Originally developed in China as a form of self-defense, tai chi chuan is a graceful form of exercise that has been practiced for more than the last 600 years in China.
Known simply as tai chi by westerners, it is often described as "meditation in motion" because it promotes serenity through gentle movements-connecting the mind and body.
Interest has increased over the last twenty years or so as the baby boomers have aged and the art's reputation for it's health effects on aging have spread.
As a result of this popularity, there has been some divergence between those who say they practice tai chi primarily for self-defense, those who practice it for its aesthetic appeal, and those who are more interested in its benefits to physical and mental health.
Tai chi chuan is a noncompetitive, self-paced system of gentle physical exercise and stretching performed in a series of postures or movements in a slow and graceful manner with each posture flowing into the next with pausing.
There are more than 100 different possible movements and positions with five distinct training styles, and many variations within each style.
Anyone, regardless of age or physical ability can practice the discipline as it emphasizes technique over strength.
Older adults may especially find it appealing because the movements are low impact and put minimal stress on muscles and joints.
Despite its ancient history, Tai chi chuan has been studied scientifically only in recent years with some research suggesting numerous benefits beyond stress reduction, including:
Some additional advice:
Tai chi chuan is one of the fastest growing fitness and health maintenance activities in the U.S. and Canada. You don't need any special clothing or equipment and you can find classes in many communities today to get you started safely in this ancient discipline.
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