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Mysterious Tai Chi Chuan

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Mysterious Tai Chi Chuan

Over time, practice of tai chi improves balance, flexibility, and posture. Using a series of movements, deep breathing, and mental control, tai chi is practised in a choreographed sequence known as forms. These forms may appear simple but, in fact, they demand muscular strength and mental awareness.

At dawn every morning in city parks across Canada, groups of elderly Chinese move gracefully and rhythmically in the age-old movements of tai chi. Sometimes among them you see younger and more mainstream Canadians, out to enjoy the mood-lifting benefits of this gentle exercise.

A form of breathing exercise that was developed among Buddhist monks during the Sung dynasty in 12th-century China, tai chi is becoming increasingly popular in the West.

The full name of the practice, tai chi chuan, translates from the Mandarin as “supreme ultimate fist.” This refers to its nature as the highest form of martial arts, an internal art (nei chia) that is rooted in the theory that well-being depends primarily on the circulation of life force (chi) around the body. The theory of chi is the same principle that guides acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine.

Using a series of movements, deep breathing, and mental control, tai chi is practised in a choreographed sequence known as forms. These forms may appear simple but, in fact, they demand muscular strength and mental awareness.

Find Your Balance

The essence of tai chi is to explore balance between soft and hard and between yin (female) and yang (male). The practitioner works to balance yin and yang by slowly shifting weight from one side of the body to the other. Over time, practice of tai chi improves balance, flexibility, and posture.

The systematic forms of tai chi are most successfully practised when the mind controls deep breathing and deep breathing in turn controls body movements. The three elements of mind, breath, and movement come together in what appears to be a state of moving meditation.

Now Take a Deep Breath

It is impossible to practise tai chi in a rushed and frantic manner. The deep breathing demands concentration and a calm mind. Thus, tai chi helps to slow down and relax the mind and body. During the short period each day dedicated to the slow, controlled, and pleasurable series of movements of tai chi, the mind, body, and spirit work in unison. In time, this strengthens all three.

With instruction and consistent practice, tai chi builds a strong foundation to improve physical and mental fitness and ward off unnecessary stress. As one great tai chi master said, “Tai chi uses four ounces of effort to calm a thousand pounds of woe.”

Five Simple Tai Chi Movements

Try the first five movements of the Yang style of tai chi. Begin by standing at ease, with knees slightly bent, arms relaxed at sides, and eyes looking forward. Breathe through the nose only, with your tongue on the roof of your mouth, while moving continuously through the following forms:

  1. Opening Movement: Slowly raise and lower hands.
  2. Wild Horse Shakes Its Mane: Move left leg and hand forward while moving right arm back and down. Then move right leg and hand forward while moving left leg back and down. Repeat.
  3. White Crane Spreads Its Wings: With knees bent, lift left hand high while moving right hand low.
  4. Brush Knee: Step forward and pivot on left foot while brushing left knee with left hand. Push right palm forward until arm extends. Repeat with right leg.
  5. Play the Lute: Step back with left foot while rolling right hand and then left hand forward.

For instruction on correct tai chi form, check for tai chi lessons in your community.

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