Ask a Tai chi instructor exactly what is Tai chi, and you probably won’t get a straight answer. He or she will say something mystical like, “Tai chi is everywhere. Tai chi is everything. Tai chi is the way of nature. Tai chi is meditation in movement.” But for those of us who only understand concrete definitions, the concept of Tai chi is best described as an ancient Chinese tradition that, today, is practiced as a graceful form of exercise. It involves a series of movements performed in a slow, focused manner and accompanied by deep breathing In other words, martial arts slowed down.
Millions people practice tai chi around the world and it’s a wonder there aren’t even more of us walking around like slow-motion replays of Bruce Lee. Of Tai chi’s staggering list of benefits here are some of the most impressive: improved quality of sleep, restored balance, strengthened immune system, relief of joint pain including arthritis, lower cholesterol and blood pressure and lessened anxiety. It also claims to increase bone density in post menopausal women
To add to the why-you-should-be-doing-Tai-chi-like-right-now list, it is great for people who want to feel a sense of calmness and don’t have the patience for sitting still. I.e. all of us.
After just one class you will get the sense and flow of Tai chi. You are constantly in motion and whilst the whole body feels engaged, your mind should be calm and relaxed. However, a word of warning, without a qualified teacher, you’ll be practicing Tai chi without the mind.
And without the mind, it isn’t Tai chi.
When you begin learning Tai chi, it is good to practice two or three times a week for 10 minutes. If you can practice every day, that’s great, but start with just 10 minutes. Simple one to three-minute stretches every hour or two with “mindful” breathing are also a good idea.
Keep Practicing At Home
Most teachers agree that it’s fine to skip a few steps when you’re practicing alone: Sticking with the flow of the movement builds up confidence and it keeps your mind engaged. Commit to a class a few times a week. Better yet, try it twice a day for 10 to 15 minutes upon waking and before bed.
“If you’re really trying to use Tai chi as an integral part of chronic disease prevention, you need to invest more than 10 minutes a day. Although some studies show strong results from two 60-minute classes a week, experts agree that 30 to 60 minutes a day is best. Whatever you do, approach it gradually. The beauty of Tai chi is that you’ll get out whatever you put into it.