Founded nearly 1,000 years ago by the Taoist Chang San-Feng, T’ai-Chi Ch’uan is an ancient Chinese slow-motion exercise for health, self-defense, mental development, and meditation. The name T’ai-Chi signifies the harmonious balance and ultimate unity of opposing forces in the universe.
A “round” of T’ai-Chi exercises every muscle group in the body for both strength and flexibility. It yields the benefits of calisthenics, but in a pleasant and relaxed way. By following the body’s own natural movement patterns, blood circulates more efficiently to the organs, tissues, and cells, increasing their ability. The calm, deep breathing done in T’ai-Chi increases oxygen intake, which produces aerobic benefits without unduly stressful workouts. In addition, the vital energy, or ch’i, is drawn into each part of the body, resulting in an energized, well-functioning body that is the basis of good health. Stress reduction is one of the primary health benefits of T’ai-Chi.
The slow, calm, continuous movement of the postures helps the body to become relaxed and centered. As the body rids itself of stress and tension, the mind (since the mind and body are really one) also becomes centered and tranquil. With a calm, stress-free mind, we can concentrate on the truly important aspects of our lives. Following the Taoist philosophy of Yin and Yang (the balance and union of opposites), we learn to balance and harmonize conflicting demands in our lives and to deal with those around us in a flexible, nonaggressive manner.
Why is T’ai-Chi important today?
Education in the Western world has excluded an important factor of human development: the harmonious integration of mind and body. The intellectual and rational approach in our society has been greatly emphasized and developed. The intuitive and holistic function of the individual have been neglected and underestimated. T’ai-Chi helps develop and exercise both the intuitive and intellectual aspects of the individual. The T’ai-Chi exercises, done faithfully with concentrative effort, allow the mind and body to function as one.