Modeled originally on the fluid, graceful actions and movements of animals and birds, Tai Chi is widely recognized as a way to relieve stress and improve natural agility, balance and overall coordination. It is sometimes described as being akin to "meditation in motion", and indeed the gentle movements of this relaxing ancient art certainly resemble that.
In a nutshell, Tai Chi is a simplified form of calisthenics, which were developed both as a form of exercise and a type of self-defense. Today the majority of people who practice this art use it as the former: on any sunny day you can see groups of elderly and young people practicing this art in most urban parks, doing all they can to keep supple, flexible and fit.
Tai Chi is not purely to stay in shape, however. The ancient form of exercise that originated in China but has become popular in many western countries also has reported medical and health benefits that go beyond most simple exercise regimens.
In fact, a recent report in the Australian Science Daily said that Tai Chi has been proven to have "positive health benefits for musculature pain" and that it could have positive effects for people who suffer from arthritis. The study, conducted by The George Institute for International Health, says that fact that Tai Chi is "inexpensive, convenient, enjoyable and conveys other psychological and social benefits supports the use this type of intervention for pain conditions".
An earlier study last year conducted in Oregon already proved that an evidence-led program shows how thia art can help prevent falls among older people. The results of the study, which was published in the American Journal of Public Health, say that the exercise program was beneficial in improving balance and thus reducing the number of falls, which is the leading cause of injury among the geriatric set. It earlier was shown to boost the immune systems of elderly people, and aid a restful sleep.
Origins of Tai Chi
No one be familiar with accurately when Tai Chi originate, but ordinary folklore point to a wise older Chinese sage (who else?) who watch a crane and snake combating. Chang San Feng, a previous administration official who died in 1278, was fascinated by their fight and began to develop a series of movements based on what he had seen. Soon he incorporated breathing movements and Taoist meditation into the movements, which eventually became known as Tai Chi.
Tai Chi today, also known as Tai Chi Chuan, is a non-competitive system of stretching through a series of graceful postures which flow seemingly effortlessly into each other. It is a great form of stress relief and even though it has more than 100 possible movements, the beauty part is that anyone can do it, regardless of age or flexibility.
Tai Chi has been seen to help with a variety of medical and stress-related conditions. According to the Mayo Clinic, it can help:
- reduce the number of falls in the elderly
- improve balance and coordination among people of all ages
- lower blood pressure
- benefit cardiovascular fitness levels
- relieve incidents of chronic pain
- improve how we function on an everyday level
- reduce stress
In some studies, Tai Chai has also been shown to reduce levels of blood sugar.
Doing Tai Chi
Tai Chi is performed in parks, homes, health centers, leisure clubs and community centers all over the world. Followers of this art also say that having an instructor at the beginning is better than a book, as it is often difficult to see exactly how one movement flows into the next. Some people recommend starting with Qi Gong, sort of a precursor to Tai Chi, then take it from there.
While Tai Chi can be performed by everyone, it is best nonetheless to check with a doctor first, especially if you have joint concerns of problems or a heart of other medical condition. Learning Tai Chi, at least at the very beginning, is best done under the tutelage of a qualified instructor, although very soon you can start practicing it on your own.
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