Tai Chi: Medication in Motion
If you are looking for a routine which you can practice daily for relaxation and improving your health, look no further than Tai Chi.
For over 2000 years, the Chinese have benefited from the practice of Tai Chi, a meditative exercise which originated in China as a form of martial arts. Often referred to as "meditation in motion," Harvard Medical School remarks that the practice may as well be referred to as "medication in motion" due to the value of Tai Chi in treating and preventing health problems.
What is Tai Chi?
Unlike typical forms of exercise which require strenuous activities that can cause overexertion, Tai Chi movements are slow, flowing, and low-impact, making it ideal for daily practice, regardless of age or background. With a focus on breathing, stability and balance, Tai Chi encourages the individual to be more aware and aligned with his body and mind.
At the core of Tai Chi is balance, taught through the concept of Yin and Yang. Under this philosophy, there is no beginning or end, joints are neither fully extended nor bent, and movements are circular in nature, each originating and flowing back into another. It is believed that things which are alive are soft, and stiffness is characteristic of lifelessness.
Because of its softness, Tai Chi can be adapted for almost all individuals, regardless of age, background, and level of physical ability.
The stiffest tree is most ready for the axe.
—The Tao Te Ching
Tai Chi vs. Qi Gong
Where Tai Chi focuses on the movement and flow of energy, Qi Gong is a meditation-only exercise which focuses on the accumulation of Qi (pronounced "CHEE"), the internal energy which gives life vitality. The two disciplines together make up two sides of the same coin to promote longevity, and are therefore often practiced together.
Starting is easy
Like all wellness practices, the benefits are greatest when you incorporate it into your lifestyle before developing illnesses or limitations. While Tai Chi is safe and can be practiced at home, it is best to study under an experienced instructor.
Come with an open mind. Starting Tai Chi is easy. All you need is a willingness to learn and a desire to feel well. It is easy to find your flow once you dive into the practice.
Check with your doctor. Before participating in any exercise program, it is best to check in with your physician, particularly if you have any existing limitations or medical conditions, or if you currently take any medication which may have side effects like dizziness, nausea or muscle cramp. Because Tai Chi is such a safe form of exercise, your doctor will more than likely encourage you to try it out.
Get to know the instructor. Practicing with an instructor who connects with you can make a huge difference in your training. Spend some time getting to know your instructor, their background and experience. There is no licensing or certification standard for Tai Chi, so do your research, read reviews, and talk to other students who currently practice with the instructor to get an idea for what the class experience will be like.
Consider a trial class. Tai Chi is one of those classes that will get you hooked once you try it. Seeing the class in action for yourself is one of the best ways to get a feel for the pace of the class, the material, and the students who will become your friends as your develop your practice.
Dress for comfort. Because the class requires physical movement, make sure you wear clothing that is loose-fitting and does not restrict movement. Some classes will allow you to practice barefoot, but it is recommended that you wear lightweight and comfortable closed toe shoes that will help with your footing. Traditional Chinese Tai Chi shoes are not a must, but they sure look cool!
Practice, practice, practice. In the beginning, you may feel that the movements are awkward or difficult to remember or follow. Do not be discouraged. Ask questions with your instructor, meet up with other students to practice outside of class, and spend time at home practicing by yourself. Tai Chi is not about remembering the movements, but about the feeling within the form as you transition from one movement to the next. If you catch yourself overthinking, take a step back, relax into the form and enjoy the practice.
Choose a quiet environment. Tai Chi is about relaxation – and your environment should be conducive to helping you relax. Before you practice, choose a quiet and relaxing environment, put on some music, and own your practice. Take a deep breath and make a conscious decision to let go of everything outside of your practice for the time being, and commit to being fully immersed during your session. You will finish feeling revived and smiling.
Send us a note and we'll be in touch!