In today’s world we see messaging about doing everything faster, better, cheaper. It wasn’t that long ago where we didn’t have smartphones. Some can even remember a time, say prior to 1995, where most people didn’t even have cell phones. Since BCP, before cell phones, everything has gotten faster, quicker and more connected, but that speed and connectivity doesn’t necessarily solve our challenges.
Today, many of us have become so connected online that we fail to connect with one of the more important aspects of our lives… our own bodies. We look towards modern pharmaceuticals to cure our illnesses and mental troubles instead of taking a step back and looking towards the past.
What we invite you to discover today is Tai Chi. More importantly, we want you to see how it can help you overcome challenges in your life. Challenges that may be causing you stress, illness, and pain.
As you read you will uncover methods that will allow you to gain flexibility and peace in your life. For those who are looking for less stress and more peace of mind, we welcome you to take a journey with us.
Discovering Tai Chi
Tai Chi, originally developed for self-defense in ancient China, is now known for being a popular low impact exercise.
Why has tai chi become the exercise of choice for so many people of varying ages?
Tai Chi has many forms and styles, the more practiced ones being Chen, Yang, Wu, and Sun. Each style has its own specialties however they share the same principles. This is to integrate the body and the mind to control movement. This is all taught to be able to maintain rhythmic deep breaths throughout.
Tai Chi involves a series of poses performed in a slow, focused manner while maintaining controlled deep breathing. Each position should flow to the next while ensuring that your body is constantly in motion.
Due to Tai Chi’s low impact form of exercise it puts minimal strain on muscles and joints making it safe for all ages, but especially suitable for older adults.
There are cases when asking your primary care provider about practicing Tai Chi is recommended, such as :
- If you are pregnant
- Have severe osteoporosis
- Severe join problems
Tai Chi has also been called meditation in motion. Tai Chi has been shown to help with mental health and wellbeing. While practicing the poses and controlling your breathing you will notice you begin to enter a state of mindfulness. This is when your mind begins to relax and begins to release stress with every breath.
By reducing your built up stress you may see other mental issues subside such as:
- Lack of focus
It has been well documented that Tai Chi aids in improving mood as well, which helps with improving quality of sleep, improves your energy, reduces headaches and helps lower blood pressure. Tai Chi has even been recommended by the Long Beach VA to veterans suffering from PTSD as part of their therapy.
How Tai Chi Aids in Muscle Flexibility, Balance, & Agility
A great benefit of practicing Tai Chi is with your physical body. As we age we tend to build up injuries which can limit our overall mobility. We lose cartilage in our joints which limits our flexibility and range of motion among other conditions that can be debilitating like heart disease or arthritis. Bad habits such as poor diet or lack of activity and static positions such as sitting for hours without proper stretching can also contribute to some loss of agility and balance.
Physical wellbeing takes mental fortitude. Committing to regularly practicing Tai Chi can have a large impact in your life. Practicing Tai Chi regularly, even for a single day a week, can lead to noticeable improvements.
Commitment to a Tai Chi regime can increase agility, balance and flexibility. It is a weight bearing form of exercise. Tai Chi engages and works out your major muscle groups which may improve endurance, stamina, flexibility, agility and strength. Due to its low impact, and slow motions it is ideal for people of any fitness level and all ages especially older adults.
For senior citizens regaining balance is one of the greatest benefits as it reduces the chances of falling. Tai Chi engages the physical components needed to stay upright. With age, reflexes, range of motion, and leg strenge tend to decline. Alongside meditation, the relaxed pace of the footwork brings awareness to changes in the weight being distributed along your feet and ankles. Due to the constant shifting of your weight while changing poses you are teaching your body to become more sensitive and strengthening your leg muscles. Students improve their balance and stability within a few months.
How Tai Chi is Different from Other Forms of Exercise and Martial Arts
Tai Chi differs from other forms of exercise in that movements are usually circular instead of linear, and never forced. The muscles are relaxed and the joints are not fully extended or fully bent unlike lifting weights where you want your muscles tense and joints extended or bent. Finally there is no tension on your tendons and ligaments. Since you are not exercising with weights the flowing movements of Tai Chi strengthens both upper and lower body as well as increasing flexibility.
Why Tai Chi can Be Used to Improve Your Mood on a Regular Basis
Mood is a temporary state of mind, which means it changes frequently. It is normal for people to be in a sour mood after a particularly bad day at work. Or feel in a great mood after doing a good deed.
Did you know mood can also be directly linked to your mental health? Your mental health and mood affect all aspects of your life, your physical health, relationships, and self esteem can all be traced back to your mood. In other words mental health issues like anxiety and depression can contribute to insomnia and stomach aches.
