What is Tai Chi?

If any of you have watched the movie, The Intern, you might have noticed it begins and ends with Tai Chi. If you haven’t seen the movie, do so!  Not for the Tai Chi necessarily (it is Hollywood Tai Chi), but because, like Tai Chi, it is delightful and uplifting!


What is Tai Chi and why have you not heard of it before?  Most importantly, can YOU do Tai Chi?


Tai Chi is an ancient martial art from China.   Chinese words have many layers of meaning, but generally speaking, “Tai” means “great,” “supreme” or “infinite.”  “Chi” means “life,” “breath” or “life force.” Put it together and “Tai Chi” means “Great Life.” Who doesn’t want that?!


Originally created for self-defense, Tai Chi is now practiced for its remarkable health benefits.   Its slow, graceful movements are appealing to watch and perform.  As with all things of lasting value, the inherent qualities and complexities are deeper than what meets the eye


When I first began Tai Chi, there were about 480 medical research articles on the benefits of Tai Chi.  Now, just two years later, there are over 2000!  The Western medical world is paying attention.  This alone gives merit to the healing properties of Tai Chi. 


Research is repeatedly showing significant correlations between Tai Chi and improved health.  Here’s a short list: improved immune system, decreased falls, improved balance and leg strength, decreased symptoms of depression, reduced pain; especially arthritic pain, reduced stress and the hormones associated with stress (cortisol), improved range of motion, reduced inflammation…..and the list goes on and on!


Now if you are like me, you might ask: “If it is so good, why haven’t I heard about it before now?”  Good question.


Tai Chi was kept top secret among families in China for hundreds of years.  It wasn’t until the last century that Tai Chi was permitted outside of individual families and the country of China. 


It takes about 100 years for something of value to make its way to the Western world.  We are now at the crest of that movement. Tai Chi is growing in the U.S. because of its accessibility (anyone can do it) and efficacy in promoting wellness.   It is currently the single most researched form of exercise in the Western world.  Go Tai Chi!


The next question is: “Can I do Tai Chi?”


As a certified Tai Chi instructor I often hear comments such as, “I’m way too uncoordinated for Tai Chi.” or “I’ve been a klutz all my life, I can’t do Tai Chi!”  “I’m not flexible.”  “I have terrible balance,” and so on.  My response?  It doesn’t matter!  Anyone, regardless of ability or disability, can engage in, and benefit from Tai Chi.


I have taught Tai Chi to young and old of all abilities.  My youngest Tai Chi participant was 4 years old, and my oldest (currently in my class) is 91.  I’ve taught individuals with leg amputations, those with paraplegia, COPD, Parkinson’s and other neurological disorders, as well as fully able-bodied athletes.


Tai Chi is not about how beautiful or perfect you perform the movements.  Rather it is about moving gently within your body’s comfort and ability, while focusing on the scripted movement patterns and principles of Tai Chi.


By engaging in Tai Chi movement, you find yourself in a calm, focused state.  Tai Chi is often referred to as “meditation in movement”.   Eventually, your hands will begin to tingle, and your body will warm from the center.  This is “Chi” which facilitates healing.  But let’s leave the description of and definition of “Chi” for another blog!


Hopefully, I’ve piqued your interest in Tai Chi. Are you ready to give it a go?  Great!


As with all new endeavors, your experience will be influenced by the quality of your teacher.  In my next blog, I will tell you what to look for in a good Tai Chi instructor. 


In the meantime, you can click this link to seem me doing a short 3-minute Tai Chi demonstration with a beautiful Canadian mountain backdrop. 


Susan’s 3 minute Tai Chi video


Don’t forget to visit my website for some good, (but not overwhelming) information on Tai Chi. 


Bringing the beauty and power of Tai Chi to others is my single most rewarding life endeavor.   Thank you for reading my blog. 


I hope you will give Tai Chi a try!   See you next blog!