You probably have seen people in parks or along the beach, as individuals or in groups, performing tai chi. This exercise (or “practice”) is thousands of years old, but is just now becoming popular in Western countries. It may be the opposite of the current trend of fast, exhausting routines like cross-fit, but let’s see why tai chi might be a better option for you. Some experts have proclaimed it “as good for you as CrossFit”.
Why tai chi can be better for you
Low risk of injury
Relaxes your mind
No weights or equipment required
Muscles are relaxed rather than tensed
Movements are never forced
Joints are not fully bent or flexed
Can be done by most anyone, even if in a wheelchair
Health benefits of tai chi
It may be hard to imagine that such a slow exercise might give such powerful health benefits, but that is what extensive research has shown. You might think of tai chi as “meditation in motion”. Some have called it “medication in motion”.
Research studies conclude that tai chi helps promote inner peace, helps depression and anxiety, lowers stress, lowers blood pressure, decreases inflammation, improves immunity, improves reaction time and balance, and reduces the risk of falling. The practice improves overall fitness, endurance, flexibility, and strength.
Medical studies of tai chi
The director of the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at the Harvard Medical School says over 600 academic research papers support the health benefits of tai chi. For example, a study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, found a 43% reduced risk of dangerous falls within the first year of learning the practice. Especially in older adults, falling can result in disabling fractures, particularly of the hip. A study in the American Journal of Epidemiology concluded that tai chi was almost as good as jogging to reduce the risk of early death in men.
Philosophical basis of tai chi
Tai chi is based on two basic beliefs in Chinese philosophy; Qi and Yin-Yang. Qi is the force of energy that flows through your body, and tai chi is said to unblock and encourage the flow of this energy. Yin and yang are opposing forces in the universe that should be kept in balance. Tai chi is believed to improve this balance.
You many enjoy that the movements are based on the actions of animals (for example “white crane spreads its wings”) and some martial arts routines. You move slowly and breathe deeply but naturally, and focus your attention—like meditation—on your body. In this case, on how your body moves. The motions are often circular, never forced.
How to do it
The best way is to find a school in your area. If you pass someone doing it, ask them if they can recommend a teacher. You can also find videos on YouTube that demonstrate the practice. We highly recommend you try it. It is a beautiful thing, for your body and mind. You might see it an art as well as an exercise, truly “meditation in motion”.
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