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02.13 - February

BodyWorks
The beauty of tai chi: Meditation in motion

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By William Weese, M.D.
(Click for author bios in About us)

With its slow and silent motion, it looks serene. But, tai chi (tie-CHEE) was originally a martial art.

As legend has it, centuries ago, a Taoist monk in China created tai chi to harness the body's internal forces for self-defense.

The early followers of tai chi also believed these gentle movements helped a person's energy — the qi, or chi — to flow freely. And that, they felt, improved one's health.

Embracing the tiger
Today, you might turn to tai chi for its many mind-body benefits. It's sometimes called "moving meditation." Through graceful movements — with names such as "wave hands like clouds" and "embrace tiger, return to mountain" — you can ease stress as you learn to:
  • Breathe deeply
  • Focus your attention
  • Set aside distracting thoughts
Tai chi also has all the benefits of low-impact, weight-bearing aerobic exercise. Done regularly, it may boost your overall well-being — and help improve your:
  • Muscle and bone strength
  • Balance
  • Coordination
  • Flexibility
  • Sleep
Tai chi may also ease the pain and stiffness of arthritis. And, some research shows it may help with other chronic conditions, as well — from high blood pressure to Parkinson's disease.

An age-old practice that's good for all ages
Perhaps you think of tai chi as being for older adults. But, people of all ages can benefit from it.

Tai chi is generally gentle and safe. But, talk with your doctor about what's right for you. This is especially important if you are pregnant or have medical conditions or injuries.

If you'd like to try tai chi, the best approach may be to take a class. A qualified instructor can teach you to do the movements correctly and safely. And, you can practice with other beginners.

And, once you learn to "grasp peacock's tail," you might not want to let go.
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Fast fact

A nod to nature
Many tai chi movements — which are called postures or poses — evoke the animals that inspired them, for example:
  • Golden rooster stands on one leg
  • Part the horse's mane
  • White crane spreads its wings