Tai Chi’s Benefits, Part 1

/ September 13th, 2012/ Posted in Fitness / Comments Off on Tai Chi’s Benefits, Part 1

Tai Chi is unique. The benefits of this training are also unique. Here’s some background.

I’m sure any health and fitness trainer could enthusiastically expound upon the benefits of techniques or routines he or she teaches. While those routines have particular strengths in the area for which they were created, few are as all encompassing as Tai Chi.

It is a Martial Art, and many forms, styles, and techniques like Karate and Kung Fu offer similar benefits. But Tai Chi is unique. While it offers defensive maneuvers like other Martial Arts, its focus is on moving energy. Universal Energy or Chi as the Chinese call it, is the Life-force that dwells within each of us. Its movement through our bodies sustains life. However, like muscles that need exercise to grow and remain healthy, Chi needs to move and expand.

Never felt Chi? Try this. Vigorously rub your hands together for a few seconds. Then hold them opposite each other about a foot apart, and slowly bring them together. You should feel a tingling like static electricity, or a force like two magnets of the same polarity brought close together, when they are a couple inches apart. If you don’t feel it the first time, play with it. Cupping the hands slightly, as done in Tai Chi, may help you feel the energy as you would when moving through the form. Knowing what Chi feels like will help when doing various movements so that you can discern an improvement.

The benefits of practicing this wonderful Martial Art are many. Improved balance, coordination, posture, flexibility, overall physical health and metal clarity are a few results of dedicated practice. While each benefit could be discussed separately and shown to be the result of a particular move, or moves with many routines, it is not so with Tai Chi. The benefits are due to the overall practice of each one during the movements. Because the Chi gets ‘stuck,’ or out of balance within the body due to emotional trauma caused simply by the average American lifestyle, some corrective practice is needed. The stress of ‘hurriedness’ within a typical workday of the average American (and other cultures too) puts the body in turmoil. One way out of that state-of-being is to practice a relaxed exercise.

Tai Chi training contributes to re-balancing the body-system with improved health as a result. It acts as a moving meditation when performed correctly. What do I mean by “correctly”? I don’t mean performing each move perfectly, although that would clearly fill such a definition. What I mean is practice with a focused state-of-mind. My instructor once told me that there were three words I needed to remember while doing Tai chi – relax, relax, and relax. Tension tends to slow down or stop the flow of Chi wherever the tension resides within the body.

Like Yoga, Tai Chi is particularly useful for those whose bodies need ‘nudging’ and don’t have the strength or athletic endurance for many routines.

Strength comes from just doing the practice and doesn’t depend on long workouts over many months to experience results. Seniors and children can learn and practice Tai Chi as well as the most athletic performer. In China, some of the best Tai Chi practitioners are seniors because they have been doing it all of their lives. It is simply part of their lifestyle.

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