Thursday, July 11, 2024

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Tai Chi Exercises: Health Benefits, How To Practice & Side Effects

Whenever you think of martial arts, what will come to your mind? Plenty of boxing, kicking, fighting, and body contact. Everything, but slow activities.

Tai chi exercises are the opposite – everything that is slow, rhythmic, and meditative. The purpose is to help you find peace and calm, which is lacking in our everyday life.

The purpose of this article is to familiarise you with the history, philosophy as well as Tai Chi benefits.

Historical Background of Tai Chi:

According to some records, Tai chi goes back as far as 2,500 years.

If you ask What is Tai chi – it is centuries-old Chinese martial art, which comes from “qigong”.

And what is “qigong”? An ancient Chinese discipline that finds its roots in traditional Chinese medicine.

How do we know who is practising Tai chi?

When you see people moving gracefully with flowing motions in parks throughout China, and in a modern world – that is when you can be sure they are doing Tai chi.

Unique Thing about Tai Chi:

You might be wondering what is special about tai chi moves?

They are slow and meditation-oriented body movements, designed for self-defence. They also promote inner peace and calm.

Do you know who Marvin Smalheiser is?

He is the tai chi historian. And what’s his take on tai chi?

According to him, there are some tai chi masters who are known to throw an attacker to the floor in such a way that the attacker and spectators are unable to see how it was done.

The beauty of it lies in the movements made by the tai chi expert (s), which are so awesome that most people cannot spot them. This confirms the notion “four ounces can deflect a thousand pounds.”

Seems like tai chi has a lot to do with ‘mind planning’.


Tai Chi originates from Qigong, the ancient Chinese discipline as mentioned at the start of the article. Qigong is a unique discipline, in which mind, breath, and movement come together to create a natural balance of energy, which can be further utilised in self-defense, work, or recreation.

Here comes a wonderful comparison:

Just like there are many varieties of Indian yoga, similarly, qigong has more than 3,000 varieties.

Is that all?

Well, Qigong comes in two major types: “soft” and “hard” and has five major traditions – Taoist, Buddhist, Confucian, martial arts, and medical.

Tai Chi is an example of soft qigong (also called inner qigong).

Benefits Of Tai Chi:

Shocked or surprised you will be, I don’t know, but it is worth knowing Tai Chi Benefits.

The Chinese believe that tai chi can do the following:

  • Delay ageing
  • Prolong life
  • Strengthen muscles and tendons
  • Improved balance
  • Increase body flexibility
  • Treat many illnesses, such as heart disease, high BP, arthritis, digestive disorders, skin diseases, depression, cancer, and many more
  • Lowers stress, anxiety, and depression
  • Enhances focus

It is unfortunate that there is no such scientific evidence or proof confirming these claims.

However, according to Harvard Medical School, tai chi is a slow practice, which boosts muscle strength, maintains flexibility, increases balance, and even provides a heart-friendly aerobic workout.

In fact, researchers, at Harvard, state that tai chi exercises, when done regularly for 12 weeks, can give you a “healthy body, strong heart, and sharp mind”.

Tai Chi Exercises and Workouts:

Before practising tai chi, remember the following:

  • You need an open space. So do your practice in an open field or in a large empty room (even gymnasium will do)
  • Most tai chi for beginners runs for at least 12 weeks, with practices happening at least twice a week
  • Make sure to do a brief warm-up before you start tai chi. Do simple stretches (moving your legs, arms, and back) for several minutes.
  • Loose clothing is what you need while doing tai chi. This will help you move around and stay cool.
  • When it comes to beginners, take things slow. Spending 10-20 minutes a day learning a few postures makes more sense than rushing through an entire routine.

Tai Chi Beginners’ Moves:

Eager to know tai chi poses? Here they are:

Beginner Posture:

  • This is a basic tai chi move.
  • Keep your feet shoulder-distance apart
  • Let your toes be facing slightly inward and hips slightly tucked
  • Some describe this pose as something similar to sitting on a high stool

Basic Stepping:

  • This is an important movement in tai chi exercises
  • Is needed to make a transition smoothly from one move to the next
  • It is done in a rolling motion, where you place your feet with balanced weight one in front of the other
  • Roll your entire foot in such a way so that both feet rest on the ground in the end position.

Raising Power:

  • This tai chi move is an opening or a closing to a series
  • Also called “Catch a Ball” or “Ball of Energy”
  • Rub your hands together and then pull them apart
  • Bring them close together once again without allowing them to touch
  • In doing so, you will feel the warmth and energy (qi) between your hands

Withdraw and Push:

  • This tai chi moves aims to cleanse the body
  • Needs forward and backward movements like a wave
  • Begin with one foot in front of other
  • Your weight should be on your back legs
  • Circle your hands in a wave motion and upward
  • Lift your back heel
  • Shift your weight forward visualising a wave moving up and through your body

It might sound new to you but Tai chi Exercises is what you need to consider for the betterment of your health.

