Free the Chi!

You may have heard of t’ai chi, or at least get a picture in your head of people standing in a slightly crouched position, feet set apart, moving their outstretched arms slowly, and gazing into the air. As it turns out, t’ai chi isn’t some funky dance; it’s an ancient form of Chinese meditation dating back thousands of years. And there is good reason why it’s still practiced to this day.

The defining principle behind t’ai chi is meditation in motion, and the guiding philosophy behind the practice is the “chi,” which translates as “breath,” but is more accurately considered as “life energy.” Chi can slow or become blocked, causing a reduction in energy throughout the entire body. The slow, graceful, and focused movements allow chi to flow once again. One aspect of t’ai chi is warding away negative thought by placing it outside of yourself, hence the pushing hand motions many forms of t’ai chi contain.

T’ai chi is also known to improve posture, increase fine motor skills, strengthen muscles, improve cardiovascular fitness, and relieve chronic pain. It is a low impact, inexpensive form of meditation and exercise; therefore it’s suitable for (but not limited to) older adults.

In addition to physical wellbeing, t’ai chi helps create a natural balance within oneself and in relationships with others, reduce anxiety and depression, and improve general health. The stress-reducing properties stem from taking time out to meditate, focusing only on movement, and breathing. Sound interesting? Check out a local health club, YWCA, or community center to see if they offer t’ai chi classes. All you’ve got to lose is stress!