Tai Chi: A Gentle Way to Improve Your Physical and Mental Health

Originating in ancient China as a martial art, Tai Chi is a noncompetitive, self-paced system of gentle physical exercise and stretching. Each posture flows into the next without pause, ensuring the body to be in constant motion. This mind-body practice is considered to be beneficial for both physical and mental health.

VUIM Students practicing Tai Chi.

Are There Different Styles of Tai Chi?

Yes. There are many different styles and forms of Tai Chi, the major ones being Chen, Yang, Wu, and Sun. Although different in names, all styles share the same essential principles: integrating mind with body, controlling movements and breathing, generating internal energy and mindfulness, emphasizing on song (loosening 松) and jing (serenity 静).

There are variations within each style. Some styles may focus on health maintenance, long sequences of movements, while others involve shorter series, or emphasize more on breathing and meditation, or even place a heavier focus on the martial arts aspect of the practice. Before getting started, it is important to conduct research and find the right style for yourself. Overall, they are all effective in terms of health benefits.

What Are The Health Benefits?

When learned correctly and performed regularly, Tai Chi can create a positive impact on your health. The benefits may include:

  • Manage stress-related anxiety
  • Manage depression
  • Improve overall mood
  • Increase flexibility and agility
  • Improved muscle strength

Additionally, some evidence indicates that it may also help:

  • Improve quality of sleep
  • Strengthen immune system
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Ease joint pain

The overall health benefits of Tai Chi still require a lot more research.

VUIM Students practicing Tai Chi.

How to Get Started?

Nowadays, there are many online videos about Tai Chi that you can easily look up and learn from. You can also find classes that teach Tai Chi available in many communities as the practice is becoming more and more popular.

A precaution to consider is that, even though the practice is relatively gentle, it is still possible to get injured if you don’t use the proper techniques. Therefore, it is recommended to seek out guidance from a qualified instructor in order to learn proper techniques and gain the full benefits, especially if you have injuries, chronic conditions, coordination problems or other issues.

Who Can Practice Tai Chi?

Tai Chi is a very gentle exercise that does not require a lot of strength and puts minimal stress on muscles and joints. It does not require any special equipment and can be practiced anywhere, including indoors and outdoors. Therefore, it is safe for people of all ages and fitness levels. This also makes the practice very popular among elderly people. While it is generally safe, women who are pregnant or people with joint problems, fractures, severe osteoporosis or a hernia, should consult their health care provider before trying.