Last Updated June 13th, 2021
What is Tai chi?
Tai chi is a traditional Chinese exercise comprising deep breaths and slow movements. Unlike the martial arts Tai chi involves physical exercise that is not competitive. It is performed in a continuous motion without any pause between postures. According to the Chinese tradition, Tai chi has various styles depicting various Tai chi principles. There are various aspects of Tai chi and is performed focusing on a particular aspect such as martial arts, health maintenance, etc.
Who can do tai chi?
Anybody and everybody can perform Tai chi when they learn it the right way. It is predominantly a low impact exercise that does not cause any type of strain to the muscles or joints. Older adults would find this type of exercise manoeuvre suitable to keep them active due to its low impact nature. Another important aspect of Tai chi is that it does not involve any type of equipment.
It can be performed either indoors are outdoors. As a precautionary measure, Tai chi should be avoided by if a person is having problems with joints, fracture, osteoporosis, and hernia. Women who are pregnant are also advised to refrain from practising Tai chi. In certain cases, certain moves are modified to accommodate particular section of people.
Tai chi has been quite famous in the United States and Europe. It has been intensively researched for the health benefits it can provide. Studies have claimed that Tai chi can help people overcome various health conditions. Some of the major benefits associated with Tai chi include:
- Improving functional abilities in older adults who are unable to perform high intensity exercise.
- Improve flexibility and strength with people suffering from chronic pain due to injuries.
- Relieve stress.
- Improve the overall health for people suffering from heart problems such as hypertension, high cholesterol levels, etc.
- Improve functioning of the joint for people who are suffering from osteoarthritis.
- Improve energy levels.
- Relieve problems associated with insomnia.
- Improve concentration for people suffering from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
- Strengthen the immune system in people who have recently experienced infection.
- Improve digestion and improve circulatory problems.
Health benefits associated with Tai chi
The low impact exercise helps manage the flexibility associated with the upper body and lower body. The postures in this exercise are performed both standing and sitting and also include warm-up exercises for the body. These exercises include moving the head from one side to other, circling the shoulder, and moving back and forth. It is believed that these exercises help reduce strain, stiffness, pain, and muscle tears. Studies have also revealed that apart from providing better flexibility, it also helps in improving the coordination and strength as well.
Improving balance and reducing the risk of fall becomes highly important for older aged people. Studies have claimed that poor balance is the biggest risk for people who are aged since there is a higher risk of head injuries associated with a fall. Awareness of position and movement of body generally reduces as the person becomes older.Old age also decreases the strength in the ligaments and muscles.All these factors play an important role in determining the balance.These difficulties can be easily be reduced by performing Tai chi exercise under the guidance of a professional.
One of the important aspects of Tai chi is that it can strengthen both the upper body muscles and lower body muscles at the same time. It does not require any type of equipments or bands to do this exercise. In fact, people who have practiced this exercise feel that Tai chi gives better results as compared to other high intensity exercises when it comes to strengthening the muscles. Tai chi mainly focuses on strengthening the core muscles and simultaneously strengthens other muscles such as knees, back, abdomen, and legs.
Improves heart health
An important benefit associated with Tai chi is that it helps in reducing the blood pressure and improves the blood flow. Both these aspects are important in maintaining a healthy heart. Studies have indicated that high blood pressure can be related to the stress response and it is important to manage the stress response adequately. This can be achieved by performing Tai chi which reduces stress levels and reduces the inflammation in the arteries. This helps in reducing the blood pressure and improving the heart health.
Reduces anxiety and depression
According to the Chinese tradition, it is believed that practicing Tai chi helps in promoting self awareness and positivity. This helps in relieving stress and prevents anxiety and depression. Many people relate it to another exercise called yoga which also focuses on providing relief from anxiety and depression. The breathing exercise performed during Tai chi helps with concentration and promotes a calm mind. It is believed that performing this exercise outdoors helps in connecting with the surrounding and provides a positive outlook.
Improves focus and concentration
The slow pace of the exercise accompanied with breathing exercise helps in controlling the mind and prevents it from wandering thoughts. This helps in better focus and concentration. People also describe it as a form of moving meditation. The focus and concentration can be further improved by accommodating imagery visualizations and affirmations while performing the exercise.
How to start with Tai chi?
Tai chi can be learnt with the help of books and videos which can provide you illustration and techniques to perform the exercise. If you are really serious about performing it for a purpose, it is always better to get trained by a professional. Tai chi training centres are spread across different communities and hence finding one instructor will not take much time.
Learning from a instructor becomes much more important when it comes to learning the breathing techniques associated with the exercise. Since this is an important part of the exercise, it is important to master this technique to get optimal results. An instructor also helps you in performing this exercise safely without experiencing any complications. Finally, when you have mastered the moves of Tai chi, you can choose to perform the exercise remotely or perform it with a group of people.
Prerequisites for starting Tai chi
- Tai chi exercise generally requires some space to move around and perform the exercise. Since it also involves breathing exercise, performing it outdoors or in a large room would be a better choice.
- The beginner’s program for this exercise lasts around 12 weeks and is generally performed at least two times in a week.
- It is important to wear loose clothing to perform this exercise.
- Begin the exercise always with a warm-up for 10 minutes.
- It is important to begin things slowly initially by practicing the exercise for 15 to 20 minutes a day. Concentrate on limited postures at the initial stages and later additional postures can be added.
How is Tai chi performed?
The complete set of Tai chi movements can last up to two hours. Chen Meng who practiced Tai chi has reduced the time to 15 minutes by accommodating a series of postures that is suitable for majority of people. This has influenced many people to invent their styles of Tai chi exercise and perform the exercise according to their requirements. The various postures of Tai chi include:
A beginner’s posture is the basic posture in Tai chi. This is performed by keeping the feet at a comfortable distance apart with toes facing inwards. Keep your knee soft and the hips slightly flattened. Your face will remain inward and the chest slightly curved inwards resembling a hallow chest. This posture is quite similar to a seating position in the classroom.
This is an important movement in the exercise which helps in moving smoothly from one move to another. This is performed in a rolling motion making sure the weight of the body is distributed evenly on both feet which are placed one in front of the other.
This posture requires immense concentration as it involves various steps at the same time. This step is performed at the beginning or at the end of series of postures; This posture is also referred to as the “Ball of Energy.” This is performed by initially rubbing the hand with each other and then moving them away. Next, bring the hands close to each other but do not make any contact. It is important to feel the energy that is generated between the hands called “qi.” This posture is performed with a combination of stepping posture at the same time.
Pushing and withdrawing
This posture involves moving forward and backward in order to cleanse the body. Initially one foot is placed in front of the other and releasing all the body weight on the back leg. Next, move the hands upward in a circular motion and simultaneously lift the back heel up and shift the weight of the body to the front leg in a single motion.
This move helps strengthen the arms, relax the muscles and center the mind. The weight is centered between the legs and arms are held outward. As one hand rises, the other one sinks down (one palm is up and one down) in a rolling motion. As you step forward, your torso turns and arms alternate positions.
Roll back/ward off
This move uses the waist and is done in a diagonal position. Put weight on left leg and turn waist to the left. The right arm curves to hold a ball against your chest, fingers move upward while left arm arcs first downward, then left arm floats up to shoulder height.
This moving hand position is typically used for jabbing, whipping, striking or even in massage. Place the hand with palm facings downward and the four fingers curled to lightly touch the thumb. The front leg is extended out, body open to the side, front arm moves forward and the wrist bends down as the fingers open and close.
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