Tai Chi has health benefits for body and mind
Originally practised for its martial arts applications, Tai Chi is now used to strengthen the body, improve overall health, and bring feelings of well-being.
Energy = Qi (or Ch'i)
The relaxation and flowing movements in Tai Chi improve blood circulation throughout the body, stimulate our internal organs, and reduce the amount of energy wasted in our bodies (by tension in our muscles) and in our minds (by unnecessary thoughts / emotions). Regular practice builds what the Chinese call "Qi" (Ch'i) - often translated as "energy". Qi is a way of talking about our experience of energy - a feeling of vitality and zest for life.
Relaxation = Release of tension (but without collapse)
Relaxation is perhaps the primary aim of Tai Chi practice. We are intentionally releasing the many tensions we habitually hold in the muscles of our bodies. We also seek to let go unhelpful thoughts and negative emotions in our minds, which can make us feel more positive - you could say happier.
+ Strength = Resilience (derived from a strong internal structure)
In Tai Chi Chuan, our body weight is constantly being shifted, from 100% in one foot to 100% in the the other, in slow flowing moves. This strengthens the legs and improves balance and stability. Scientific research has proved that Tai Chi can even be effective in treating conditions such as arthritis and osteoporosis.
Tai Chi also encourages good posture because it is practised with relaxed straightness of the spine, from the top of the head to the tip of the tail bone. We maintain this posture by moving from our body's centre, called the Tan Tien (pronounced "Don-Tee-Enn"), while securely "held" between "heaven" and "earth".
+ Flexibility = Natural movement in joints (which avoids damage, eg to knees)
The slow and smooth movements in Tai Chi are gentle on the joints, yet both strengthen and relax the muscles around them. This allows easy and more natural movement of the joints. The exercises particularly restore free movement to the hips, which reduces twisting of the knees - a common cause of knee damage.
Mindfulness = More present awareness (made possible by quietening the busy mind)
Most of us experience stress from the business of everyday life. This stress not only impacts negatively on the body, it also makes it difficult to think clearly, or to see the whole picture - we tend to become over-focused on our worries. The practice of Tai Chi helps us to recognise when our thinking mind is over-stressed and helps us to let go of unnecessary anxiety. The benefits of Tai Chi in this regard are similar to those of mindfulness meditation, and many people do Tai Chi as a mindfulness practice - what mindfulness teachers and practitioners call a moving meditation.
These benefits mean T'ai Chi Ch'uan is a precious gift handed down to us - one we are very happy to be able to pass on.