An ancient Chinese form of co-ordinated body movements derived from Taoism, Tai Chi Chuan is one of China's oldest belief systems. Tai Chi aims to harmonise the mind, body and spirit, promoting both mental and physical well-being. When practised correctly, the movements appear rhythmical, effortless and in continuous flow.
Tai Chi is suitable for people of all ages and requires little or no special equipment. It can be practised in a relatively small area either indoors or outdoors. When performed in a slow and relaxed manner, the Tai Chi Chuan Hand Form offers a balanced work out for the body's muscles and joints through the execution of complex manoeuvres in allied to deep breathing and the contraction and expansion of the diaphragm.
The deep breathing gently 'massages' the liver and intestines, promoting a greater intake of air into the lungs than usual, and expands the blood vessels which serve the heart and intestines. It is thus reputed to prevent thrombosis and many other ailments of the heart and intestines. The graceful movements can also lead to changes in the disposition, making people more even-tempered and slow to anger. With the practice the student becomes revitalised, relaxed, tolerant, self-confident and stronger and healthier in both mind and body. Unlike most forms of exercise and sport, tai-chi does not rely on strength, force and speed, making it ideal for people of both sexes, young and old, strong or weak.
Even with a small amount of practise, you will find benefits. The exercises gently tone and strengthen your muscles and improve your balance and posture. However, remember that while it is a good adjunct exercise, it doesn't provide much in aerobic or weight-bearing benefits. Classes are usually small, with fewer than 20 people of diverse ages. There are five distinct styles and many variations within each style. The most gentle are the Yang, Sun, Wu and Hao styles, while the Chen style is more brisk and active.