The art of Tai Chi was originally developed for use in self-defense situations. Over time though, Tai Chi evolved into a beautiful and graceful form of yogic exercise. Today Tai Chi is often described as “meditation in motion”. When you practice Tai Chi, you will move slowly and gently. You will learn movements that do not leave you breathless, yet still manage to focus on three major components of health, which are; — muscle strength, flexibility, and balance.
Tai Chi strengthens both the lower and upper extremities and also the core muscles of the back and abdomen.” ~ Dr. Gloria Yeh – assistant professor at Harvard Medical School.
In 2006, a publication called Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine reported on a study conducted by researcher at Stanford University. This study used 39 women and men who’s average age was 66 years old. The subjects were also considered to be below average in fitness and had at least one cardiovascular risk factor. After practicing Tai Chi for just 12 weeks, they showed improvement in both lower AND upper body strength. Although you aren’t working with weights or resistance bands, the unsupported arm exercise involved in Tai Chi strengthens your upper body.
Flexibility. The forms or routines found in Tai Chi consist of very slow, circular, flowing motions that coordinate with your breathing. These low impact motions disguise high levels of joint rotations hidden in the techniques. Practicing Tai Chi will not give you the flexibility to jump into the full splits, but it does give you flexibility within your joints, which is essential to longevity and having a good quality of life at an older age.
Balance. Most people do not realize that moving slowly can actually be more challenging than moving fast. When stepping from one posture to another, you are forced to momentarily balance on one foot. This is performed repeatedly within the form and gives you a great increase in your ability to balance. One of your greatest chances you have of PREVENTING injury, especially at an older age, is to work on your balance.
Tai Chi also has many movement or techniques in which you shift your body weight from one foot to the other while in stance. This weight shifting practice is the key to why Tai Chi is so good for your sense of balance. Your typical day is filled with tests of your balance and agility, For example a simple task such as carrying groceries to the car requires much balance and ability to shift ones weight. You are usually not aware of how much balance you need on a daily basis until you lose some of that ability.
What you can expect in one of our Tai Chi Classes:
- A warm-up that focuses on loosening the joints. The warm up includes easy to perform motions such as arm circles, twisting of the waist and hips, and rotating the knees and ankles. These types of warm ups leave you feeling light and limber. The warm up is very mild and you will not break a sweat. The movements of Tai Chi are so gentle that you will feel invigorated after doing class rather than exhausted.
- Instruction and practice of Tai Chi routines are often called ‘forms’. Memorizing the forms is the first step toward being in the moment and using Tai Chi as a means of increasing mental concentration. I will teach you a short series of movements which you can then practice at home. The concentration and focus required when practicing the Tai Chi forms is what forces you to live within the moment and put aside the stresses of modern day living.
- Push hands training. Training in push hands (Also called ‘Tui Shou’) involves you partnering up with another student. You will both learn to move in rhythm and practice the movements of Tai Chi while ‘connected’ to each through pushing and pulling on each others arms. When you practice this type of circular hand exercise, you become hyper-aware of both your own center of gravity and sense of balance as well as your partner’s center of gravity. This is the first step toward TRULY understanding the authentic art and fighting applications of Tai Chi.