Reports this week have suggests that Tai Chi, the ancient Chinese slow-move based exercise, could be the ideal exercise for people of all ages. This ancient art has been proclaimed by fitness experts as the perfect way for anybody to stay fit, regardless of their hectic lifestyle or busy family life.
Tai Chi is something most of us only recognise from martial arts movies or residential senior citizens homes but the practice is in fact a fantastic exercise for everybody, offering genuine long-term benefits.
A leading Tai Chi master has told the press that Tai Chi is the perfect antidote to the busy, digital-age and it’s the perfect tonic to return us all to a more balanced lifestyle and health. No one is suggesting that when you start practicing Tai Chi you’ll suddenly be able to lift 500 pound dumbbells or run a marathon but it’s more about appreciating your body, respecting its abilities and ageing gracefully.
What is Tai Chi?
Understanding Tai Chi is about more than the exercise involved. The practice has often been described as meditation in motion and it provides a balance between mental and physical exercise through a slow-moving process of rotations. It began life as a Chinese martial art and is valued for its healing qualities for many health problems including arthritis, hence its popularity in retirement homes.
Tai Chi is a low impact, slow motion exercise process which involves the carrying out of several motions named, usually, after animal actions. If you’re taking a Tai Chi class or listening to a Tai Chi recording you’ll here phrases such as ‘white crane spreads its wings’ interspersed with martial arts movements including ‘box both ears’. Your movements need to be accompanied with measured, deep breaths and your focus should be on how your body feels through each motion, much like a meditation session. Tai Chi movements tend to be circular and rely on the muscles being fully relaxed.
Elements of Tai Chi
A Tai Chi class or work out should include:
Warm-up: like your regular work out you need to warm-up before starting a Tai Chi session. Standard stretches to loosen up your joints and muscles and get you ready to work out.
Practice of Tai Chi forms: ‘forms’ are what Tai Chi instructors call the movements within the exercise. Each session may include up to 12 single forms joined together, although longer, more advanced sessions can include hundreds of forms. Depending on the style of Tai Chi undertaken the size of the movements will differ and smaller, slower movements are recommended for beginners.
Qigong – this translates from Chinese as ‘breath work’ or sometimes ‘energy work’ and consists of several moments of focused, gentle breathing sometimes combined with specific movements. Qigong is designed to relax the mind and mobilise the energy within the body.
Benefits of Tai Chi
There are believed to be 300 million across the UK practicing Tai Chi. The most recent study, mentioned earlier, has shown that Tai Chi is one of the best ways to create balance in your life and this healthy balance then promotes a better, healthier lifestyle. It’s not designed to make you lose six stone or drop a dress size but appreciate your body and get to know it more intimately.
Anything that promotes a healthier lifestyle is good in our books and the great thing about Tai Chi is that a session could last ten minutes or three hours, depending upon the time you want to dedicate to your art.
The basics of Tai Chi are very easy to master through watching videos or taking part in a class and once you’ve got the basics it’s up to you to decide if you’re going to take your new exercise to another level. Even the basics are enough to promote a different way of thinking and perhaps a different way of living, for the better.
by Kath Webb
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by Kath Webb
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