taijiquan - the perfect exercise
Tai Chi, also Taijiquan, is a holistic and integrative system for the cultivation of health, well-being, and longevity. Originating in China, and rooted in the ancient Taoist system of knowledge and wisdom, it is based on the principles of yin and yang.
Tai Chi contains a set of specific movements designed to develop and refine a more natural and relaxed state of moving and being. The movements are low impact, and conform to the natural bio-mechanics of the body. Key elements of Tai Chi include relaxation and sensitivity; development of intelligent strength; improving psychomotor control and postural alignment; harmonisation of movement with breath; and balance of body and mind. It incorporates physical, mental, and mindfulness elements in a single unified practice, making it a complete practice for body, mind and spirit. Relaxing yet invigorating, it leaves the practitioner feeling calm and balanced, yet energised, alert and powerful.
Taijiquan has been described as 'the perfect exercise' by Time magazine. This is not surprising given its unique ability to cultivate and preserve the health and fitness of practitioners without straining and injuring the body. In fact Taijiquan even has the potential to improve and heal many old injuries.
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 the categories below. Of course in reality, these are all interdependent, supporting and affecting each other.
When all these elements are taken together, you have a recipe for health preservation at an optimal level, with exceptional levels of health, mobility and and vitality 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.
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