that by relaxing the mind during Tai Chi, the brain requires less blood and nutrients thus allowing the rest of the body to make the best use of these. This all may act to calm the heart and mind, while possibly improving strength and reducing overall stress.