Tai Chi is an ancient Chinese activity and philosophical exercise aimed at harmonizing the mind and body. It consists of a series of 108 flowing movements used to stimulate the body's flow of natural energy, bringing about a state of self-awareness, health and calmness.
There are many versions of Tai Chi. The most popular include Yang, Chen, Wu and Sun. They are named for the families that introduced them.
Tai Chi is performed at a moderate intensity and steady rhythm. Its smooth, relaxed movements make Tai Chi suitable for individuals of all physical conditions and abilities. It is important to realize that Tai Chi is not only an activity for building up muscle strength. By performing the movements, individuals learn coordination and relaxation of the entire body. Better breathing and better circulation ultimately lead to better health. Furthermore, the convenience of Tai Chi makes it ideal for all. Tai Chi can be practiced in the home and does not require any equipment.
Individuals with disabilities can participate in Tai Chi, although the ways in which it is performed may have to be adapted to suit their specific needs. Many conditions have been shown to improve with regular participation in various forms of Tai Chi.
The benefits of Tai Chi have many practical implications. For example, improving the strength of muscles and range of motion of the joints can be very beneficial to individuals affected by disease, stroke, partial paralysis or arthritis. In addition, Tai Chi's series of slow "forms" can be performed by people of all ages.
Tai Chi can provide greater confidence in mobility and function. In the elderly and those with compromised function, fear of falling becomes common. Many everyday movements involve shifting weight, bending and straightening arms and legs, changing direction, maintaining correct posture, and deep breathing. The correct postural alignment, stronger muscles, and improved perception of the body in space achieved by Tai Chi users provide a reduction in susceptibility to falls and subsequent injury.
Physical health may also be complicated by emotional and mental health as well. A sense of overall well-being is of great importance to all ailing situations. Tai Chi has been shown to help reduce stress, anxiety and depression in addition to enhancing one's mood. All in all, Tai Chi is an exercise that involves the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual components of health, and aims at improving the overall quality of life.
Benefits of Tai Chi
- Promotion of relaxation and reduction of stress.
- Improved lung capacity.
- Improved function of the digestive system.
- Enhancement of cardiovascular and respiratory function.
- Improved balance and posture.
Prevention of falls.
- Increased flexibility and range of motion of joints.
- Reduction of pain.
Principles of Good Form
- Breathe softly and continuously (30-60 seconds).
- Separate fingers slightly.
- Maintain a curvature of limbs: Joints, shoulders, elbows, and knees are never locked into position.
- Keep spine and head in alignment: Tuck chin in as if your head were hung from a string, allowing joints, bones and muscles to fall into alignment.
- Movements are slow, soft, fluid, and continuous.
- If standing for the exercises, assume horse stance: Feet are shoulder-width apart and parallel with knees slightly bent.
(Tatoui, T'ai Chi Qigong: Exercises for Better Health, from Active Living March/April 1999.)
Taoist Tai Chi - Health Recovery Program
This program located near Toronto offers Taoist Tai Chi instruction under medical supervision to improve health. Individuals with health conditions such as multiple sclerosis, stroke, Parkinson's Disease, firbromylagia, arthritis, emphysema, and cerebral palsy have seen beneficial results and improvements in their conditions. For more information, contact the Taoist Health Recovery Centre.
For More Information
Anyone with health conditions should check with his or her personal physician and the instructor before beginning any exercise program.
Videos- All videos are available from Tai Chi Productions
Tai Chi for Arthritis
Tai Chi for Health - The 6 Forms - Designed to gain maximal benefits in minimal time.
Qigong for Health - Qigong is a easy-to-learn exercise effective for relaxation.
Tai Chi Anywhere - Improve health and relaxation almost anywhere, anytime.
Tai Chi for Young People - To improve fitness, concentration & help other sports.
Tai Chi for Older Adults (over 55) - Easy to learn, remember and practice.
International Federation of Wu Style Tai Chi Chuan
International Yang Style Tai Chi Chuan Association
Tai Chi Productions
Tai Chi for Health
(612) 953- 6511
Tai Chi Magazine
Taoist Health Recovery Centre
The Tai Chi Company
0044 151 327 8060
The Tai Chi Site
The information provided here is offered as a service only. The National Center on Physical Activity and Disability, University of Illinois at Chicago, the National Center on Accessibility, and the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago do not formally recommend or endorse the equipment listed. As with any products or services, consumers should investigate and determine on their own which equipment best fits their needs and budget.