People nowadays often battle with stress and anxiety, mostly as a result of the occupied life style that society has have acquired lately. Thus, the lives have become confusing, restless and even calamitous sometimes. People, ergo, are trying out various ways and means to cope up with the stress and stay in mental equilibrium, let it be meditation, medication or traditional practices. Provided that there is a direct connection between the mental health and the physical health, staying in good mental health lowers the risk of numerous diseases at a large scale too. Tai-chi is one of the best among many practices which establishes perfect mind-body equilibrium and promote health.
The origin of Tai-chi-short for T’ai chi ch’üan or Tàijíquán-is recorded in China as a form of martial art or a defense practice which needed strength as well as focus. There are many forms practiced now, both traditional and modern. Most modern styles trace their development to the five traditional schools: Chen, Yang, and Wu (Hao), Wu, and Sun. All trace their historical origins to Chen Village.
It is basically a series of non-competitive, self-paced movements which, without a pause, flow from one form to another in a rhythm. The movement requires body balance as well as strong focus on the hand and body motion to continue in a flow. In fact, Tai-chi is a graceful form of exercise that keeps the body in motion, accompanied by deep breathing and concentration. So, it is a meditation in movement.
This practice is based upon the Chinese philosophical concepts. Qi and Ying-Yang concepts are very prominent. Qi means the energy flow within the body. According to the teaching the whole body functions are determined by the internal flow of energy. Tai-chi practices to focus to enhance this energy and regulate the flow. Ying-yang, which is commonly seen in both Taoist and Confucian philosophy, is the fusion or the mother of the two opposing forces taiji (Supreme Ultimate), in contrast with wuji (without ultimate). It is represented by the taijitu symbol, whereas the two opposing forces are put in constant motion, while this motion creates stillness within the core-means complete equilibrium.
Tai-Chi for Life
“Tai Chi and Qigong have been shown to promote relaxation and decrease sympathetic output. Relaxation interventions are known to reduce clinical somatic symptoms and to benefit anxiety, depression, blood pressure, and recovery from immune-mediated diseases. Tai Chi and Qigong have been shown to improve immune function and vaccine-response, to increase blood levels of endorphins and baroreflex sensitivity, as well as to reduce levels of inflammatory markers (C-reactive protein [CRP]), adrenocorticotropic hormone, and cortisol.”
-Abbott, Ryan, and Helen Lavretsky, “Tai Chi and Qigong for the treatment and prevention of mental disorders”, The Psychiatric clinics of North America As mentioned above, Tai-chi improves physical health through mental health as well as it establishes the balance between the two. Following are some other health related benefits that Tai-chi may offer an individual who regularly practices it;
-Decreased stress, anxiety and depression
-Improved aerobic capacity
-Increased energy and stamina
-Improved flexibility, balance and agility
-Improved muscle strength and definition
Since Tai-chi involves a set of light hand and leg movements that create a minimal impact on joints and muscles, it can be practiced by any age group without a fear of side effect. A regular Tai-chi session would include three phases;
Warm-up- warming up the body and getting prepared for the movement by engaging in light movements of neck, hands and legs so on.
Tai-chi forms- there are numerous tai-chi styles with different intensities. It is witty to start off with a slow-paced, simple movement and slowly go to advanced forms with the help of an instructor.
Qigong- it is the breath-work or energy work part of the practice. It focuses on deep-breathing exercises which are sometimes accompanied by slow movements and focus. It relaxes the mind and mobilises the body’s energy.
Anyone can easily kick start tai-chi with the support of illustrated guides or video guides and master the skills. Nonetheless, it is advisable to go to a tai-chi instructor if you intend to practice advanced styles of Tai-chi. Anyways, it demands regular practicing if you desire to profit the health benefits of Tai-chi.
By Induwara Athapattu