Tai chi has been around for centuries, but has been brought to the forefront of holistic health recently after it was found that it can be a great activity for those suffering with arthritis and other long-term physical ailments.
An ancient Chinese tradition, it is a delicate form of physical exercise involving stretches and movements in a slow, controlled way alongside breathing techniques. There are many different variations, some focusing on health alone, others looking at the martial arts aspects, as was the original use of the practice.
Luke Hughes, a qualified tai chi instructor, told us: “While there are many disciplines of tai chi (yang, chen, wu and sun), it is always guided by the same foundational principles: gaining control of breathing and movement, and during the process, the mind becomes at one with the body. For a beginner, it is easy to think of tai chi as a way to bring forth internal energy and convert it into external shapes and movement (jing), with the mind and body being brought together in a symbolic relationship. The non-competitive nature of tai chi has made it a popular exercise for individuals who have previously practised yoga in the past.
“It is a suitable fitness choice amongst the older age bracket as it is low impact and puts minimal stress on muscles and joints, making it a safe form of fitness for those with health concerns while also being classed a means of exercise. “The NHS often refers older patients to tai chi classes as it has been proven to reduce their risk of dangerous falls, lower blood pressure and improve mental health,” he explains.
Although done with gentle movements, participants often report increased energy and stamina from this, and improvements in their stability and balance. Not only is tai chi known for its physical health benefits, but its emotional too – it’s proven to decrease stress, anxiety and depression as well as improving moods.
So how do you start? DVDs and books on the subject are widely available, alongside apps and tutorials online.