How Tai Chi HealsBy Richard Clear
Ask a typical American, about Tai Chi and chances are they'll tell you that Tai Chi is good for you. "It's like Yoga, isn't it?" Though most people are aware that Tai Chi has health benefits, few know much about exactly how the art is good for you.
Initially developed as a deadly martial art, the phrase 'Tai Chi Chuan' translates as "grand ultimate fist." It was not until the 20th century that people began to practice the art solely for its health benefits without attempting to apply it to combat. Yet the grand ultimate fist has always been good for its practitioners and continues to be so today.
First, proper Tai Chi practice requires proper spinal alignment. Students must pay attention to what is called the 'vertical axis.' The spine must be kept very straight and all the other parts of the body move around the spine. This is very good for the spine and the body in general. In some programs, the first thing taught is the basic posture called "Wu Chi." This basic posture aligns the spine so that it is straight and yet the body is at the same time relaxed. Many people have small spinal misalignment in their body which can actually cause a lot of pain over time. With proper instruction and practice people can learn to keep their spine properly aligned.
When most people think about Tai Chi, they think about elderly people, probably Chinese, doing a series of slow, dance-like movements, most likely in a park. This graceful set of motions can be beautiful to watch. Yet these motions are designed to do far more than simply look graceful. This set of moves is intended to circulate qi or energy through the meridians of the body. These moves expand the energetic pathways of the body. The movements in the form actually energetically cleanse the body including the circulatory and lymphatic systems.
Tai Chi also helps its practitioners to change body states. The art has what are called jings or expressions of energy. One such jing deals specifically with relaxation. The mental and physical states of people are highly interconnected. When people are stressed, they build up physical tensions. When people relax and release physical tensions of their bodies, the stress will often go with it. Tai Chi teaches people how to achieve that highly relaxed state. In fact, a part of that graceful and flowing look comes from the fact that it is practiced in that relaxed state. A lot of the wear and tear on the body comes from tensions that people unconsciously hold and Tai Chi helps its students to become aware of that tension and let it go.
Another jing is called rooting. It is about dropping the weight of the body downward toward and actually into the ground. Rooting jing is an excellent tool for those who are feeling unfocused. There are a total of 36 jings or expressions of energy as well as many different combinations and applications for the different jings. With enough practice martial artists can change body states very quickly and this can help people to handle the challenges of each day in a healthier way.
This article only covers a few of the ways in which Tai Chi heals its practitioners. If you want to learn about more of them, one good way to begin is to try it.
About the Author: Sigung Richard Clear has over 30 years of continuous study in Tai Chi and Chi Kung both in the U.S. and China. http://www.clearstaichi.com