Tai Chi Chuan is an ancient Chinese martial art combining mental concentration, slow breathing and graceful movement.
Tai Chi Chuan is an ancient Chinese martial art combining mental concentration, slow breathing and graceful movement. Translating as “grand ultimate exercise” it promotes the flow of energy through the body to calm the mind and promote self-healing.
Practitioners believe that ill health stems from an imbalance of “chi” or energy.
A session usually begins in the Oriental tradition of greeting everyone in the class followed by loosening, stretching and breathing exercises. Tai Chi is practised as a routine of movements known as “The Form”. The long form of Tai Chi involves 108 movements while the short form consists of 37 movements.
Tai Chi opens up the energy pathways known as meridians. Unlike yoga, it requires a continuous flow of movements. Broken down, these are recognisable as techniques used in self-defence carried out at a fraction of the speed.
In China, Tai Chi is encouraged as a form of preventative health for all ages. Large groups of people wearing slippers and pyjamas meet in parks and public places before work to practise.
Although there are five styles: Yang, Chen, Wu, Sun and Zhao Bao, Yang is the school most practised in western countries. It is meditative in nature and requires intense concentration when done properly. Therefore it is effective in bringing balance and perspective to a chaotic life style. Often people in high-stress careers discover Tai Chi and become devoted to the art. The element of self-defence attracts both men and women to the discipline.
Tai Chi is thought to help stiff joints, back problems, mental and emotional stress, and digestive problems and raise concentration levels. Regular sessions improve balance, flexibility and strengthen the pelvic floor muscles.
Tai Chi is believed to replenish the “essence”. This is the body’s store of “chi” or energy including the reproductive prowess. Building essence is believed to boost fertility.
Tai Chi is a safe form of meditative exercise throughout pregnancy. It is thought to help reduce blood pressure and assist labour by strengthening the pelvic floor muscles. It is noted for lowering stress levels and building inner strength.
A Tai Chi class once a week would be ideal for a frenzied, fatigued mother. It is believed to have a positive effect on emotions and clear mental fatigue. Practitioners say Tai Chi leads to greater inner knowledge and power.
In the third trimester as the body’s centre of gravity changes movements may need to be modified.
Attending classes is the best way to learn. If you are a beginner, it is difficult following a video, as the form requires rotational movement. Once you have learned the form, you can practise it anywhere.