What is Tai Chi?

March 12, 2020
What is Tai Chi


Are you interested in Tai Chi, or a related practice like Qigong? You're not alone. Millions of people worldwide practice Tai Chi and Qigong to help improve their balance, strength, flexibility, mood, and energy. Tai Chi and Qigong are recommended to help you deal with joint pain as well as for overall strength, flexibility, and balance.

Table of Contents

What is Tai Chi?
Tai Chi and Mindfulness
Who Can Practice Tai Chi?
The Benefits of Tai Chi
Getting Started with Tai Chi

What is Tai Chi?

Basically, it's a form of martial arts that's practiced for its health benefits, for meditation, and for self-development, although some people use it for self-defense as well.

Instructor Travis guiding tai chi

When you start practicing Tai Chi and Qigong, you'll probably learn a series of forms. These forms include stances and postures that gently work your muscles and joints to increase your strength and flexibility. Practicing the different positions will help you to activate different energy pathways in your body, resulting in a more balanced and awakened feeling.

You'll also learn how to move from one posture to another with slow, flowing motions. The slow speed of Tai Chi can be helpful for a variety of reasons:

1. It can provide time and space to practice mindful breathing, which helps you release tension while strengthening your body.
2. It helps you to increase your internal focus and awareness- or mindfulness
3. It can help you minimize the chance of injury, and more commonly, to correct improper body mechanics.

Tai Chi and Mindfulness

In addition to learning stances, postures, and flowing motions, with Tai Chi, you'll usually learn to coordinate your breathing with your movement. This can be another great way for you to relieve stress and increase awareness.

You know how professional athletes talk about being “In the Zone?” Coordinated breathing and movement can help get you there.

In Tai Chi or Qigong, you'll have a chance to learn simple 'energy awareness' exercises to help you develop more sense of your body. Check out the video below if you'd like to learn a simple 'energy awareness' exercise from Body & Brain.

Who Can Practice Tai Chi?

Tai Chi is often thought of as an exercise done by older adults, but this is certainly not the only group of people who can benefit from the practice. Athletes, children, and pretty much anyone who is interested in developing their mind and body will enjoy benefits from Tai Chi.

Instructor Jordan guiding tai chi

The first thing that many people discover upon starting Tai Chi is that it's not as easy as it looks. You might be surprised by the strength and coordination required to balance on one leg, or to smoothly shift your weight from one side to another, or to get your arms to move while staying relaxed and open. Tai Chi can help you develop your body’s natural capabilities in ways that improve your everyday life.

After practicing Tai Chi for just a few minutes, you'll probably notice that you've activated some new muscles in your legs. This may result in a feeling of better balance, strength, and flexibility when you’re walking, sitting, standing, or doing other commonplace tasks.

Some people also feel that practicing Tai Chi helps them to manage joint and muscle pain. Rather than just activating the big muscles, Tai Chi activates many of the smaller stabilizing muscles, slowly stretching and strengthening them as you flow from one posture to another.

If you've never done Tai Chi before, you might be surprised to learn that you can practice every day if you want. Regular practice, at least three times per week, is recommended.

The Benefits of Tai Chi

Studies have shown that Tai Chi and Qigong can help reduce pain, stress, depression, and anxiety while improving immune system health, sleep quality, balance, and agility. And, unlike some forms of exercise, once you learn Tai Chi, you'll be able to keep practicing for many, many years.

But the best quality of all is that Tai Chi is a moving meditation full of grace and beauty. Do you enjoy expressing yourself through your body? Athletes, martial artists, and dancers all take great joy in expressing themselves through movement, and Tai Chi will help you to feel that joy.

Many people practice Tai Chi in the morning as a peaceful and powerful way to activate the mind and body. Tai Chi can be practiced alone or in a group. If you're by yourself, try practicing Tai Chi in a place where you can enjoy nature. It doesn't have to be much, but find a spot where you can see, hear, or feel the earth, the trees, the air, and the sky. It will help you enjoy your Tai Chi practice even more.

If you do practice with a group, you can enjoy the sense of oneness that comes from moving together.

Whether you're at a Tai Chi center, in a public park, or at home watching a Tai Chi class on video, remember that you're giving yourself a chance to reconnect with yourself. Your thoughts and emotions may resist at first- keep going. As you breathe and move you may notice a change in the way you feel.

You can follow this short Tai Chi lesson from Body & Brain TV on YouTube.

Getting Started with Tai Chi

By practicing continuously, you'll be able to better manage stress and negative thoughts or feelings. You'll know that, by moving your body, you can shift your awareness and see things from a new perspective.

Master Instructor Yoo guiding tai chi

If you're ready to get started practicing Tai Chi, consider coming to a class at Body & Brain. The Tai Chi practiced at a Body & Brain center is called DahnMuDo, which means "The Way to Limitless Energy." It's a combination of Tai Chi, Qigong, and other martial arts practices designed to help you feel healthier, happier, and more self-aware.

Written by David Driscoll
David Driscoll has been teaching Body & Brain and Brain Education for over 14 years. He is currently managing Body & Brain’s YouTube channel, BNBTV, as well as hosting Brain Masterz- A User’s Manual for the Brain- along with Minjae Kim. David studied anthropology at Princeton University and enjoys tai chi and meditation as well as traveling, studying languages, and golf.