Practicing Taichi: What is it? Properties and benefits

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From ancient China comes Tai Chi, originally created as an art of self-defense, but which has evolved to become a stylized form of exercise used to reduce stress and improve other health conditions

It is an ancient discipline that brings relaxation, calms anxiety, and at the same time helps to improve body flexibility and mental balance

Because its movements are not fast, but slow and follow the rhythm of the breath, it is often called moving meditation. In the following, you will learn what Taichi is and what are its therapeutic benefits.

What is Taichi?

Taichi is practiced today as an elegant form of exercise. Its practice involves a series of gentle physical exercises, slow movements and stretches performed with the arms and legs, accompanied by deep breathing. All movements are intended to be fluid and harmonious, so that the body moves in a smooth, natural and relaxed way.

Taichi has many different styles, with different basic exercises, individual movements, postures and specific breathing. Among its modalities are the Yang style, recommended for beginners and older people, and the Chen style, which starts very slow and then becomes explosive, making it difficult to practice for beginners.

Normally, Taichi is practiced without the use of weapons. However, there is an aspect of this discipline, for advanced practitioners, which includes the use of weapons such as the Chinese sword, the Chinese saber or various spears.

Who can practice TaiChi?

As it is low impact and exerts minimal stress on muscles and joints, Tai Chi is safe for people of all ages and different physical states . It is especially suitable for people suffering from anxiety, stress and depression.

For the elderly, Tai Chi is an activity that can help improve balance and regain precision of movement.

Something that makes it accessible, is that its practice does not require economic investment in equipment and can be performed anywhere, inside or outside the house, alone or in a group.

Although it is very safe, pregnant women, people who suffer from joint problems, fractures, severe osteoporosis or hernias, should consult their doctor before practicing it.

Properties of Taichi

The frequent practice of tai chi brings important physical and mental benefits. Among the properties attributed to this exercise, are these:

  • Improves muscle strength. This exercise improves muscle strength in a similar way to weight training. Its regular practice relieves pain in people suffering from chronic diseases such as arthritis.
  • It provides more energy. The slow, gentle movements of tai chi are designed to provide more energy, which benefits the muscles, respiratory and circulatory systems
  • Improves cerebral oxygenation. The breathing exercises included in this discipline contribute to better cerebral oxygenation and, at the same time, optimize concentration, memory and mental acuity.
  • It relieves insomnia, migraines and muscular pains. Many times people adopt bad postures and accumulate tensions of daily life. This is an ideal exercise for those who suffer from insomnia, migraines, anxiety or anguish, as it has a calming effect and helps to achieve physical and mental balance.

Therapeutic benefits of Taichi

The technique of tai chi is based on the harmonious combination and fusion of body movement, awareness, concentration on ourselves and conscious breathing, to carry out meditation in movement.

Some of the health benefits that are achieved by practicing Tai Chi are these:

  • Upper and lower extremities are strengthened. As it is performed standing and the arms are used to perform the movements, the joints are worked, which strengthens and tones them. Taichi trains the hips, ankles, knees and hands. It helps to improve abilities such as muscular strength, flexibility and balance.
  • It is beneficial for the cardiovascular and respiratory system. This discipline combines dynamic movements with pauses, this allows to decrease the heart rate, but increases circulation. And as its movements are based on breathing, it increases respiratory capacity and oxygenates the brain better.
  • It improves arterial hypertension. The practice of aerobic exercise, combined with meditation techniques, helps to improve the levels of high blood pressure, has a very positive impact on the cardiovascular system and the regulation of emotions.

How to practice Taichi?

If you want to learn tai chi, it is best to seek the guidance of a qualified instructor, from whom you can learn the proper techniques. Due to the enormous popularity of Taichi, there are currently many schools around the world.

Among the first things to know about this art are the specific positions and breathing techniques. It is also important to learn how to practice it safely, especially if you have injuries or chronic conditions

To practice taichi, the following steps should be taken:

  • Warm-up. This is done with the breath to clear the mind and maintain control over it. The feet are placed to match the width of the shoulders, put your hand about 5 centimeters below the navel and push gently. Inhale and exhale slowly.
  • Relaxation. When you have mastered the breathing, relax each part of the body, gradually. Starting from the feet up to the head
  • Postures and positions. Several positions or postures can be chosen, with not very extensive movements, with high and low positions, oscillating arms or an intermediate position between these two. It is necessary to try the one that best suits the needs of the person.

To complete the training in this discipline, the help of a Tai Chi teacher is sought to understand the postures and positions. You can also learn by watching videos and reading magazines.

German Fuertes Otero
German Fuertes Otero
CEO at M.D. from Stanford Medicine: Stanford, California, US, M.Sc. from University of Cambridge: Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, UK and University of Oxford: Oxford, Oxfordshire, UK. PhD at Harvard University Harvard Catalyst: Cambridge, MA, US.

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