What is Tai Chi?

Tai Chi is technically described as an ‘internal martial art' since it focuses more on the spiritual and mental aspect of training oneself. It combines slow, soft and gentle movements of the entire body with deep breathing and a meditative, calm mind. Since it involves minimal effort and basic body movements, it can be practiced by people of all ages and body types.

‘Chi', as you may already know, is Chinese for ‘energy'. Ancient Chinese philosophy suggests that it is this vital, energy or life force which animates the body and keeps it healthy. By moving the body through particular forms, or ‘sets', of exercises in Tai Chi, the practitioner is attempting to move ‘chi' to various parts of the body.

Tai Chi also aims to calm down the mind. The slow, gentle dance-like movements act as a stress-buster, especially in this day and age where we seem to be obsessed about doing things faster. By focusing on balance and stillness, Tai Chi aims to get our minds to relax, slow down the thought process and enter a meditative zone.

What are the benefits of doing Tai Chi?

As you put your body through various movements, you stretch and stimulate your muscles and joints. This aids in greater blood circulation to all parts of the body and leaves you feeling relaxed, refreshed and revitalised. Regular practice of Tai Chi leads to greater flexibility through the slow, circular movements. The slow, meditative and calm deep breathing required during Tai Chi also helps to stabilise blood pressure levels.

Various medical studies have shown Tai Chi to have benefitted patients of arthritis, heart disease, hypertension and sleep disorders.

How does one do Tai Chi?

As mentioned earlier, almost anyone can take up Tai Chi as it is a low impact exercise. However, if you suffer from arthritis or have pain in your joints, spine or are pregnant, please consult your physician before proceeding.

The most important factor in practicing Tai Chi as a beginner is to select a trainer. The popularity of this form of exercise in India in the last couple of years has resulted in quite a few good academies and trainers spread across India, especially in Mumbai.

When you visit an institute, try and have a personal word with the trainer who will be taking you through the exercises. It is important that you pick a trainer who understands your objective for picking up Tai Chi and your body type.

Practice is as important in Tai Chi as in any other discipline. Regular practice will help you to not only have a fitter body but a calmer mind as well. Every practice session also gives you an opportunity to improve on the different postures and form. Another tip is to try practicing outdoors in a calm environment, such as a park or on the terrace of your building.

Tai Chi is a holistic approach to fitness and helps give you a healthier mind, body and soul.

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