It has been known that exercise and meditation, though not exclusive, are great ways to improve your mood, mental and physical health. When you begin to notice your mental health and mood declining, doing something about it sooner than later can keep the changes from getting worse or in some cases becoming permanent. Tai Chi may be the solution you are looking for, due to it being both exercise and meditation. Tai Chi is possibly one of the best options out there for bettering your mood. Many people see positive results by practicing Tai Chi for as little as one hour per week.
Stress Reduction Through Practicing the Art of Tai Chi
Stress affects everyone in different ways, but one thing that is common, is that stress is detrimental to our physical health as well as our mental wellbeing. In many cases having high levels of stress can manifest symptoms that may be blamed on other illnesses. This can lead to misdiagnosis and ultimately more stress. Some of the symptoms are:
- Muscle Pain
- Upset stomach
These symptoms if not treated correctly can cause anxiety, irritability, lack of focus and depression. When stress is allowed to build up without any release many people look for coping behaviors that can only make things worse. drinking, smoking, eating, and socially withdrawing are a few examples of negative coping mechanisms some people rely on when they don’t have an escape from their built up stress.
Managing your stress is incredibly important for your overall mental wellness. By actively taking a role in your own treatment you will immediately feel more in control, shortly after that you will notice an improvement in confidence and self esteem.
The martial art of Tai chi is a unique form of exercise because it is a physical activity, a mental exercise, and if you decide to join our free Tai Chi class for beginners, it is also a social experience. This is why the practice of Tai Chi lends itself to the healing of mental health. Tai Chi can help you find the quiet and calm headspace you were looking for. The process to reduce stress is much like the practice of Tai Chi itself, slow and steady. Slow movements and steady breathing, and before long you will begin to notice an improvement in your mental health.
Tai Chi for Beginners
Getting started in Tai Chi might feel overwhelming at first, but don’t be discouraged, learning Tai Chi can be easier than you might think. Though we highly recommend joining a class, like our free classes at Heartwell Park in Long Beach CA. We understand that not everybody has the opportunity to join us in person and that’s ok. There are plenty of resources online that can get you started on your journey to wellness.
If you are interested in learning tai chi at home, we have an eight part series on youtube titled “Tai Chi Chuan for Beginners” where we go over the basics of Tai Chi. In this series we primarily focus on the Yang style of Tai Chi which is an internal martial art that has larger circular movements which are continuous and slow. Though it was originally used for fighting, it is now used for healing making the Yang style the most popular form of Tai Chi practiced worldwide.
In this first video of the Tai Chi Chuan for beginners series you will discover important Tai Chi concepts. Below we outline important portions of the video that we would like you to watch.
At 0:40 into the First video we begin with the traditional greeting with your left hand over your right fist. The fist represents your self control and your open hand represents restraint and peace.
1:15 into the video we learn the Horse Stance, this stance is used for nearly all the warmups prior to practicing Tai Chi. This stance focuses on the connection to the earth, teaches you to be mindful of our posture. Stand up tall and roll back your shoulders
Warming up and preparing your body is key to a safe class, this also makes sure you have the proper mindset, posture and breathing.
- 1:30 You swing your arms to tap your kidneys in order. In traditional chinese medicine the kidneys is where your qi (chi) is stored
- 4:45 We do a hip warmup known as Dragon Drinks from River.
- 5:43 Begin energy work, Tai Chi Chuan is also an energy art, breathe in and expand your qi, exhale and compress the qi, form this into a ball. Remember this feeling as we’ll come back to it.
- 8:38 release your ball and transition into the movement Wave Hands Like Cloud, no longer are you holding onto the ball instead have open hands with palms facing you, under your eyes so as to not be blind.
- 10:50 is an example of the movement Single Whip, hands float up and shift weight with your legs while the hands are going in a horizontal plane.
The warm up ends at 11:35, if done correctly you should feel in one of two ways, either feeling calm and relaxed or invigorated or both.
During the warm up at 10:14 we are reminded of the essential practice of Tai Chi, remember patience, and presence. Do not worry about what is next, focus on the now.
We learn to walk within the movements of Tai Chi at 12:16, give and receive, heel to toe, yin and yang.
Tai Chi movements need to be practiced slowly, and can be modified if you are not yet capable of the full motion, that is ok, with time and practice you will improve.
- 13:50 We see Parting the Wild Horse’s Mane. Right hand down, left hand up as though combing the mane of a horse while walking heel to toe.
- 16:40 We see Brush Knee. Step out heel to toe, the left hand brushes the top of our knee and we push with our right hand.
This is just the first class in the series and only taught the first two forms. You are welcome to continue with the series if you wish to learn more. Tai Chi has 24 forms. We demonstrate the full form starting at 20:05 so you can see what we have to look forward to.
