Tai Chi Exercises Both Mind and Body
Centuries-old practice gains new followers.
The movement is slow, graceful, and fluid. The effort is almost
undetectable. Most people are wearing street clothes, and no one has special
Could this really be exercise? Absolutely.
Tai Chi is a centuries-old Chinese practice designed to exercise the mind
and body through a series of gentle, flowing postures that create a kind of
Deeply rooted in Chinese meditation, medicine, and martial arts, tai chi
(pronounced ''tie chee'') combines mental concentration with slow, controlled
movements to focus the mind, challenge the body, and improve the flow of what
the Chinese call ''qi'' (also spelled ''chi'') -- the life energy thought to
sustain health and quiet the mind.
Found in many community centers, health clubs, and studios in the United
States, tai chi is lauded for its gentleness and accessibility.
In fact, almost anyone can do it, even those with conditions that may
exclude them from other forms of exercise, says Bill Douglas, tai chi teacher
and founder of World Tai Chi & Qigong Day. Seniors, the overweight, and the
arthritic can all participate.
Benefits of Tai Chi
The list of benefits that regular practice of Tai Chi can bring is long,
according to advocates. It can improve strength, flexibility, balance, and
coordination. Some research also suggests that tai chi may help to improve
heart function and decrease blood pressure.
One of the most significant benefits is stress reduction, says Douglas, who
lives and works outside Kansas City, Kan.
Stress is known to aggravate some health conditions, he says. And, according
to some estimates, unmanaged stress could be costing U.S. businesses billions
''If we provided tools like tai chi and qigong and other mind-body
techniques through public education, every kid could be graduating high school
as a tai chi or yoga master,'' Douglas says. ''This could conceivably save
hundreds of billions of dollars, not once, but every year.''
Just learning to relax and breathe more deeply can be reason enough to take
tai chi, says Warren D. Conner, founder of the T’ai Chi Ch’uan Study Center of
the Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Area.
''You can take what you learn from the practice and transfer that to daily
life,'' he says.