taijiquan - the perfect exercise
Taijiquan has been described as 'the perfect exercise' by Time magazine. This is not surprising given its unique ability of cultivating and preserving the health and fitness of practitioners without straining and injuring the body. In fact Taijiquan has the potential to improve and heal many old injuries.
What is also wonderful about Taijiquan is that it can be adapted for almost any level of fitness and mobility, so it is suitable for all. For an older or less mobile person, the movements are slow, circular, and low impact, and the postures can be high to reduce demands on the legs.
For a younger, healthier person who wants to push themselves physically, lower postures can be used to place a higher demand on the body. Also more energy release movement can be used. When practiced in this manner, Chen Taijiquan is extremely physically demanding and is a complete muscular and cardiovascular workout.
As the body is a unified entity, separating and dividing the benefits is something of an artificial exercise. But for clarity and simplicity I have divided the health benefits into three categories below. Of course in reality, these will all be interdependent, supporting and affecting each other. Click on the images for more details.
When all the above elements are taken as a whole, you have a recipe for health preservation at an optimal level, with exceptional levels of health and mobility being maintained into a very late stage of life. The current generation of grand-masters who are in their early 70s, are incredibly strong, youthful and vital.
If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading. - Laozi
a personal perspective
I've been practicing Taijiquan since 2008. I'm now in my mid-30s, and while friends are starting to feel thier body deteriorating, I feel better and more free in my body than I can ever remember feeling. I feel strong, flexible, and fit, and I get ill very rarely.
As my practice has deepened I've re-explored and reintegrated old injuries and areas of tension. My body feels more relaxed, unifed and connected. I also feel much more sensitive to my body, and aware of my breathing. My breathing feels deep and relaxed.
After practicing Capoeira for ten years, I loved it, but I could feel it was starting to take a toll on my body. As I got older, the high intensity demands, and rapid accelerations were beginning to feel less positive, and I could see that injuries would become more frequent and that I would need to diminish the way I was practicing. I guess this is many people's experience in sports, and it can be challenging to accept as the body ages, that performance will be constantly diminishing.
Taijquan is different, and that is something that I love about it. Because it keep the body so healthy, it is possible to, not only maintain, but to continue to improve and progress well into the middle and even later stages of life. This is something that I enjoy, entering my mid-30s. Knowing that my progress is limited only by my choice of how much I practice, and not by my body