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Tai Chi – Origin, Benefits, Efficacy, And Methodology
Tai Chi can be broadly defined as a mind and body exercise that is derived from many different Asian traditions, such as philosophy, martial arts, and traditional Chinese medicine.
- Tai Chi combines slow and conscious movements with breathing and brain-related skills such as imagery and mindfulness.
- The aim of this practice is to relax the body and synchronize mind and physical body.
- It promotes the flow of Qi (life force) through the body and enhances one’s sense of well-being and health.1
What Is Tai Chi? Where Did It Originate?
Originally, Tai Chi Chuan was practiced for self-defense and combat.
- Tai Chi Chuan means The Ultimate Extremity Fist.
- Three distinct sections of the art – postures, Push Hands, and weapon fighting. Push Hands is the “martial” section of Tai Chi.
- The postures were more arduous than those practiced today.2
The premise of Tai Chi is to avoid using muscular force and use intrinsic force instead.
- Muscular force is considered clumsy or awkward.
- Intrinsic force refers to a psychic force called chi.
- When attacking, a person borrows the momentum of the other person’s force and changes its direction.2
Other principles of combat outlined by the art of Tai Chi are:
- Making the opponent move forward and then making him fall empty
- Overcoming heaviness by using lightness
- Following in substantiality and avoiding substantiality 2
How Is Tai Chi Beneficial?
Tai Chi has been known to help improve the following aspects of health:
- Cardiovascular system
- Immune system
- Psychological well-being2
Studies/Research On The Efficacy Of Tai Chi
- In 1987, first randomized, controlled trial was conducted on elderly people to test for range of movement and balance.
- Today, over 700 peer-reviewed papers have been published.2
How Is Tai Chi Performed?
Many styles of Tai Chi have evolved over time based on some of the basic principles of art.
- The common styles of Tai Chi in vogue today are Sun, Yang, Wu, Hao, and Chen.
- These 5 styles are named after the family name of the founder.
- There are choreographed routines within each style.
- Each routine is called a set or form.
- Each form is done either with weapons or with bare hands, and has a certain number of postures.
- The number of postures vary from as little as 8 to as many as 150.2
How Can You Get Started With Tai Chi?
The history of development of Tai Chi for maintaining good health is the same as that of traditional Chinese medicine.
- A text about traditional Chinese medicine called “The Internal Canon of the Yellow Emperor” describes how Yellow Emperor performed exercises patterned on the movements of animals to stay in good health.
- Hua Tao, a famous physician, developed five animal frolics or exercises that were targeted to specific internal organs.
- The movements in Tai Chi forms, such as “Snake Creeps Down,” “Step Back to Repulse the Monkey,” and “Crane Cools its Wings” copy animal movements and use them to maintain good health.2
In 1956, the Beijing Form or the 24-posture simplified form was developed by the National Physical Culture and Sports Commission of the People’s Republic of China.
- Tai Chi is practiced by people in parks in China.
- It is a part of China’s health maintenance system.
- Tai Chi is a part of rehabilitation in Chinese hospitals.2
Any Precautions, Contraindications, And Interactions
Certain precautions should be followed when practicing Tai Chi:
- Overdoing Tai Chi may cause sore muscles or sprains.
- Tai Chi should not be practiced immediately after a meal, when you are very tired, or when you are suffering from an active infection.
- Certain postures should be modified or avoided in cases of pregnancy, hernia, back pain, severe osteoporosis, fractures, or joint problems.
There are no reported side effects of Tai Chi.
1. Wayne P.M., Fuerst M.L. The Harvard Medical School Guide to Tai Chi: 12 weeks to a healthy body, strong heart, and sharp mind. Shambhala Publications; 2013. 336p.
2. Huang A. Complete Tai-Chi: The Definitive Guide to Physical and Emotional Self-Improvement. Tuttle Publishing; 2011. 280p.