I was first introduced to Tai Chi in Buffalo, New York at a World Tai Chi Day celebration. I was off of work one Saturday and heard about it at a local park, so I figured I would check it out. Being a practitioner of the martial arts for 17 years at the time, I loved all things martial arts, and Tai Chi always intrigued me.
After an introduction of the instructor, Sensei Bill Adams, and a bit of his background, the class members there demonstrated the Simplified Yang Style 12 and 24 forms. I was impressed with the quality of their technique and when they asked all of the spectators to join in, I jumped at the chance.
This was the first time I actually performed Tai Chi myself, not having a clue what I was doing, I began to feel more relaxed and stress-free. I went home feeling rested, like I had taken a short power nap. It was incredible!
Not Taking It Serious
I trained with Sensei Adams (student of Bow Sim Mark) for a little over a year, before moving and ending my lessons there. I practiced the Yang 12 form on and off over the years, but never took it seriously. Tang Soo Do and other hard styles took up the majority of my training.
Then I injured myself and screwed up my shoulders and knee.
My surgeries left me unable to practice the karate forms I had learned. I can no longer kick or pivot sharply to change direction, which is required a lot in karate forms.
The gentle, slow, relaxed movements of tai chi enabled me to continue my martial arts journey.
7 Benefits of Tai Chi
I have found personally that there are seven important benefits that come from regular tai chi practice that positively affect my life.
- Improved Posture – This may not sound like a big deal, but proper posture ensures proper skeletal alignment of the body, which in turn makes movement more efficient.
- Improved Flexibility – Flexibility training and stretching is one of the least done exercises. Being inflexible leads to unnecessary muscle pulls and injuries. Tai Chi practice slowly and gently stretches the muscles during movement, improving flexibility in a functional manner.
- Improved Balance – Improving balance can help anyone, whether it is walking on stairs, down the street, or on snow and ice. It is especially important for seniors, where falls are a leading cause of serious injury and even death. Tai Chi practice improves balance, reducing falls and improving the body’s ability to move smoothly and effortlessly.
- Reduced Inflammation – This is a huge one for me and should be for anyone suffering from osteoarthritis! Tai Chi practice has improved the pain in my knees by decreasing the inflammation in the joints. It does this by reducing the inflammation and by reversing the activation of inflammatory signaling pathways of the body. Inflammation in the body causes a host of ailments, not just arthritis, and Tai Chi may be an effective tool to combat those ailments.
- Improved Mobility – Improved mobility is a result of the above-mentioned benefits of improved balance, flexibility, and balance. Combined, these improve the ease in which the body moves through a range of motion. The slowness of the movements strengthens the body throughout the entire range of movement, making everyday physical tasks easier and less stressful.
- Reduced Stress – Slow movements, coordinated with diaphragmatic breathing, creates a calming, stress-reducing effect. Heart rate slows and blood pressure goes down. Tai Chi is an excellent exercise for those with high-stress jobs or anyone going through a stressful time in their lives. It allows you to relax without the use of drugs or alcohol.
- Improved Strength – I know what you’re thinking, “How can I build strength lifting nothing and moving in slow motion?” Well, it is that slow movement, stepping and holding the arms extended without support, that creates and builds strength. The slower you move, the harder the exercise. Time under tension comes into play, strengthening the muscles and tendons.
How Often Should I Practice?
It is best to get into a regular DAILY routine of training tai chi. Choose a time that works for you and that you will stick with. You will benefit more from short consistent sessions than doing a marathon session once or twice per week. The daily training schedule is more productive and builds a lifestyle habit.
How Long Should My Sessions Be?
It is better to train 10-15 minutes DAILY than it is to do one or two marathon sessions weekly. Even if you only have 5 minutes a day to start, DO IT!! As you can, build up your training time to 20-30 minutes daily. Setting a time to train first thing in the morning or in the evening will help in maintaining your program. Find whatever works best for you and your schedule.
Give It A Try
A no-impact form of exercise that can improve health and help you live longer? I would say it is definitely worth a try. You can start by checking your local area for Tai Chi classes or you can order instructional DVD’s on Amazon.
I highly recommend giving Tai Chi a try, and I’ll bet you will be glad you did!