Why We Should All Practice Tai Chi- PUBLISHED AT APOTHECAI.COM
Tai Chi Chuan is a Chinese martial art that promotes healthy living and longevity. If you’ve ever walked by a park or outdoor recreation center, you’ve likely seen practitioners shaping the air with their prolonged, graceful gestures.
Although the popularization of Tai Chi occurred relatively recently, the methods are rooted in practices and principals that are thousands of years old.
The story of Tai Chi is rooted in nature and the circular nature of energy in our bodies. Chang San Feng, a Taoist monk, came up with the practices 108 movements after witnessing the battle between a snake and a bird. According to Tai Chi Master Jane Golden, “When performing Tai Chi, the lower body moves within a square based on the four directions and their diagonals, and the upper body moves in multi-planed circles. By moving in circles, Tai Chi can intercept aggression at many points.”
Tai Chi offers diverse and powerful health benefits, rooted in what Chinese medicine calls the three regulations: body, breath, and mind. The slow, intentional movements of Tai Chi provide a low intensity cardiovascular workout that can be practiced throughout our lifespan. During the practice, deep and rhythmic breathing calms and focuses the mind. Deeper awareness of Qi (life force) and Self are revealed over time with dedicated practice.
Strength and Flexibility
The smooth movements of Tai Chi are low impact, without jarring or rushed movements. Moving slowly gives the practitioner the opportunity to be conscious of alignment, posture, and balance.
Studies have shown that practicing three hours per week points to an increase in balance, muscular strength, endurance, and flexibility. A meta-analysis study has shown that Tai Chi also increases the aerobic capacity of otherwise sedentary people, offering cardiovascular benefits.
Many postures in Tai Chi incorporate the smooth shifting of weight from one leg to another along with intentional arm movements. This coordination helps increase body awareness, and has been shown to increase balance. While this is important for everybody, it’s vital for older practitioners who can prevent injuries from falling and remain physically active.
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Edited by Alison Baenen