Tai Chi originated in China over 2,000 years ago. Its fluid movements and slow pace keep the body flexible by allowing the body’s “chi” to move freely and without restrictions. Chi is the universal energy that flows throughout the body.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, it is considered the life force that allows the body to function. Blockages in the flow of energy can be caused by stress, illness, injury, or exposure to toxins in the environment. Using tai chi removes those blockages and frees up the areas in your body where the energy tends to get trapped.
Tai chi includes both slow, fluid movements and calm, relaxed breathing. The combination of both eases stiff joints and muscles. As the muscles relax and the tightness lessens, tension and stress are allowed to gradually dissipate. As those factors disappear, muscles are less likely to cramp or become sore after minimal amounts of activity. The day to day stress that builds up after a long week at work begins to disappear. Your thinking becomes clearer and you can focus on the important things with much less effort.
Tai chi’s deliberate, yet fluid movements tone and condition your muscles. The more you perform the exercises, the more flexible you become. Your range of motion improves and you can exercise for longer periods of time without getting tired.
As you age, flexibility can become a problem. With tai chi, the simple exercises don’t put stress on your joints and they don’t force you to exert an excessive amount of energy. Even people with disabilities can perform tai chi without restrictions. The exercises encourage body movement to whatever degree is physically possible.
Tai chi also improves circulation, which brings added oxygen and nutrients to areas of the body where arthritis and fibromyalgia cause pain and inflammation. The regular movements strengthen the muscles, tendons, and ligaments, allowing them to move more freely. As flexibility and range of motion increase, many symptoms associated with chronic illness can fade. With less pain and discomfort, you are able to exercise more often.
Chronic illnesses like rheumatoid arthritis can make it difficult to exercise at all. With tai chi, the exercises can be performed from a seated position or in a swimming pool. The water uses the body’s weight as resistance, adding even more benefit to the exercise. With the movements performed at a slow, even pace, there is very little stress on the joints, reducing your risk of injury.
Because of its ability to reduce stress and improve circulation, tai chi places less pressure on the heart than other forms of exercise. Combined with a fiber-rich diet full of the nutrients the body needs to thrive, tai chi can lower blood pressure and improve overall heart function. The constant stretching and pulling/pushing movements of the body keeps the blood vessels flexible.
Tai chi movements also benefit the lymphatic pathways. As the circulatory system becomes more efficient, so does the lymph system’s ability to flush out and remove toxins from the body.
The concept behind tai chi is to bring about balance between the mind and the body. The slow, deliberate movements work the body while the deep, rhythmic breathing clears the mind and encourages the body to release toxins and unhealthy emotions and thoughts. Other types of exercise place emphasis on strengthening the physical body. Tai chi is often referred to as “meditation in motion” because it promotes movement in a controlled manner that also exercises and expands the mind.
Tai chi can improve your ability to concentrate and use problem-solving skills, allowing you to maintain focus and clarity. By working on both the body and mind, the connection between the two is solidified and strengthened, creating a harmonious balance that can improve your health and well-being.
Tai chi is a safe and effective form of exercise that everyone can enjoy. The body moves according to its own limitations, guided by the mind and fueled by the deep breathing. It is easily performed in the comfort of your own home and no expensive equipment is needed. The benefits it offers are extensive and can enable you to regain many aspects of your health that you may have not thought possible.
All you have to do is breathe deeply and take that first step. Look online for tai chi instruction in your area. Some will let you try the first class at no charge. Or, pick up a DVD for beginners.
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