Most people have heard of Tai Chi or seen people on video or in parks moving slowly and gracefully, and have wondered what it is, or how it works.
Tai Chi (also known as Taiji Quan) is known as one of the best methods for unifying body, mind and spirit. Originally developed as a martial art for self-defense, Tai Chi is now practiced by 100’s of millions of people worldwide, mostly for health and wellness, though many people still practice for self-defense.
The health benefits of Tai Chi have been widely publicized, especially when it comes to improving posture, balance and preventing falls for seniors. Indeed, a quick Google search on the topic comes up with over ten million results.
Dr. Peter Wayne of the Harvard Medical School calls it the “perfect exercise” or the “perfect medication.” And the American Heart Association, the Arthritis Foundation, the Mayo Clinic, the American College of Sports Medicine, and the National Institute of Health all recommend Tai Chi for its many health benefits.
But…what the articles don’t often talk about is what it’s like to start or practice Tai Chi, or how much fun it is, or how good it feels!
If you can walk you can do tai chi:
One of the unique features of Tai Chi is that physical entry-level to practice Tai Chi is so accessible. Tai Chi is for all ages. Many people, especially older adults, don’t really believe that they can actually become stronger at that point in their lives, especially if there are some health issues, but if someone practices tai chi for 20-30 minutes, 3-4 times a week, for even a few months, it has amazing effects.
Tai Chi just plain feels good
Unlike many physical activities, tai chi emphasizes moderation and relaxation. As you become familiar with the moves, doing Tai Chi feels almost like you are moving slowly in a swimming pool, floating through the movements.
Also, the slow shifting of the weight increases you’re awareness of your own body, and the space around you.
Tai Chi is an Art
Tai Chi is a lot more interesting than plain exercise or calisthenics. Tai Chi is a complex art, with a beauty of movement and subtlety of purpose that makes it interesting to study and practice over a long period of time.
Learning Tai Chi provides a real sense of accomplishment
Learning a Tai Chi form (choreography) is substantial accomplishment! It’s a great memory exercise, and the increased integration and coordination of movement that develops from learning to move smoothly from one posture to another makes you feel that you’ve really learned something significant.
Practicing Tai Chi is a great form of stress reduction
Tai Chi, like all meditation, can be a mental ‘safe space’ or mindfulness practice, where you live in the moment and leave everyday cares aside. When keeping attention on the movements it’s impossible to think about other things.
Tai Chi is a great way to meet people and make friends
It’s fun to practice in a group in class! Most people who practice Tai Chi are interesting, open, friendly, and supportive. So, if you’re looking for a new way to reduce stress, improve your health, and enjoy life, please give Tai Chi a try. You’ll be glad you did.
About Toby Kasavan:
Toby Kasavan is the founder of “Better Balance NY” and teaches classes and private lessons in the NYC area. for more information visit www.betterbalanceny, or email: [email protected], or call: 646-240-2019.
Photo: Mark Hang Fung So for Unsplash