The Health Benefits of Tai Chi

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30 Years ago I worked with a man who was always smiling, helpful, friendly and courteous. This was no small accomplishment as our work environment was organized chaos, including occasional threats of violence and frequent exchanges of profanity. I could never understand how in the Hell this guy could always be so positive and balanced in a situation that made everyone else a potential homicide suspect.

I went to the Gym one night for my weekly thrashing of the heavy bag (I used to imagine it was my boss) and I saw the reason for my coworker’s pleasant demeanor. Over in a distant corner, there he appeared to be dancing in slow motion, seemingly oblivious to all surroundings. As I studied him from a distance, I at 20 years old, could not figure out what strange sort of exercise he was practicing. Finally I questioned the Gym Manager, and he informed me it was a Martial Art, but he did not know what type. He went on to inform me that my dancing coworker was a World Class Martial Artist, a Master in several disciplines. That particular form was Tai Chi Chuan, commonly known as Tai Chi.

Over lunch the next few months at work, I was fortunate enough to form a friendship with Mark, the Martial Artist, and I riddled him with questions. Additionally, I read a few books on the subject, and started to understand the benefit.

Tai Chi is a “Soft” form of Martial Arts, designed to achieve inner balance and harmony. It is from China in origin, and has been practiced for several thousand years, by individuals of all ages. As a form of self – defense, it uses the natural flow of an opponents energy against them and does not meet force with force, but by making an opponent unbalanced. Many of the movements are circular in execution signifying the Universal flow of Energy. Some of the many forms of Tai Chi are the Short Yang Form using 37 movements, the Long Yang Form consisting of 108 movements, and the Beijing 24 Form utilizing 24 movements. The Beijing 24 Form is very popular with beginners for the ease of movements and the short time requirement (less than 10 minutes) to complete.

Tai Chi Chuan can benefit the overall Health of a Practitioner by:

Reducing Stress – The practice of Tai Chi is an exercise in tranquility of the total Human Being.
Improving Circulation – The slow, gentle movements are an aid in promoting blood circulation.
Oxygenate Blood – As the control over breathing rhythms is a focal point of Tai Chi, it helps to oxygenate blood.
Decreasing Risk of Disease – Tai Chi regulates the body’s Homeostatic Balance, and thereby reduces the risk of diseases such as Diabetes, Gout, and Hyperglycemia.
Lowering Blood Pressure – Any steady,regular exercise lowers Blood pressure, and Tai Chi is perfect for this.
Providing a Low Impact Workout – None of the Tai Chi Movements are aggressive or forceful – it’s about as low impact as it gets.
Allowing Everyone To Participate – Just about anyone who is ambulatory from 9 years old to 90 years old can participate.
Self Esteem and Confidence – The ability to multi – task several positive benefits in one activity is a boost to self worth, especially in Children.
Weight Control – The discipline required to practice Tai Chi is helpful as applied to other areas, such as weight control or stopping smoking.
Improving Dexterity and Muscle Tone – Especially in Older Individuals, Tai Chi is a great way to slow the aging process physically.

The funny thing about exercise in general, and Tai Chi Chuan specifically, is when the Endorphins get kicking the activity actually becomes enjoyable, it’s addictive. You’ll find yourself canceling other social activities because to miss a workout ruins your day, and makes you feel off center. Luckily, Tai Chi is all about being centered and balanced.