Tai Chi Chuan is an old Chinese defense exercise whose origins date back to 1500 years, but the martial arts has only recently started gaining popularity due to its mental and physical health benefits.
A number of resources including Pinterest have featured this Chinese practice in the top 100 trends of 2018. If you love intense, heart-pumping workouts, Tai Chi may sound boring at first due to its slow, rhythmical movements, but once you try this martial arts exercise, you’ll learn that it’s anything but.
Researchers are also joining in to show the amazing physical and psychological benefits of Tai Chi. Adding this ancient Chinese practice to your gym routine is even more important if your training sessions are packed with intense exercises. Performing Tai Chi helps develop a mind-body connection which makes you more aware of your physical being; no wonder dancers and athletes are huge fans of this practice.
Tree of Life Tai Chi Center’s director Peter Wayne says that Tai Chi is one of the few mind-body exercises that really help you focus on how different part of your body connect together and whether your energy body aligns with your physical being. Wayne believes that the physical and mental awareness you achieve through this exercise can actually be beneficial in preventing injuries when performing intense workouts.
Want more reasons to believe that Tai Chi could be the best investment of your time? Keep on reading.
What Is Tai Chi?
Tai Chi Chuan, also known as Taijiquan, originated in China many centuries ago as a martial art for improving balance, flexibility and mental strength. It is considered an internal defense exercise since it depends on harnessing your spiritual energy and mental awareness to perform the movements.
Nowadays, Tai Chi is touted more for its health benefits than its usefulness for self-defense. Moreover, the self-defense element of Tai Chi can take years to master – no wonder its Chinese name literally translates to ‘fist of the supreme ultimate’.
Tai Chi for Mental Health
Just like meditation and yoga, Tai Chi is an exercise that emphasizes more on mental strength than physical strength. In many ways, this martial art is similar to meditation.
A major scientific analysis of 40 different studies on Tai Chi showed that this amazing practice can have a positive impact on mental health by reducing the symptoms of anxiety, depression and stress and improving self-esteem and confidence.
Tai Chi for Physical Health
One of the most common misbeliefs about Tai Chi is that it isn’t as intense as other popular exercises but the practice gets its health benefits from the slow, rhythmic motions. When you’re moving fast, it’s hard to connect with your body or focus on your balance and flexibility which is why it is important to incorporate both slow and fast-paced exercises in your workout routine.
The best thing about Tai Chi is that it can be practiced at all fitness levels and ages which is why it is often called the ‘old person’ workout. This stereotypical view stems from the fact that most research on the health benefits of Tai Chi is conducted on older participants instead of younger people. One of the few studies conducted on young college students showed that practicing Tai Chi can be beneficial for mental and physical health. This goes to show that this Chinese exercise works well for all age groups.
Many studies have also focused on the effect of Tai Chi on bone health, suggesting that the exercise can help in maintaining stronger bones in old age. This is one of the reasons why incorporating Tai Chi in your workout routine from an early stage in life can improve your overall well-being down the line and reduce the risk of bone related injuries and diseases.
What Tai Chi Classes Look Like
Tai Chi has 5 major styles but the one that is most commonly taught in the U.S. is the Yang style which focuses on a single form of continuous movement performed in a slow, meticulous manner to improve balance and flexibility.
Ready to take your first Tai Chi Chuan lesson? You can find a studio closest to you through American Tai Chi and Qigong Association’s official website.