What exactly is t’ai chi?
It’s a question we are regularly asked by people who are interested in t’ai chi’s fusion of physical exercise and meditative technique, but aren’t quite sure how they work.
Thought to have originated in 13th-century China, the slow and deliberate postures of t’ai chi ch’uan, or taijiquan, (often abbreviated to t’ai chi in English) were initially conceived as a martial art. However, over the last century the combination of gentle body movements, spiritual focus and meditative breathing techniques have made it popular among those who are more interested in its beneficial effects on physical and mental health.
But what are these benefits? We spoke to Joan Carratalà, t’ai chi teacher and member of the Hun Yuan T’ai Chi System, to find out why this ancient Chinese art is so beneficial.
1. T’ai chi gives you energy: T’ai chi is related to the theories of Traditional Chinese Medicine which state that Qi, the flow of energy that sustains living beings, moves through the body along meridians, or pathways. When these pathways are blocked, illness and lethargy ensues. The movements of t’ai chi are designed to prevent or relieve blockages and allow Qi to flow freely through the body, leaving the practitioner feeling energised, alert and focussed.
2. It calms the mind: The slow movements associated with t’ai chi are a carefully formulated set of postures designed to strengthen the body and focus the mind. Aided by deep breathing techniques, they allow the practitioner to focus on achieving a meditative state, reducing mental and physical symptoms of stress and anxiety.
3. Regular practice helps reduce blood pressure: As both an aerobic exercise and a meditative technique, T’ai chi can lower blood pressure.
4. And can relieve headaches, backaches and even insomnia: By stimulating the movement of Qi around the body, t’ai chi can reduce and remove energy blockages which cause aches, pains and other maladies.
5. The postures strengthen your arms and legs: Despite the focus on slow, deliberate movements, t’ai chi is an effective physical exercise – after all, it was initially designed as a martial art. Movements flow into one another, keeping the body in continuous motion and resulting in a strong core, arms and legs.
6. The physical practice can also unlock joints, preventing ailments such as arthritis: The low impact postures of t’ai chi are gentle on the joints but still increase mobility and range of motion in ankles, hips and knees.
7. T’ai chi can reduce the risk of falls and injuries: As it improves strength, range of motion and spatial orientation, t’ai chi reduces the risk of falls or other injuries associated with frailty and loss of balance.
8. T’ai chi improves the respiratory and cardiovascular systems: Although the heart rate decreases during t’ai chi, blood flow is increased, strengthening the cardiovascular system. In addition, the deep breathing techniques build up lung capacity, increase the amount of oxygen inhaled into the body and expel more waste gases and stale energy.
So, if you are looking for a holistic remedy to lethargy, stress or physical ailments, then you might just have found your answer…
Do you practice T’ai chi?
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