Merriam-Webster defines Tai Chi as “an ancient Chinese discipline of meditative movements, practiced as a system of exercises.”  Its origins are in martial arts and self-defense, but in modern times Tai Chi has turned more towards its health benefits.  Regular practitioners have different, sometimes personal definitions of the art.

Tai Chi is a way of Life to me.

Tai Chi is a philosophy, superficially manifested as a martial art but actually a philosophy and a way of life.

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Tai Chi is a frame for viewing and interacting with the world and myself.

Tai Chi is a way to experience Dao.

Tai Chi is a balance, a lifestyle, a way of moving, an internal practice, and a martial art.

Tai Chi is a series of slow, fluid, and gentle movements, done while keeping your mind calm and breathing deeply.  There are an infinite number of styles, the simplest uses only 13 (http://youtu.be/33U3iaSLWLQ) basic movements and the most complex has 108 (http://youtu.be/ijL0l36ay1w).

The benefits aren’t just apparent while you’re practicing Tai Chi. You can experience them through improvements in your daily physical, mental and emotional health such as:

– Reduced blood pressure while increasing circulation

– Reduction of A1C levels and central obesity

– Increased general mobility and flexibility

– Reduced pain in daily activities or post-surgery

– Increased endurance

– Improved sleep

– Increasing confidence while decreasing anxiety

With even the 13 basic movements, each style can have its own variation.

 Five of the “Must Try” Tai Chi movements are 

Qigong

Qigong is the mind-body practice associated with Tai Chi involving proper posture, breathing techniques, and mental focus.  Because of the improved breathing from practicing Qigong, there is a better oxygen flow throughout the muscular and nervous systems as well as improvements in immune system function, toxin removal from the lymphatic system, and waste elimination from the digestive system.  The specialized movements further the effects of the breathing.

5 must-try tai chi strength exercises

Push Hands

Push hands is an essential litmus test of two people’s structural strength and mental clarity or fortitude.  It helps strengthen the legs while improving posture, balance, and circulation.  Push hands allows the upper body to be receptive and yielding while the legs and abdomen do the heavy work.  One partner pushes while another yields and vice versa.  Partner’s arms are linked while transferring weight from one leg to the other.  The arms act as antenna, “listening” for the ebb and flow of the partner’s force, weight, and structural focus along the spine, shoulders, hip, and waist.

White Crane Spreads Wings

The White Crane Spreads Wings movement (with a partner) begins by adjusting your waist and positioning your lower hand for strikes along the attacker’s centerline.  You then shift all your weight onto one leg.  Next, you raise your lower hand upward to counterattack with a groin strike.  Meanwhile, the upper hand is used to keep the attacker off balance with an uppercut under his chin or as an upward blow to his nose. (http://youtu.be/cJV8KHhrOrc)

Silk Reeling

Silk reeling exercises work with the energy flow throughout the body.  The coordinated movement involves all the major joints of the body as if it’s squeezing itself out like a wet towel.  It’s a combination of spiraling, anterior/posterior extension, and flexion of the spine.  Silk reeling allows you to increase the use of your body to complete Tai Chi movements. (http://youtu.be/DUrxt4o9ok4)

Single Whip

The most repeated movement in the solo forms is the Single Whip.  From the final Push position, weight is shifted to the left leg, while lowering the left arm towards the waist (palm up) and the right arm is brought to the face (palm down).  From the waist the upper body turns to the left.  The left arm swings up in a counter clockwise direction, stopping with the arm at shoulder level (palm up).  The right arm swings clockwise while turning the wrist to face downwards and form a hook.  Because the single whip strengthens the arm and energy flow to and from the fingers it’s most beneficial for those who suffer from arthritis, carpal tunnel, tennis elbow, or other repetitive stress conditions.

Interested in learning more about Tai Chi?  World Tai Chi & Qigong Day is celebrated on April 26, 2014. Visit World tai chi & Oigong Day  to find activities in your area.

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