About Tai Chi

What is Tai Chi (or Tai Chi Chuan)?

Tai Chi, or Tai Chi Chuan, is an exercise of slow, graceful movement combined with calm, regular breathing. It was originally designed for self-defense and has gradually evolved as an effective means for relaxation, stress control, and longevity. It helps people improve their physical and mental health. There are different styles of Tai Chi, including Chen, Sun and Yang styles which were invented more than 200 years ago.

Tai Chi is an exercise system suitable for people of all ages. Since it can be practised in a relatively small area either indoors or outdoors with little or no special equipment, it has gained an enthusiastic reception all over the world. In practising Tai Chi, the whole body moves in a relaxed, rhythmic fashion; steps are taken slowly and steadily with the weight shifting gently from one side to the other as you go; breathing is naturally co-operated with each movement. All the forms are practised like a floating cloud or running stream. Tai Chi is built on balance, relaxation and patience. Regular practice of Tai Chi is a life style choice rather than a quick fix set of health exercises. What theory is Tai Chi based on?

The Chinese characters for Tai Chi literally mean “Supreme Ultimate Force”, or “Martial Art Using the Principle of Yin and Yang”. The aim of Tai Chi is to cultivate and circulate the body's vital energy - Qi and so, ultimately, to strengthen our state of health. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) which is an integrated system including acupuncture, herbal medicine and exercises (Tai Chi and Qi Gong) has, at its roots, the principles of Yin and Yang (see Basic Theory of TCM).

It is believed that Qi (vital energy or life force) flows through the body by channels called Meridians. If the flow of Qi is blocked or stagnated, or deficient or excessive in certain Meridians, health conditions occur. The root cause is from the imbalance of Yin and Yang. In TCM, acupuncture, herbal remedies, or both are usually used to restore the balance of Yin and Yang to release the blockages. Tai Chi, sometimes together with Qi Gong, is an alternative way to promote the smooth flow of Qi. By performing the Tai Chi postures co-operated with natural breathing and the application of Yi, which is the intent or focus of the mind, we help to keep Qi moving smoothly through the Meridians. In addition to promoting the flow of Qi, Tai Chi can also help to increase the body’s flexibility, relaxation and help keep the mind calm and focused. These benefits are extremely useful in today's stress filled society.

Tai Chi and physiology

Unlike other fitness programmes concentrating only on certain muscles or muscle groups, Tai chi brings into play every part of the body and benefits all bodily parts, not just the musculoskeletal system. When performed in a slow and relaxed fashion, Tai Chi offers a balanced drill for the body's muscles and joints in conjunction with deep regulated breathing. Deep breathing promoted by the slow movements causes the diaphragm to expand outwards and downwards and contract inwards and upwards. This movement of the diaphragm gently “massages” the liver and intestines. Deep breathing also promotes a greater intake of air into the lungs than usual, which helps blood circulation. It also expands the blood vessels which serve the heart and intestines. Therefore Tai Chi helps prevent thrombosis and many other ailments of the heart and intestines. The practice of Tai Chi creates a tranquil state of mind through focusing your mind on the movements, and in the long term stimulates the central nervous system, promoting the wellbeing of whole body. The stomach exercises in Tai Chi can also improve digestion and help prevention of constipation. Long term practice of Tai Chi can lead to changes in our disposition, making us more even-tempered and slow to anger.

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