We’ve all seen the small groups of men and women in the park moving in unison as if they’re rehearsing dance moves.
These slow, graceful, seemingly effortless movements are actually an exercise called tai chi, an ancient form of martial arts that’s been practised in China for thousands of years.
Tai chi is a series of natural physical movements, breathing and mental concentration. Most people practise tai chi today for its incredible health and wellness benefits. Tai chi is known to increase strength and flexibility, promote relaxation, improve sleep, and reduce pain and joint stiffness.
It also increases both balance and leg strength, because often the movements involve shifting weight from one leg to the other. Tai chi improves posture by strengthening the core muscles and helps reduce depression and anxiety by focusing the mind on proper breathing. Tai chi (and Qigong, a form of tai chi) is fast becoming very popular in Canada, because it’s a whole-body, low-impact, weight-bearing, gentle, relaxing workout that anyone can do, regardless of age or fitness level.
Tai chi increases the flow of energy through the body, leading to a feeling of overall well-being. When practising tai chi, your mind stays still, and you feel relaxed and more aware of your own body’s movements. Through slow, gentle movements, you’re aligning your body in order to enhance the flow of energy.
A recent study by the George Institute found that participating in tai chi regularly reduced pain and increased mobility in chronic arthritis sufferers. The Oregon Research Institute found that seniors who engaged in tai chi twice a week for an hour had no trouble performing activities such as walking, climbing, bending, lifting, eating, and dressing compared with their peers who did not participate in the classes. Tai chi is usually taught in groups at parks or community centres and is a great way to get and stay healthy, whether you’re a beginner or fitness expert.
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