Tai Chi – An Alignment of Body and Mind

Align your body and mind through gentle movement.

To some, the difference between Tai Chi and Yoga might appear to stop at the name, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. While both practices strive towards similar goals, they have vastly different principles and benefits for their user. Tai Chi was developed in China originally as a form of martial artistry, and is widely regarded as a form of mind-body exercise. It is a form of ‘moving meditation’ in which practitioners hone their minds and align their bodies through constantly changing positions with a focus on alignment and deep breathing at the core of the art. Where yoga focuses on stillness, Tai Chi’s roots come from slow but near-constant movement through exercises meant to evoke nature such as ‘Embrace Tiger’ and ‘Return to Mountain’.

Who can do Tai Chi?

Tai Chi is a relatively self form of exercise, so the better question might be: Who can’t? Practicing Tai Chi while pregnant may prevent you from doing some of the exercises and positions, but with a doctor’s approval it is safe to practice. Tai Chi is especially beneficial for the elderly who need forms of low-impact exercise for fragile joints. Those on a budget might also appreciate Tai Chi as it requires no additional weights or equipment to practice, but rather relies upon the weight of the body. It can also be done indoors and out, in a group or alone, making it ideal for just about everyone’s lifestyle.

Medical Benefits

Like yoga, Tai Chi has many medical benefits. For some, Tai Chi suits them better than yoga and can offer more comprehensive exercise and mind-body medicine. A low-impact practice, Tai Chi has been shown to improve the symptoms of arthritis and other chronic pain problems such as fibromyalgia. Studies have been done by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative medicine (NCCAM) to support these claims. The NCCAM has also funded studies on the benefits of Tai Chi for cancer survivors, women with postmenopausal bone-loss, elderly people with depression, and chronic heart failure.

In addition to these studies, Tai Chi has been known to:
-Improve balance in practitioners as old as 92 years old, reducing the risk of falling for older adults.
-Reduce stress.
-Improve flexibility and coordination.
-Reduce or improve pain and stiffness
-To improve sleep.
-To increase overall wellness.

It has also been suggested that Tai Chi can help to lower cholesterol and decrease the symptoms of congestive heart failure.

Looking for something more intense?

If you’re looking for a martial arts style that is going to increase heartrate, burn calories, and give you a whole body work out at a much faster pace, there are many options. The martial arts all put a strong emphasis on focus, body control, and breathing, so you’ll be getting those benefits no matter what type you take an interest in. Just be aware that these practices aren’t as low-impact as Tai Chi and should be discussed with your doctor prior to pursuing them if you have any medical issues that could limit your movement.

Some options:
-Karate
-Sumo
-Taekwondo
-Fencing
-Kung Fu
-Jujustu

Sources: National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Livestrong, Mayo Clinic, Blackbelt Wiki

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