Tai Chi & Qigong

What is Tai Chi?

The Chinese characters for Tai Chi Chuan can be translated as the “Supreme Ultimate Force.” The notion of “supreme ultimate” is often associated with the Chinese concept of yin-yang, the notion that one can see a dynamic duality (male/female, active/passive, dark/light, forceful/yielding, etc.) in all things. “Force” (or, more literally, “fist”) can be thought of as the way of achieving this yin-yang, or “supreme-ultimate” discipline.

Tai Chi, as it is practiced in the west today, is thought of as a combination of yoga and meditation. There are a number of “forms” (sometimes called “sets”) consisting of a sequence of movements. Many of these movements are originally derived from the martial arts. And perhaps even more ancestrally than that, from the natural movements of animals and birds. But, the way they are performed in Tai Chi is slowly, softly and gracefully with smooth and even transitions between them, making this a moving, meditative practice.

Benefits of Tai Chi

In Chinese philosophy and medicine there exists the concept of chi, a vital force that animates the body. One of the avowed aims of Tai Chi is to foster the circulation of this chi within the body. The belief being that by doing so the health and vitality of the person are enhanced. This chi circulates in patterns that are closely related to the nervous and vascular system and thus the notion is closely connected with that of the practice of acupuncture and other oriental healing arts.

Another aim of Tai Chi is to foster a calm and tranquil mind, focused on the precise execution of these exercises. Learning to do them correctly provides a practical avenue for learning about such things as balance, alignment, fine-scale motor control, rhythm of movement, the genesis of movement from the body’s vital center, and so on. Thus the practice of Tai Chi can in some measure contribute to being able to better stand, walk, move, run, etc. in other spheres of life as well. Many practitioners notice benefits in terms of correcting poor postural, alignment or movement patterns which can contribute to tension or injury. Furthermore the meditative nature of the exercises is calming and relaxing in and of itself.

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