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What Is Tai Chi? – A great exercise for all ages

Tai chi, or to give it the full name tai chi chuan (also spelled taijiquan) is not an easy art to quickly define. So what is tai chi?

The Chinese term tai chi (taiji) refers to the universal balance of the forces of yin and yang. This is seen as the overriding principle in the universe that governs all movement, all life and all energy and how everything relates to everything else.

The term chuan (quan) literally means fist and signifies that the art was developed as a martial art. So tai chi chuan is a martial art that is based on the concept of the constant interplay of yin and yang.

Tai chi is known in the West as a slow motion exercise that restores balance to the mind and body and restores strength and health from within. But how does it do that? There are several elements to tai chi that make it an ideal exercise for people of any age from 5 to 95.

what is tai chi
What is tai chi? Fluidity in movement.

The balanced posture of tai chi

Tai chi training teaches you to hold and move your body in a certain way. You regain your alignment with gravity and learn to relax your weight down through your legs into the ground. Very few people do this naturally. Most people hold their body up with excess tension in their neck and shoulders and lower back.

This training helps you to relax physically and stay relaxed no matter how stressful any situation becomes. It strengthens your legs and back and takes the excess tension out of areas that may be tight or in pain.

The more relaxed you are, the more powerful you are in every way

A relaxed body leads to a relaxed mind. Anxiety automatically creates tension in your body so learn to physically relax and you can cope with more stress than you could before.

Soft, fluid movements

Apart from learning to stand without tension tai chi teaches you to move in the most relaxed, yet powerful way. You no longer move as a series of disconnected parts but every part of your body is supported by the whole.

You go through three stages of movement. The first stage is disconnected. Most people move in a way that’s uncoordinated unbalanced and clumsy. They fight themselves with every move they make and are drained of energy all the time.

Moving in a disjointed way is doing you no favours. So in tai chi you start by learning the second stage. This is to stand and move in a way that the whole body works together as one unit. Your posture is supported from below instead of being lifted up from tension in your shoulders, chest and lower back. You feel more relaxed, more stable and every move you do it stronger.

Stand so strong you can’t be moved

Finally you move onto stage three which is creating wave-like movements that flow through your body. These may look and feel soft and beautiful but like a wave under water they contain tremendous power.

Everything in nature moves in waves. All animals except us have a natural fluidity about their movements. Tai chi teaches you to gain the same relaxed power that other animals have. It is your birthright.

The movements of tai chi restore mobility to your joints, revitalise your energy and keep every system balanced.

Coordinated mind, body and breath

Tai chi is a mindful exercise. It shouldn’t be done while watching TV or listening to music. You learn to occupy your body with your mind. This is very powerful it keeps you centred and focused and you learn to feel when your body is out of balance in any way.

There is also a strong focus on breathing. This is the most fundamental thing we do and has a bigger effect on your physical and mental health than any diet. The breathing practices of tai chi and qigong keep you calm, centred and full of vibrant energy.

If you were to change one single thing that would have the biggest effect on your physical and mental health it should be to change the way you breathe. Nothing else will have a greater impact.

teaching tai chi
Teaching tai chi on a beach in Crete

Hopefully this brief overview has given you an idea of some of the huge benefits of this ancient art. Tai chi has so much to offer and the principles you learn can be applied to any other activity you do from golf to gardening.

Extraordinary power

In proper tai chi (rarely taught these days) you use the forces of yin and yang to develop extraordinary power. Yin training develops connected power and yang training develops wave power.

This power is out of all proportion to the practitioner’s actual size or strength. It enables smaller individuals to throw around larger people with ease and while staying totally relaxed.

To find out more come to one of our classes in Central/East Berkshire. Click here to find our class details.
If you can’t make a class then try our online training course. Details below.

  • The full yang style short form (37 steps)
  • All the proper principles
  • Qigong exercises
  • Yin and yang power training
  • Easy to follow videos and PDF descriptions of everything
  • The most comprehensive online training course available
  • Split into 11 digestible modules

Each module is contains at least a month’s worth of lessons and is currently just £18 per module.

Click here for more information and to visit our shop

You might be interested in …

  • Work on your posture and breathing while you walk
  • Walk freely with more balance and less tension
  • Become more aware of yourself and your surroundings
  • Make every walk a richer and more enjoyable experience

Plus – get our popular weekly email full of rare tips and skills on using the deeper principles of tai chi to improve your health and life.

tai chi walking tips