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What is Tai Chi?

What is Tai Chi?

Tai Chi is a traditional Chinese wellness practice comprised of a series of movements that are performed slowly and purposefully.  It has a host of benefits, including helping to maintain a healthy weight and blood pressure, improve heart health and immune function and lower the risk of falls.  According to Harvard Health, Tai Chi, this gentle form of exercise can help maintain strength, flexibility and balance, and could be the perfect activity for the rest of your life. 

Tai Chi is often described as "meditation in motion," but it might well be called "medication in motion". There is growing evidence that this mind-body practice, which originated in China as a martial art, has value in treating or preventing many health problems. And, you can get started even if you aren't in top shape or the best of health. Prospective students should keep in mind that results depend on diligent practice. 

In this low-impact, slow-motion exercise, without pausing you go through a series of motions named for animal actions — for example, "white crane spreads its wings" — or martial arts moves, such as "box both ears."  As you move, you breathe deeply and naturally, focusing your attention on your bodily sensations similar to some meditations.

Tai Chi differs from other types of exercise in several respects. The movements are usually circular and never forced, and the muscles are relaxed rather than tensed. Tai Chi can be easily adapted for anyone, from the most fit to people confined to wheelchairs or recovering from surgery.



Tai Chi Gets Results

There is evidence that regular practice of Tai Chi may reduce musculoskeletal pain and distress from post-traumatic stress disorder.  Participants in Tai Chi feel an improvement in the quality of their life and are likely to experience less depression, anxiety and psychological distress.  Tai Chi is something that can be used alongside conventional healthcare.  For example, some stroke survivors have found it beneficial. 

Participants report better leg strength, balance, mobility, confidence and cognitive functioning.  Tai Chi in many instances has been found to reduce the pain and physical impairment of people with severe knee arthritis. 


Classes in Tai Chi Qigong, a practice shown to improve immune functions, are also available.  Research supports many of the practices’ other benefits, such as improved bone density, cardiopulmonary functioning and a decrease in falls. 


Although Tai Chi is slow and gentle and doesn't leave you breathless, it addresses the key components of fitness — muscle strength, flexibility, balance and, to a lesser degree, aerobic conditioning.


Proprioception, the ability to sense the position of one's body in space, declines with age. Tai chi improves muscle strength and flexibility, which makes it easier to recover from a stumble. Fear of falling can make you more likely to fall; some studies have found that Tai Chi training helps to reduce that fear. 

Less Stress

Tai Chi trains you to feel your body with increasing detail and depth. Once you develop greater awareness and sensitivity to your body, you begin to feel where you are holding tension. With that awareness, you can begin to release the tension. The smoothness you develop in Tai Chi can carry over to other parts of life. In that way, Tai Chi helps you become less susceptible to stress. Tai Chi can produce focused awareness that helps a practitioner spend more time in the present moment rather than accumulating stress by lamenting the past or feeling anxious about the future.

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