What is Tai Chi?
|"The sages looked up to contemplate the patterns of heaven, looked down to observe the ways of the earth. They knew the inner workings of things, the theories of life and death."
-- Yi Jing
Tai Chi is an ancient martial arts exercise. The gentle movements and postures are designed to achieve a harmonious flow of energy (chi) in the body.
Practiced by millions of people, Tai Chi (abbreviated for T'ai Chi Ch'uan and pronounced tie chee chuwan) is an ancient martial art which today is becoming one of the most popular exercise systems in the world. The phrase T'ai Chi Ch'uan translates from Chinese as "supreme ultimate fist," drawing on the traditional Chinese Taoist beliefs in the interdependence of yin and yang in the body and mind. These opposing forces complement each other and can be complete only when balanced in harmony.
Skilled Tai Chi practitioners use the strength of the earth (yin) and the energy (chi) of the heavens (yang) to focus their physical and spiritual energies so that mind and body work together to improve balance, stability, flexibility and skill.
Tai Chi exercises are fundamentally holistic, benefiting the whole body as well as the mind. Physical and spiritual benefits can be appreciated by people of all ages, sizes and shapes. Tai Chi is a very adaptable form of exercise that can be practiced anyplace, anytime, without any special equipment. The continuously changing series of postures, known as the form, are designed to achieve a harmonious flow of energy (chi). The movements are coordinated with breathing patterns and done slowly so that the practitioner can focus on changes in balance, flexibility and muscular tension.
What are the Health Benefits?
Reviews of the literature reveal numerous studies on the health benefits of Tai Chi. Most studies focus on the benefits to older people including improving posture, strength and balance, skills which deteriorate in older age, resulting in serious falls and injuries.
Used with cardiac rehabilitation patients, Tai Chi gives the therapist an opportunity to teach energy conservation and body mechanics techniques.
Studies also indicate that people effected by rheumatoid arthritis, pain and stress have found various degrees of relief through Tai Chi practice.
Tai Chi Practice & Training
There are several styles of Tai Chi including Chen (physical with quick and slow movements), Yang (slow, large fluid movements), Wu (mid-paced, compact), and Sun (quick, compact). Although Tai Chi may be learned alone, it is useful working with a partner or in a class setting.
There is no certification authority for Tai Chi instructors. Talk to the instructor about his or her training and background, as well as other students in the class. Finding an instructor with whom you feel comfortable is an important part of finding a class that suits your needs.
To find Tai Chi classes in the community refer to community centers, senior centers, health clubs, or hospital-sponsored programs.
Contact Integrative Medicine at (860) 545-4444 or by e-mail itherapy@HartHosp.org