Top 10 Benefits Of Tai Chi Chuan
Tajiquan, T’ai Chi Ch’uan, or, as it is better known in the western world, Tai Chi, is a Chinese martial art and ancient exercise discipline that is thought to have it roots in Buddhist India around 500 years BC. Taoist monks further developed and refined Tai Chi in the 12th and 13th centuries using a blend of techniques from meditation, martial arts, Chinese boxing and slow exercise. It is essentially posture, balance, breathing and controlled sequences of movement.
The core philosophy rests on using softness and pliability to redirect and dissipate hard incoming forces, whether they be physical, mental or emotional. Yin and yang. When opposed, hard and violent forces will cause damage and destruction. Tai Chi lowers resistance, relying instead on subtlety, balance and martial art movements to deflect force.
In today’s age of high stress, high consumption and high levels of obesity it offers a way of clearing the mind, energizing the chakra’s and strengthening the body with low impact and low stress exercise.
There are five main styles of Tai Chi that are named after the Chinese families that developed them – Chen (the original form of Tai Chi Chuan), Yang, Wu, Sun and Woo. Tai Chi benefits are derived from all these styles.
10. Meet Like Minded People
Although many of us like our privacy, we are a social animal at heart and enjoy meeting new people and making new connections.
Even if we aren’t particularly looking for new contacts, at least if the new people we meet practice Tai Chi they should be less stressed, less anxious, more mindful, more supple, more mobile and less fatigued than the general population.
People who practice Tai Chi are more likely to be better people to socialize with. We think. Well, it’s only benefit number 10 for a reason…
9. Improve Posture
This might not seem like a biggie, but wait until someone tells you that your posture isn’t that good. Perhaps we all think we walk around looking reasonably straight and upright, but it might not be the case.
Apart from the visual, aesthetic aspects of posture, good posture can benefit digestion, breathing and help prevent the deterioration of bone joints in the effected area.
Look better. Feel better. Be better!
8. Relieve Muscle Tension
Whether you sit behind a computer all day, stand behind a cash register for hours, or dig a ditch for living, various parts of the body will be used too much or too little and the muscles can become unbalanced leading to other problems.
Tai Chi deliberately uses all the muscles of the body through the process of adopting different postures and sequences of movement. This works to relieve tension and build muscle tone in the legs, arms, upper body, neck, back and abdominal core. All of which leaves the body in much better shape.
7. Be Better Able To Deal With Physical Aggression
None of us deliberately go out looking for trouble, but if we do find ourselves in a situation where physical violence is used against us, or anyone in our vicinity, it would be handy to know how to deal with things.
Tai Chi is not designed to be an offensive weapon, quite the reverse, but knowing enough to be able to stand up to an aggressor and render their violence ineffective would be a pretty cool thing.
Although martial arts is one of the foundation stones of Tai Chi and definitely a benefit, most teachers will focus on the mental and physical health benefits that can be achieved. You may need to ask about dealing with physical aggression and learn this aspect of Tai Chi specifically.
6. Improve Balance and Prevent Falls
This is particularly beneficial to older people as the body loses strength over time and has more trouble maintaining balance. Falls in the elderly population (and the not so elderly) can cause serious injury as well as starting problems in joints and bones that are impacted in a fall.
Balance is an integral part of Tai Chi. The exercises increase muscle strength and the body’s awareness of very fine increments of balance meaning balance in day-to-day activities gets better and the ability to protect yourself against falls is much improved.
5. Reduce Fatigue
Most people get a bit tired and run down from time to time and some people feel fatigued on a regular basis. Then there are people who suffer debilitating fatigue that has a major impact on their ability to function well in ordinary life.
Tai Chi is well known for its ability to energize those who practice it on a regular basis. As a form of exercise Tai Chi is more gentle than most so this makes it more accessible to people who are fatigued. Getting the running gear on and hitting the pavement for a quick 5 mile dash is probably not going to happen if you are fatigued. But a walk to the park to join a Tai Chi group and then focusing on the gentle movements and Tai Chi postures is a different kettle of fish.
The positive impact of exercise on energy levels is well known. For anyone feeling less than full of energy in the first place, Tai Chi offers the perfect alternative to tougher forms of exercise.
4. Help Relieve Symptoms of Arthritis
The link between Tai Chi and pain relief for arthritis sufferers is not hard and fast but there is evidence that Tai Chi does provide some reduction in pain. It no doubt varies from person to person depending on other aspects of their health, but it seems to follow that better mobility, better muscle tone, low impact exercise and reduced stress can only be a good thing for arthritis.
Like almost any chronic illness, any reduction in the intensity of the symptoms is a cause for major celebration for the sufferers and this is certainly true for people suffering from arthritis.
3. Improve Mobility
Mobility doesn’t rate high on most people’s list of things to improve. It’s one of those things that we don’t fully appreciate until we lose it. Even something as minor as a strained calf muscle or hamstring slows us down, making it difficult or uncomfortable to climb stairs, get in or out of a car, or even get out of a chair. A bad back can easily confine a person to lying flat in bed.
As we age we lose flexibility and our muscles lose tone and strength. We lose the ability to do many of the things we did when we were young – climb a tree, jump over a fence, walk up a steep track in the hills.
Maintaining our mobility at all ages gives us scope to do more things and enjoy life a little bit more. For anyone with chronic mobility issues where any improvement is a real bonus, Tai Chi has a lot to offer.
2. Improve Your Qi
Qi (chee) is the energy that many alternative practitioners believe flows through the meridians and chakra’s of the body. If you don’t think there is any substance to Qi then fair enough, jump straight to the number one benefit. However if you think there’s something to it then you should strongly consider taking up Tai Chi.
Whether there is science behind Qi or not, anecdotal evidence of improvements to health through a holistic approach to treatment, including understanding the mechanics of the bodies energy, abounds. Acupuncture, osteopathy, kinesiology and other alternative styles of medical treatment all have a very strong association with meridians and energy flow throughout the body.
Tai Chi exercise helps to keep the bodies energy channels open and is particularly good at strengthening the solar plexus chakra. Powerful stuff.
1. Reduce Stress and Anxiety
Exercise of almost any form is known to reduce stress and anxiety. It’s one of the first things a doctor will tell a patient to do if they are suffering from these issues (and let’s face it, who isn’t impacted to some degree by stress and anxiety these days).
Although Tai Chi is a relatively gentle form of exercise it is still exercise and probably equivalent to fast walking. But the added benefit of focusing the mind on the movements, akin to meditating, makes Tai Chi ideal for calming the mind, slowing the brain and becoming more ‘in the moment’.
The flow on effects of reduced stress include things like improvements in the cardiovascular system and immunity. These are real physical benefits, not just a better mental state.
The most ‘postures’ we know of in a single movement of Tai Chi Chuan is 125. If you are not familiar with Tai Chi it is essentially the process of slow moving from one posture to another, in a specific way, moving the right parts of the body in sequence, with the right breathing and so on.
Imagine memorizing 125 different postures and then moving from 1 to 2, 2 to 3, 3 to 4 and so on up to 125. Then being able to do them all in exactly the same order the following day.
Did we list improved memory as a benefit?!
Please note that we are not doctors or trained tai chi experts. The benefits of tai chi are well documented through publicly available material but we suggest you consult your doctor if you intend to use it for medical purposes.