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

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.

tai chi in Twyford
My class in Twyford

Balanced Posture

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.

From here you learn the second stage which is to move in a way that the whole body works together as one unit constantly supported from below instead of being lifted up from above.

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.

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.

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.

So come along to a lesson and find out for yourself. Your first lesson in our classes is always free so you have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Click here to find our class details.