A Guide to Tai Chi

A Guide to Tai Chi

7th June, 2017

If you are looking for ways to improve your health, one option you should definitely consider is Tai Chi. Also known as Tai Chi Chuan, Tai Chi involves relaxation and deep breathing combined with flowing movements. There are many benefits associated with Tai Chi. All ages can benefit from practising it. With that in mind, read on to discover everything you need to know about it.

What is Tai Chai?

Tai chi is an ancient, time-tested traditional Chinese self-development method. It is a subtle mixture of the most refined martial, meditative, and medical knowledge, combining effortless power, graceful movement, and self-discipline. Through learning and practising Tai Chai, students will develop mental and physical skills, as their understanding and awareness of all aspects of their self increases. These disciplines will enable you to enrich all experiences in your life.

How is Tai Chi practised?

Tai Chi involves ‘Four Pillars’ or kinds of practice. These are Application, Pushing Hands, Form, and Qigong. As well as this, a variety of meditative practises and physical exercises are included.

So, what are the four pillars? Each pillar develops a person’s sensitivity to oneself, internal energy, and ability to coordinate their body. Let’s take a look at each one in further detail:

  • Qigong – This pillar is the foundation of Tai Chi. Students use relatively static movements in order to feel their internal energy, and they use Yi, i.e. will, to guide the energy as it flows through the natural channels.
  • Form – Next we have form, which is the main exercise used in Tai Chi. Lasting between five and 20 minutes, this is a flowing sequence of movements. It is considered an enjoyable type of moving meditation. As the student develops, every movement can be practised at increasing levels of depth.
  • Pushing Hands – This is a type of partner exercise. Two people develop co-ordination and sensitivity together. This is a free-flowing, playful, and enjoyable sort of exercise.
  • Application – Finally, we have application, which is the most advanced type of physical training. Because of this, a lot of people feel it is the most rewarding. This involves exploring the deeper subtleties of the Form pillar movements. The purpose is to develop high levels of confidence, sensitivity, awareness, and mind-body co-ordination.

What are the health benefits of Tai Chai?

  • Reduced stress – You can distract from your hectic lifestyle by practising Tai Chi, especially due to the breathing and mellow rhythmic movements. The hand eye movement and breathing coordination is proven to promote calmness.
  • Aerobic capacity – Researchers say that Tai Chi is a type of aerobic exercise.
  • Regulates the respiratory system – There are three parts of Tai Chi, and one of these is breathing. The deep breathing helps treat respiratory alignments, including emphysema, bronchitis, and asthma.
  • Improves coordination – Tai Chai can help with upper and lower body coordination and hand eye coordination with the slow rhythmic movements that are incorporated.
  • Chronic Illness prevention – Tai Chai can help with the treatment of chronic illnesses, including depression, digestive disorders, arthritis, and lower and upper body coordination.
  • Posture – You can maintain a good posture with Tai Chi.
  • Flexibility – Not only can Tai Chi help to boost your posture, but it can increase flexibility too.
  • Endurance and strength – Research has shown that individuals boast a higher performance and strength level if they practise Tai Chi at least three times per week.
  • Balance – Last but not least, Tai Chi movements are slow and steady, shifting from one side to another, and coordinated with upper body movements. These movements help to lower the risk of falling in the elderly while also regaining core balance.  

Some tips for getting started:

  • Dress comfortably – It is important to wear clothing that is loose fitting and does not restrict your range of motion. Wear comfortable, lightweight, and flexible shoes, or you can practice barefoot. When choosing your shoes, make sure they provide enough support and that they won’t slip.
  • Talk to the instructor – There is no standard licensing or training for tai chi instructors. This means that you need to rely on your own judgment. Of course, you can also seek recommendations from clinicians and friends. You should find an experienced teacher that will accommodate your level of fitness and individual health concerns.
  • Consider observing a class first – If you are unsure about tai chi, you should consider observing a class. This is a good way to get an understanding of what will happen during your first class. You will be able to experience the camaraderie of the group, get feedback, and see the teacher in action first. This will help you to determine whether you are comfortable with the atmosphere and approach.
  • Don’t be intimidated by the language – Finally, the language can intimidate beginners, but you shouldn’t let it. Various branches of Tai Chi are given names like Cheng, Wu, and Yang. This is honour of the people that have created the sets of movements called Form.

Hopefully, you now have a better understanding regarding tai chi – what is involved and the benefits associated with it. This is definitely a discipline that everyone can benefit from. No matter your age or your interests, why not give it a try? You will find that it enriches so many different experiences in your life and, of course, improves your health in the process too.

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Alison Massey

Group Marketing Director

Now Health International

Alison Massey is a 15-year digital marketing veteran, who has spent the last seven years using social media to help expats and soon to be expats find out what to expect from a life overseas. An expat living in Hong Kong herself, Alison is the Group Marketing Director of Now Health, the award-winning international health insurance provider.

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