What is T'ai Chi?
T'ai chi originated as a means of self-defense in ancient China under the teachings of Taoism somewhere between 700 and 1,200 years ago. Since then, it has evolved into a modern, effective health practice.
T'ai chi (tie chee) is a form of qigong (chee gong), part of traditional Chinese medicine (acupuncture, qigong/t'ai chi, herbology). Traditional Chinese medicine is based on establishing the natural flow of qi (life energy) through the body. T'ai chi teaches how to relax into the normal movements and activities in our lives in order to minimize stress accumulation. It's widely considered to be effective exercise for both a healthy mind and body.
The practice of t'ai chi is a slow and graceful movement. T'ai chi is the process of learning where to put the hands and feet, and how to align posture and move the body. It often involves a combination of breathing, visualization and gentle movements to help release stress in the body, via a type of mindful awareness biofeedback that the slowness of t'ai chi movements enable. The movements used in t'ai chi are accessible to anyone, regardless of ability, age or fitness level.
Many, but not all, t'ai chi teachers also include qigong practices in their t'ai chi teaching. Qigong means "breathing exercise" or "life energy exercise," and can include sitting meditations or gentle moving meditations. When practiced as a mindfulness meditation, t'ai chi becomes qigong.
The goal is to cultivate and grow the qi within us to flow smoothly and powerfully through the body. Studies from institutions including Harvard, which called t'ai chi "meditation in motion," have shown the practice provides a great number of health benefits, including:
- Improved muscular strength
- Reduced chronic pain conditions
- Increased flexibility
- A strengthened immune system
- Improved dexterity
- Improved cardiovascular system
- Maintaining bone density
- Overall improved quality of life
Practicing t'ai chi regularly can help those with chronic illness and also reduce the likelihood of:
- Heart disease
- Type 2 diabetes
- Parkinson's disease
- Multiple sclerosis
- Tension headaches
- Anxiety and depression
- Asthma and allergies