“Think of the circular path of each movement, in Tai Chi every movement is in curve or circle that has no ending or beginning.”
~ Dr. Paul Lam, Founder of Tai Chi for Health(TM)
Tai Chi can often seem elusive to the casual observer. There is grace and both mystery to the movements in tai chi. The slow and gentle movements sometimes punctuated with a swift release of energy hide the internal aspects of the exercise. Yes tai chi can be considered an exercise. The power of tai chi lies within, while medical evidence and research show the benefits of tai chi to improve muscle strength and aerobic conditioning, there are internal benefits that provide powerful health and healing properties. Much of power of tai chi comes from spiral or circular movements. In tai chi there is a calming rhythm of growing and shrinking, opening and closing throughout a particular form. Energy is generated and partially released only to gather more energy for each cycle. Essentially, all movements are circular. Expansion outward, including strikes and blows, is circular. Yielding, or retreating, also has a circular nature, and is not linear.
How does it all work? Tai chi model is based on the premise that there is a bio energy system in the body. The bio energy or Qi gets carried round the body in energy channels called meridians – a bit like the way the veins carry blood around the body. Now there are 12 main meridians and 8 secondary meridians carrying Qi throughout the body and through the major organs. Interrupted, weak or blocked flow of Qi causes illness. Tai chi works because the muscle movements in the exercises are designed to stimulate the flow of Qi through the body and the major organs. When Qi flows smoothly people are well. The circular motion, the relaxing of the joints, the slow and continuous movements of tai chi open up the channels. Tai chi movements should be made smoothly and in a continuous, unbroken manner just like when silk is drawn from a cocoon. That is why sometimes tai chi is called silk reeling.
There is harmony in tai chi movements, soft and strong movements, balanced against each other. In classical written texts it is described thus “If the real intention of the movement is to move upwards then one should first move downwards slightly. If the real intention is to move to the left then one should precede this movement with a slight move to the right first. It should be understood that when there is a forward pushing force then there is always a backward balancing forces as well, and when stretching out in one direction there is also stretching out in the other direction. When moving in curves and circles there is still an element of straightness.”
That’s a lot to think about, one thing I know for certain it works. It can be easy to learn, and you don’t need special equipment or a gym membership to practice tai chi. The best thing about it, is you start experiencing the benefits right away, you don’t need to have 20 years of study to gain the health benefits of tai chi, you can start getting them right after your first lesson. What are you waiting for? Join a class today and get your chi on!