The centuries old practice of tai chi is an integral part of a holistic health lifestyle, along with yoga. Its roots come from China, and this martial art focuses on principles which will lead to better health and longevity.
If you don't know a whole lot about tai chi, you may recognize it from its depictions in movies or on television: it is often shown as a group of people under the trees in a park, moving their limbs and bodies in ultra slow motion in unison. Of course, tai chi doesn't have to be practiced outdoors, but that has been a tradition in China for centuries. Moreover, there are certain types of tai chi that move at a much faster pace than the stereotypical depiction.
Modern tai chi combines philosophies found in both Taoism and Confucianism; strength of body and internal power are developed and combined into a unity of one. Although it is often a group activity, its practice is primarily a series of routines performed solos. These "forms" provide general health benefits and have been shown to be effective tools for stress management. Focusing the mind on the movements of the body brings oneself into a place of calm and brings clarity to the whole body as a result.
Unlike other martial arts, those who practice tai chi in a class or in an outdoor group generally do not distinguish themselves with a particular uniform. Most people wear loose, comfortable clothing and flat soled shoes that allow freedom of movement without restraint or self-consciousness. The focus is not on muscular tension, but rather, on complete relaxation. One of the holistic aims, then, is to unblock the natural circulation of energy through the body, unlocking the body's natural healing powers in the process.
Core tai chi training involves the slow practice of individual forms which emphasize straightening the spine and practicing relaxation through deep abdominal breathing. The repetition of slow movements over the person's center of gravity with a conscious awareness of the body's activities will bring about a natural good posture and limberness in the joints. This process will naturally enable the unfettered circulation of the spirit through the body, resulting in better physical and mental well-being.
Tai chi is a wonderful form of martial art because it is beneficial and appropriate for people of all ages and fitness levels. Senior citizens will find greater ease of movement and less pain in their joints by attending regular classes and the socialization with other people is an added benefit as well. Is it any wonder then that the popularity of tai chi in America is at an all time high?
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