The Benefits of Tai Chi

What is Tai Chi
Tai Chi, literally Great Universal, is practised every day by millions of people in China and anywhere there is a large Chinese community. Usually in the morning and whenever possible outdoors, people will come together to practice. It is slow and graceful, beautiful to watch but more beneficial to take part in. It is performed primarily to maintain good health but also to increase vitality and general well being. Increasingly, in the west, it is used as a means for relaxation and stress relief.
Tai Chi can be viewed on the surface as merely an exercise programme, but it is much more than this. It is fundamentally a means of bringing balance into your life. It works not only as a physical exercise, but mentally and emotionally as well. It can be better thought of as a moving meditation which counteracts the effect that everyday life has on the body, the mind and emotions. It encourages the bodies natural healing ability and brings us back to our centre, giving a sense of perspective about life.

Tai Chi for Health
Although Tai Chi is a slow flowing movement and shifts of weight which on the surface appears to be very easy it actually exercises most of the muscles and joints in the body. The movement is very subtle but, when formed correctly, exercises the muscle, joints and tendons from the toes to the ends of the fingers. It builds strength, increases stamina and improves balance, coordination and spatial awareness.
Research has shown that it helps in the treatment and prevention of a wide range of medical conditions. It is good for improving bone density, decreasing blood pressure, resisting the onset of arthritis. It is used by patients with Parkinson’s and those recovering from heart problems. The combination of movement, breath and meditation improves the functioning of virtually all the body’s systems and is both preventative and curative

Tai Chi for Vitality
Tai Chi and Chi Kung (energy practice) form one branch of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). The exercises can be prescribed to improve certain health conditions. It works within the framework of TCM with the energy body, to improve the flow of Chi, energy or life force, along meridians and energy centres. While not yet fully understood there is increasing evidence for the benefits of Chi Kung, to restore the body to natural health. It can be used on its own or alongside acupuncture and herbal remedies as part of a treatment.
One of the benefits from practising Tai Chi is increased vitality and well being. You feel more alert, more alive and less tired and weary. Tai Chi has the effect of increasing levels of energy and alertness avoiding the exhausting effects associated with more physical exercise.
Working with Chi, or energy, helps to replenish the body’s vitality by storing the beneficial effects of chi. Part of the aim is make you feel much more a part of everything rather than an isolated individual and to become part of the universal flow. As part of this Tai Chi helps you to become more creative, more intuitive and sure and direct about what you want.

Tai Chi for Relaxation.
Today in the West, Tai Chi is less a exercise programme and more of a meditative art. Regular practice promotes emotional peace and tranquility, which profoundly affects the mind and body. Tai Chi is as much a exercise for the mind as it is an exercise for the body. It requires focus not only on the movement, but on the coordination of movement and breath and on the flow of chi or energy, all this in the context of a gentle, flowing, beautiful movement. The effect is to quieten the mind, to become more open to the positive feelings and to awaken a sense of inner power and beauty. It helps you to get in touch with the more spiritual aspects of your nature, to bring you back into balance and to give you a sense of perspective. For most people this is the most beneficial aspect of Tai Chi.

How Tai Chi can help
Tai Chi is most associated with the movement and exercises that are performed. Yet, the real meaning of Tai Chi is the finding a state of relaxation and mental focus. This is the state of Tai Chi. It is the still centre around which everything revolves, you feel at peace yet fully alive and active. It is not the exercises in themselves which are beneficial but the state of Tai Chi which is achieved through the exercises. In this state we are able to access a deeper understanding of ourselves and the world around us.
The uses of this state are many, but at their core is an ability to look more deeply inside and a feeling of connection to the wider world outside. It brings greater self knowledge, deeper insight and a powerful connection. The uses therefore are to bring these skills to bear on a situation, in order to change it, to understand it, to see it differently, or gain insight into the benefits and opportunities it offers.
This could include the following:
– insight, looking at a situation to get a different perspective of what is happening
– transformation, looking at something that we wish to change
– learning, gain knowledge from a difficult problem
– creativity, applying positivity to create success for a venture or a project
– knowledge, understanding yourself and the world more deeply
– healing, self healing or sending love, peace or joy to a person or situation
– intuition, learning to trust an inner self knowledge

A Few Simple Exercises Go a Long Way
While Tai Chi potentially offers the ability for personal growth and self knowledge it can also be of great help just to deal with everyday problems and situations. A few simple exercises can be very easy to learn and can be of great benefit. They can be combined for a simple routine or used individually as you need them

Re-energise and re-balance by rooting In. Feeling yourself rooted to the earth and connected to the earth energy. Can be done anywhere at anytime, sitting or standing. It helps to give you a sense of connection with your surroundings so that you no longer feel overwhelmed and its helps to put things into perspective.

Become calm and peaceful by tuning In. Just rising and sinking with the breath. Creates a sense of calmness and quieting the mind. It is an easy way to relax and calm yourself when things get on top of you or you are feeling anxious

Raise your energy by awakening the Chi. A very short sequence which raises your energy and increase vitality. Use it when you are feeling tired, as a quick pick me up or at the end of the day to relax.

Look after yourself by churning the Sun. This is a healing and balancing exercise. The intent for this exercise is to take care of yourself physically, emotionally and mentally. The intent is for your own health and well being. Use it when you feel you need to be looked after, if you’re not feeling well or if you want to avoid picking up a bug.

Ground yourself by gathering Chi. This both stores the beneficial effects of the exercises and lowers the chi. Used to make the effects of the exercises last. It is also be used when you feel spaced out and ungrounded.

When things get busy and difficult, often the last thing you want to is some exercise, but that is exactly the time that you need it most. What often happens is that when you get stressed or tired all the good intent goes out of the window and you let life take over. So learn Tai Chi to stop, to relax and chill out, recover and revitalise when you need it most.