Tai Chi | Gentle Movement with Powerful Health Benefits
Known as "meditation in motion", the ancient Chinese tradition of tai chi incorporates a series of slow, mindful movements to offer a whole range of physical and emotional health benefits.
As human beings, our bodies are designed to move in all different directions — we’re meant to walk, run, jump, bend forward, backward, sideways, and so on.
No matter how simple or complex, movement is vital to life. It strengthens our bones, keeps our joints healthy, and gives us physical strength. More than that, movement contributes to our cardiovascular health and mental well-being.
With so many people leading a sedentary lifestyle, Johns Hopkins Medicine associates the risks of developing high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and even certain cancers with physical inactivity. It is, therefore, crucial to incorporate physical activity into our daily routine.
If you’re looking for gentler options on how to incorporate movement into your everyday life, you may want to consider the ancient Chinese tradition of tai chi, a non-competitive martial art that has been known to provide multiple health benefits.
Tai Chi or 'Medication in Motion'
Harvard Health touted it as ‘medication in motion' due to growing evidence that this practice provides great value in treating or preventing many health problems.
Originating from China, this graceful form of exercise has many different styles. Nonetheless, it’s generally characterized as a self-paced system of physical exercise that flows into different postures without pause. This ensures that your body is in constant motion, all the while providing gentle stretching as well.
Chinese philosophy plays a key role in tai chi. It is said to promote balance in the yin and yang elements and encourage the proper flow of qi (energy force) in the body. As such, the movements are never forced, and the joints are not fully extended nor bent, allowing for the muscles to be relaxed rather than tensed.
Why Practice Tai Chi?
Tai chi may be an ancient tradition, but modern-day research studies have proven its many physical and emotional health benefits. According to Harvard Health, tai chi can improve muscle strength, flexibility, and balance. Aside from these, it can also contribute to stress reduction, better sleep, and mood improvement.
For older adults, tai chi is particularly beneficial in helping prevent trips and falls, and for patients who suffer chronic pain, several studies have shown that tai chi could help relieve the symptoms in certain conditions, such as fibromyalgia and knee osteoarthritis.
How to Get Started
Before starting with any exercise regimen, it’s best to consult first with your doctor, especially if you have a certain medical condition or if you’re taking medications.
If you’re still unsure, you can talk to the instructor and see if you could observe a class first. You can also discuss with them any particular health concern you might have. Another alternative is to check out tai chi videos online or read books about the practice. In this way, you can learn about the movements even at the comfort of your home.
In the Philippines, there are several organizations, gyms, and studios that offer tai chi classes. You may also want to ask around your local community if there are group (online) classes in your area.
Why Practice for the Long Term
Most of the studies that yielded positive benefits for participants lasted at least 12 weeks, with instructions given once or twice a week. You should know by the end of this time whether tai chi is for you and whether you’ve shown physical and psychological changes in your own body.
Nonetheless, you’ll continue to enjoy greater mind-body benefits if you continue the practice for the long term and become more skilled in the ancient Chinese tradition of tai chi.