What is it?
The ancient Chinese philosophy of Tai Chi, thought to date back to 3000 BC, is an integrated exercise system, bringing together the body, mind and spirit. The literal translation of ‘tai’ means ‘big’ or ‘great’, while ‘chi’ is translated as ‘ultimate energy’. Tai chi can be described as a ‘dance’ that focuses on generating and feeling energy through movement, the ultimate energy that powers the universe – everything from the greatest start right down to the smallest microscopic creatures!
It is based on the concept of balancing two halves representing the harmony of primal energy, signified by the eternal circling of Yin & Yan. It is believed that Chi flows freely through the body along channels called meridians. When in harmony, the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual aspects of the individual are in balance and the Chi flows freely throughout the body. The Martial Arts flourished in China in the Middle Ages and were underpinned by the long tradition of therapeutic exercise that had developed over the centuries. Techniques of punching, striking and kicking were blended with this ancient form to establish the modern Martial Arts we are familiar with today. Tai Chi can be seen as a mind, body exercise, emphasising the importance of focused mental control over precise, yet relaxed, physical movements.
It combines mental concentration, balanced shifting of weight, muscle relaxation, and breath control to create a series of flowing, circular movements that illustrate the balance and energy of the human body. The constant shift of weight from one foot to the
other improves dynamic standing balance and allows different muscles to be the lead stabilisers. These movements are performed in a slow, rhythmic, controlled manner, facilitating awareness of the speed, direction, and performance of the movement. These qualities make Tai Chi commonly popular with older adults owing to the reduced risk of injuries.
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