I am often asked to describe the benefits of Tai Chi (also written as T’ai Chi, Taiji, Tai Chi Quan and others). What does it do to my body? How does it influence my mental state?
I mostly start by describing Tai Chi as “meditation in motion”, or like I prefer to say: “medication in motion.” There is growing evidence that this mind-body practice has value in treating or preventing several health issues. You may begin your practice at any time in you life, even if you aren’t in top shape or the best of health.
Tai Chi is a slow motion moving meditative exercise for relaxation, health and also self-defence. It can prevent or ease the many ills of aging and you could find it to be the perfect activity to keep you in a state of wellbeing for the rest of your life.
It originates from the Chinese art of fighting, KUNG FU, which was developed by the Buddhist Monk Bodhidharma in the Monastery of Shao Lin in China in the sixth century.
The foundation for the practice of Tai Chi is the awareness of the flow of energy in the body. Starting with the breath, which we learn to consciously change and direct, we can begin to recognize the movement of our cells and of our life-energy – the CHI.
In order to shape the world outside of us, we usually move our limbs with muscle force. A new adventure begins, however, when we start to explore and shape the movement within. We can learn to use different muscles to have a full and energizing respiration or breath.
The movements are usually circular and never forced. The muscles are relaxed rather than tensed. The joints are not fully extended or bent and connective tissues are not stretched. Through repeated exercises, we develop intimacy with the unity of our body and mind; of existence and awareness.
There is nothing to achieve, nothing to do. We listen to the stream of energy, while we perform slow physical exercises. In the beginning this may be difficult as we are used to make our movements as voluntary acting people. However, we might then discover universal energies and laws that are there for us in our body – when we pay them attention.
So what is the place of Tai Chi in our modern life? We use Tai Chi to “fight” fatigue, stress, overwork or lack of understanding of oneself and one’s body. Tai Chi is designed to increase one’s longevity.
You will become more stable inside what might prevent another person from harming you. But on the other side, by reducing your stress levels, knowing better when to pause and when to act, you will reduce injuring yourself. Daily practice of Tai Chi promotes mental clarity. Further, a healthy body assists with balance and helps the circulation of the CHI and thus the blood.
When practicing Tai Chi in the open air, we experience a great connection to the nature surrounding us. During this time we may feel this oneness with everything that makes us, makes the world and the universe.