Tai Chi also known as Tai Chi Chuan , is a traditional form of Chinese Martial Art that was originally developed in the 13th Century.
It involves a series of slow, graceful, flowing movements combined with deep breathing and relaxation techniques. Tai Chi has been embraced by the West as a form of gentle, low impact exercise suitable for all ages, abilities and disabilities.
There are three main styles of Tai Chi including Chen, Yang and Wu, which simply vary in the speed of the exercises and the length of time that the positions are held for.
What are the benefits of Tai Chi?
Tai Chi works on two levels. Firstly, it helps to improve the quality and flow of Chi, or Qi (life-force energy) around the subtle energy systems of the body. It helps balance the two opposing energy forces that exist within the body – Yin and Yang. By unblocking and harmonising these energy forces the body is returned to a state of balance.
Secondly, Tai Chi works on the physical body by supporting elements of fitness. This includes proprioception, muscle strength, upper and lower body flexibility, balance, and breathing.
Tai Chi is often referred to as ‘Meditation in motion’ as it’s a good aid to help with stress, pain and recovery from illness or surgery.
The physical benefits of Tai Chi are applicable for joint pain and stiffness, muscle stiffness, poor joint mobility and flexibility (knees, ankles, hips). The gentle movements are suitable for some mild osteoporosis.
What does a typical Tai Chi class look like?
You’ll need to wear loose, comfortable clothing that allows full range of movement. Lightweight shoes or trainers will also help your balance and coordination.
Classes will typically last for an hour. The teacher will demonstrate a sequence of movements giving you a chance to repeat, learn and perfect.
Once you have learned the sequence of movements you can then practice on your own and anywhere. For instance at home and in a park or garden.
The benefit of attending a class is that the teacher can correct your positions and movements so that you get the best out of your practice.
How do I find a Tai Chi class that suits me?
You may want to watch a class or attend a free taster session to see if you think that the exercises are suitable for your range of movement and level of fitness.
The class instructor can always make suggestions of ways to help you get started regardless of your mobility – like using a chair if you find that more comfortable.
It’s definitely a good idea to check that you are joining a class that’s the right level for you – beginner, intermediate or advanced – as this ensures the right level of teaching to help you progress.