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Tai Chi                  

                                    October 2010  

Tai Chi

Tai ChiI was at our village fete the other day and saw a group of men and women, all well middle aged or beyond, putting on an excellent performance of Tai Chi. The gentle movements to music were quite intriguing and when they finished their demonstration, one of the group told me all about it.

I guessed from the name its origins were in China. Traditional Chinese medicine, which dates back thousands of years, has its roots in the principles of Yin and Yang. These are described as routes or meridians which travel through the body carrying Qi energy. The objective of Tai Chi is to help promote the smooth flow of this energy and reduce any blockage or imbalance in the flow. By performing the postures of the “Form”, ie specific movements, in co-ordination with relaxed, natural breathing and the application of Yi (this means intent serious focus of the mind), you are supposed to help to keep the Qi moving smoothly through the channels. The external movements are done to assist the free flow of internal energy.

Sounds simple enough? Well, being Chinese there is a little more to it than this.

Each movement or Tai Chi posture carries defensive or offensive applications. To understand these applications you need to know there is a little more to Yin and Yang than just being pathways through the body. Yin is considered to be a soft, feminine principle and Yang a hard masculine principle. In terms of applications a blow or strike would be considered to be Yang force. When the force is coming towards you, you greet it with Yin or softness thereby neutralising your opponent's strike. The postures in the Tai Chi Hand Form ( a basic movement in Tai chi) are constantly changing from the Yin to Yang aspect. By training slowly, the body becomes familiar with this constantly changing energy.

For those who find the Chinese aspects confusing, it is probably good enough to know that the exercises help to increase flexibility and suppleness and also help to keep the mind calm. While in China there is a full curriculum of Tai Chi which can include a number of applications and even weapons, in the UK most classes concentrate on a simple interpretation of the art with gentle exercises and meditation.

The Hand Form is one of the first that is often taught and this offers a balanced drill for the body’s muscles and joints through the execution of complex manoeuvres in conjunction with deep regulated breathing and the contraction and expansion of the diaphragm.

Many claim that Tai Chi offers a full range of excellent physical benefits. With The Hand Form, the movement of the diaphragm gently 'massages' the liver and intestines and also promotes a greater intake of air into the lungs than usual. Thus a greater amount of oxygen is available for consumption which increases blood circulation. Doing this also expands the blood vessels which serve the heart and intestines.

Hand Form over time can also stimulate the central nervous system which increases the well-being of all the organs of the body. As the muscles move when practising Tai Chi, they exert pressure on the veins, forcing our blood to flow towards the heart and improving circulation. The exercise that the stomach muscles receive will improve the digestion, leading to an increased appetite and the prevention of constipation. The performance of the Hand Form also creates a tranquil state of mind through concentration on the movements and these graceful movements can lead to changes in our disposition, making us more even-tempered and slow to anger.

But for the people in the group I watched, most said they didn’t really go into all these technicalities, they just enjoyed the gentle exercise and tranquility of Tai Chi and felt much better afterwards.

The good news is that Tai Chi is very easy to try; you don’t need special equipment or even clothing, and there are classes now held right across the country.

Your local council and noticeboards may be able to give you details of local classes, or the Tai Chi Union of Britain has a lot of information (www.taichiunion.com).


 

Nutricentre Discount for laterlife visitors If in any doubt about any of the information covered in health and nutrition related articles and it's relevance for you, consult your GP.

 

 



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