Side Effects/Disadvantages Of Tai Chi Exercises

1. Tai Chi takes a long time to learn and master.

For some people, this is part of the enjoyment of learning a martial art. Others might not have the patience for it, and the slow and steady pace at which one “levels up” can be frustrating.

It can realistically take longer than 3 months to learn the basic form and moves – and some would say that you never really stop learning thereafter.

2. The form of Tai Chi that is taught in classes nowadays is not the original form.

Unfortunately, the Tai Chi that is taught today by most instructors and masters is merely a watered-down version of the real thing. Most Tai Chi classes nowadays teach around 24 Tai Chi moves, whereas the original martial art involved 100 complex moves.

In 1956 the Chinese Government instructed the Chinese Sports Committee to create a simplified version of the art so that it could be taught to masses of people. The simplified version is what people are typically taught in modern Tai Chi classes today.

3. Not all Tai Chi instructors and classes are authentic.

This means that you could learn the skill, but not correctly. Tai Chi does not come standard, and because many versions have developed over time, it can be hard to tell if your class is the real deal or not.

4. Tai Chi is a non-violent martial art.

For some, a form of self-defence needs to include some kind of violence, but that is not what Tai Chi is about. Tai Chi is about using the opponent’s own energy against him by merely avoiding the intended impacts.

Legend has it that the inventor of Tai Chi based the art on the movements observed between a crane and a snake in combat. The founding father of Tai Chi watched as a craned swooped down from a tree and launched an attack on a snake.

Every time the crane struck at the snake with its beak, the snake would deceptively coil away and evade danger. Tai Chi self-defence is based on this very concept. If you are looking for a martial art that involves contact and sparring, Tai Chi won’t fulfil that need.

5. Tai Chi can be time-consuming.

As such, learning Tai Chi can be inconvenient for your time. It is recommended that you practice Tai Chi for at least 20 minutes a day if you want to develop the movements steadily. Considering most people already busy schedules, not everyone has 20 minutes a day to dedicate to this kind of exercise.

6. Tai Chi is a non-competitive form of martial art.

Many people want to learn martial arts in order to compete. Tai Chi is just not competitive and focuses on a completely different mindset and skill set. For some, this can be quite demotivating.

7. Modern Tai Chi is not what it used to be.

Some martial art schools seem to have lost their way when it comes to Tai Chi. Instead of teaching martial applications; they focus on health and managing tension and stress.

So, it might be hard to find a Tai Chi class that actually teaches the applications in their entirety. If you are the type of student that wants to learn everything about the art you are learning, and actively participate, you might not be able to with Tai Chi, unless you find an authentic teacher of course.

8. Tai Chi can be painful, in the beginning.

While the art form is not high-energy or aerobic by any means, the movements are challenging to learn. Doing Tai Chi provides a full-body workout. In fact, when it is done correctly, the movements exercise all muscle groups.

First-timers often do not expect to feel any pain because the movements are so slow and gentle. Most do experience some exercise pain in their legs and arms in the evening or morning after their classes.

This is not a permanent disadvantage, though. The fitter you get and the more familiar the movements become to you, the less painful it should be.

9. Tai Chi is meant to be practised outdoors, in nature.

If you live in a cold or sunny area, this can be unpleasant. If you don’t feel comfortable exercising outdoors, you might feel awkward too.

Of course, there are Tai Chi classes that are held indoors, but they are not quite the same, and the concept might be lost.

10. It is not easy learning Tai Chi alone or by watching videos for guidance.

If you do not have the time or money to join a class, you might find it challenging to learn art. A master, instructor, or Tai Chi guru is particularly necessary during the beginning stages of learning.

11. Getting into the right mindset to enjoy Tai Chi could be difficult.

This is true, especially for those who have trouble focusing. It could even appear boring to some. Although many who stick with it and keep practising find that the quiet mindset can really help in terms of mental and emotional health.

12. Tai Chi classes can be unexpectedly tiring.

Many do not realize it, but while the classes are low-impact, they can be long and intensive, which is tiring. Learning and trying to remember new movements can be a double whammy on body and mind.

13. It just might not be for you – which can be quite disappointing.

Tai Chi is not for everyone. While the martial art is considered to have many health benefits, in certain instances, people are advised not to participate in Tai Chi.

Some situations where someone might need to halt practice or do a more simplified version of the movements includes hernia, pregnancy, severe osteoporosis, and if they have any fractures or existing sprains.

14. Practising Tai Chi will not get you particularly fit, and this can be disappointing to some.

Those who do Tai Chi can tone and shape their bodies, but it won’t get you fit like running or cycling will. If you exercise every day and still get out of breath walking up a flight of stairs, you might feel irritated that your chosen exercise form is not particularly improving your fitness levels.

15. Tai Chi can be addictive.

Some people feel so good after their morning session that they become a bit obsessive about it. It is not uncommon for new Tai Chi converts to spend a great deal of time researching, learning, and obsessing about their new form of meditation.

You might even find yourself wishing to escape to your quiet place and the clear mindset that only a session of Tai Chi can provide.

Do you have any question? Comment below.

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