5 Benefits of Tai Chi
Advanced Tai Chi and How It Can Benefit You
When you are first learning Tai Chi, you are focused on learning the form, the movements and of course you need to know what you are doing. You need to have a structure to your practice. As an internal martial art, Tai Chi emphasizes internal power and mental strength. After practicing Tai Chi for a few years you’ll want to start practicing some more advanced skills. The advanced form of Tai Chi, focuses on making the movements flow smoother, and the motions become more circular. Many of the movements and names stay the same, it is the movement that becomes more coordinated.
Three important fundamental requirements of Tai Chi are relax(song), slow(huǎn), and soft(róu). If any one of these is lacking, you may struggle to advance your Tai Chi. Having an experienced instructor, community, and dedicated practice will allow you to overcome difficulties in Tai Chi.
Unlike other forms of martial arts, Tai Chi strives for relaxation. Relaxation in the sense that it is the process of letting go, of releasing what is already in the body. Releasing tension and stress, by doing so you are going to feel good, be in a better mood and feel more energetic. As an added benefit of relaxing your body, your mind develops body awareness. You learn what is going on within your body, noticing minor changes within your physical being. By being more aware of what goes on inside your body, you slowly begin to become more aware of your surroundings.
When first learning Tai Chi, your movements will be slow. This is because you are still learning the basic movements and stances. Once the movements become muscle memory you will instinctively begin to speed up.
The final stage of learning is when we force ourselves to slow down once again. This is where we connect with our mental focus and only by slowing down can you feel the proper connection between your body and mind. Some people may feel uncomfortable with slowing the movements down again out of fear that they lack the strength or stamina, both of the physical kind as well as the mental kind. This is natural however, and by gradually adding slow sections to your routine you will eventually build up the mental and physical fortitude to master it.
Learning to move your entire body is the final goal of advanced Tai Chi. Developing a flow state by learning to move your body together. Great Tai Chi form is when movements become soft enough to appear to flow like water without any stiff point or pauses between poses. In many external martial arts there are stops or breaks after performing an action, in Tai Chi you want to stay in motion from the start of the form to the end of the form. The goal is while performing a form, you want your mind to constantly stay one step ahead of your physical movement, so that before you are done with the current move, your mind is already initiating the following movement.
After years of practice you become more aware of inner tension, while adjusting your movement to release this tension you will notice that your external movements now feel different. When you can take control of your inner body, you feel more in control of the external world.
How To Start Practicing Tai Chi For Free
Getting started with Tai Chi is simple, the first step is to find the proper attire. There is no need for special equipment, all you need are some comfortable, loose fitting clothes such as sports shorts or sweatpants and a t-shirt. As well as a pair of sneakers or shoes with no heels.
Great, you’re halfway there.
You can start learning about Tai Chi and its poses online with our beginner course on YouTube, although to get the full experience we recommend joining a class as it is very helpful in learning nuances of Tai Chi.
Being part of a class brings many benefits with it, such as having a teacher giving you feedback and recommendations when performing the tai chi poses. A teacher will make sure you concentrate on your breathing, making sure you take deep rhythmic breaths as you practice. The social aspect of joining a class can not be understated, it’s been shown that having classmates to bond with gives you motivation to improve. Social stimulation is an important part of our health, and as we get older it tends to become difficult to fulfill these needs.
Luckily we teach Tai Chi regularly at Heartwell Park in Long Beach CA absolutely free. You’ll find us right by the duck pond, where everyone is welcome.
That is it, that is how simple and easy it is to start practicing Tai Chi without having to spend any money.
If you feel like making a positive change in your life but are not yet convinced that Tai Chi can help lead you to physical and mental health and wellbeing feel free to read some of our other articles that go into more detail about how Tai Chi can make a change in your life for the better.
- Tai Chi for Senior Citizens – SOHMA Integrative Medicine – Talks about how older adults can use Tai Chi to help with pain management, reduce injury by increasing balance to help prevent falling and improve mental health to help reduce stress and become more independent.
- Reduce the Stress In Your Life Through the Traditional Martial Art of Tai Chi – SOHMA Integrative Medicine – Focuses on the meditation aspect of Tai Chi, helping you to manage stress and how beneficial it is for your overall health, both mental as well as physical.
- How to Use Tai Chi for Mood Improvement – SOHMA Integrative Medicine – Teaches you about the importance of improving your mood and how a poor mood can be the cause of physical issues that may seem to be caused by other illnesses.
- 5 Health Benefits of Tai Chi – SOHMA Integrative Medicine – Points out 5 unique benefits Tai Chi can have in your day to day life regardless of age, fitness level or experience.
Take the Next Step In Improving Your Health by Contacting SOHMA Integrative Medicine
Our goal is to help you improve your health. You can reach out to us and ask us about the Myers Cocktail, IV Therapy, Chiropractic care, or how our other health service lines can help you with your journey to improved health.
Located in Long Beach and Lakewood, CA we help individuals from the surrounding cities.
We look forward to helping you take the next step in your journey to better health.