Tai Chi Chuan
Connecting the Mind and Body

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.

Some notable benefits are:

  • Reduce stress
  • Increase flexibility
  • Improve muscle strength and definition
  • Increase energy, stamina and agility
  • Increase feelings of well-being


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:

  • Reducing anxiety and depression
  • Improving balance and coordination
  • Reducing the number of falls
  • Improving sleep quality, such as staying asleep longer at night and feeling more alert during the day
  • Slowing bone loss in women after menopause
  • Lowering blood pressure
  • Improving cardiovascular fitness
  • Relieving chronic pain
  • Improving everyday physical functioning
  • Help with arthritis
  • Recovery from injury or illness


Some additional advice:

  • As with any exercise program: if this type of exercise is new to you, start off slow with short sessions and build your way up gradually. If you have any health concerns or medical conditions be sure to check with your doctor for advice before you begin a routine.
  • Don't try to learn tai chi chuan from a video or book: It's best to learn from a teacher who can make sure you are doing the movements correctly.
  • Choose your teacher carefully. Make sure the instructor has experience teaching people and can guide you to the safest movements.
  • Warm up before and cool down afterward. The training may not seem strenuous, but it does work joints and muscles.
  • Modify the movements if necessary. For example many movements are done with bent knees and you may need to keep your legs straight if you have knee problems.
  • Be cautious when you have a flare or sore joint. Many experts say you can still exercise, but carefully. Check with your doctor if not sure and stop if it makes you hurt more.
  • Never push or exert yourself. Most teachers believe the meditation effects are as important as the physical exercise.
  • Practice daily for optimal results.

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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