“Take good care of your body. It’s the only real home you have to live in.”
Tai Chi means the ‘ultimate of ultimate’, often used to describe the vastness of the universe. Based on the ancient Chinese philosophy of Taoism, Tai Chi stresses the natural balance in all things and the need for living in spiritual and physical accord with the patterns of nature. This ancient practice combines slow, deliberate movements, meditation and breathing exercises.
How it works
Originally developed for self-defence, Tai Chi has evolved into a graceful, low-impact form of exercise that may be especially suitable, if you’re an older adult who otherwise may not exercise. Practiced as a series of movements performed in a slow, focused manner and accompanied by deep breathing, each Tai Chi posture flows into the next without pause, ensuring that your body is in constant motion.
Areas it targets
Tai Chi is not about burning calories or raising your heart rate, as you do with aerobic exercises. Instead, the routines can help your circulation, and achieve better balance, alignment and muscle control.
Because the movements put minimal stress on muscles and joints, Tai Chi is generally safe for all ages and fitness levels.
As you move, Tai Chi activates:
- Your whole body, including the muscles in your back
- Your arms and legs
- Your core muscles. (No crunchies required!)
As a result of the specialized movements, you improve your flexibility and build strength in a subtle way as you engage your whole body in low-impact, gentle routines.
When performed regularly, Tai Chi can be a positive part of an overall approach to improving your health, your flexibility, balance and agility to reduce risk of falls and adds muscle strength and definition. While Tai Chi isn’t a heart-pumping workout, even seasoned athletes have much to gain from a meditative, deliberate approach to movement.
Best of all, Tai Chi requires no special equipment. You can do tai chi indoors or outside, alone or in a group. Avid practitioners develop a routine of performing Tai Chi in the same place and at the same time every day.
Is it good for me if I have a health condition?
One of the best features of Tai Chi is that it can be adapted to fit just about any fitness level and a great way to gently get you moving again, even if you have been inactive for a time.
A Tai Chi instructor can teach you specific positions and breathing techniques and how to practice Tai Chi safely, especially if you have injuries, chronic conditions, or balance or coordination problems. Because the movements are easy on your joints, you can even do them seated or in a wheelchair, if necessary.
Some studies have even shown that Tai Chi can help lower your blood pressure and drop cholesterol levels that lower your chances of heart disease.
Check with your doctor first if you have any conditions such as diabetes or circulation problems, or if you take any medications that can make you dizzy when you change positions.