Each morning as you drive or walk to work, you may have a chance to pass a group of people standing in one place and moving their bodies in slow movement. Since nothing vigorous is happening, how can this be considered an exercise? But that is exactly what Tai Chi is, exercise.
What is Tai Chi?
Tai Chi is a combination of meditation and a moving form of yoga. It has roots in the martial arts despite the fact that most of its movements, known as sets or forms, are done slowly, gracefully, and gently. Though there are many versions as to how Tai Chi originated, this exercise is believed to have been founded and developed by Chang San-Feng in the 12th century.
According to historians, the practice and theory of Tai Chi evolved through the integration of the principles of Chinese philosophy that included both Confucianism and Taoism.
In 1947, Grandmaster Chen Man Ching stated “Stay relax. You must stay relaxed at all times when practicing Tai Chi. You will discover in time that relaxation will become part of your mental and physical state.”
To understand the concept behind Tai Chi, no amount of rushed attempts to understand its technique will allow that. Lots of practice as well as great patience are required to enable Tai Chi to search for your inner chi and empower your body. Only when your inner chi has been found can you then start experiencing a harmony of soul, mind, and body.
The Benefits of Tai Chi
There are several benefits that can be gained in performing Tai Chi. People in China believe that this exercise can treat depression, arthritis, high blood pressure, and heart disease; strengthen muscles; and increase longevity. Some adherents who regularly perform the exercise also believe it boosts stamina. Jo Li, a Tai Chi devotee for two years recently realized that he can run for a longer period of time without becoming tired easily. Research has revealed that Tai Chi does have aerobic benefits and provides benefits in endurance and oxygen uptake.
Most people mistakenly think, thanks to Hollywood, that Tai Chi is just for people who don’t want to do strenuous exercises or for old people. This exercise is now being endorsed as another fitness option for pregnant women due to its slow and gentle movements. For pregnant women who have never before done any type of exercise, Tai Chi can be also quite beneficial as it lessens the risk of these women injuring themselves. Yoga and other exercises often entail a certain amount of movement that could be difficult for pregnant women in advanced trimesters.
For pregnant women, coping with changes in work, lifestyle and body size can be very stressful. This is where Tai Chi’s meditation aspect comes into the fore. Helping the mind to concentrate on the repetitive slow motions of the breathing and the deep breathing exercises can help bring relief to these external changes. Patience is also cultivated in Tai Chi. This virtuous quality is especially valuable when the baby is born. What can a woman be more concerned about than having a stable mind and body during her pregnancy? In 1996, the Emory University conducted a research that proved Tai Chi exercise does help lessen the chances of falling by about 50 percent.
Besides pregnant women, Tai Chi can also benefit children. In Wiltshire, England, an English teacher introduced Tai Chi exercises to her class before starting lessons. She noticed that after the exercises, the children become calmer in class, were better prepared for their studies, and performed better in class. A series of studies listed by the American Journal of Medicine and Sports showed that tai chi can boost performance, focus, and concentration.
The popularity of Tai Chi among the ever growing number of people practicing it shows these people’s respect, confidence, and belief in it. Tai Chi’s popularity has spread to all corners of the world. The UN World Health Organization has in fact, officially recognized an event called Tai Chi Day (which began in 1999) that is celebrated every year on the last Saturday of April. During this day, free classes are offered in various clinics and mass Tai Chi workouts are held in participating cities.