If you’re like most busy people, your morning routine is probably fueled by caffeine and adrenaline on your commute to work. Day after day, the stress of modern life adds up, until we feel like we are ready to explode under the pressure of bills, family responsibility, and job dissatisfaction.
But what if there was a better way to live right now?
The secret to living well isn’t in a pill or a potion. You can’t buy it, and you can’t hold it. Instead, it’s with you everywhere you go. It’s the connection between your mind and your body. Bringing awareness to the mind/body connection through moving meditation is a centuries-old practice called Tai Chi.
What is Tai Chi?
Tai Chi originated in ancient China as a martial art performed with the goal of harmonizing the yin and yang. The practice emphasizes slow, controlled movements that flow into each other, while focusing on breathing patterns.
Tai Chi is often dismissed as a practice that is done by old men in the park at sunrise because many residents of Chinese neighborhoods practice together early in the morning. While this may be the most visible group because they practice in public, the truth is that an estimated 2.3 million adults practice Tai Chi in classrooms and living rooms across America.
Tai Chi For Stress Relief
Tai Chi helps manage a number of chronic diseases like osteoarthritis and fibromyalgia due to the practice’s low-impact, flowing movements that increase joint mobility. Perhaps the greatest effect that the practice has on health and wellness is overall stress relief.
According to a study published in Health Promotion International, Tai Chi has been shown to help with stress relief in younger women. In the study, women ages 33–55 were given a 12-week Tai Chi program to follow. Researchers found that blood pressure decreased and balance and flexibility increased in most of the women.
Tai Chi practice can help us all relax by focusing us on deep breathing patterns and flow. This helps busy executives develop the mental discipline to stay productive throughout the day, and it gives doting mothers a moment of peace before the kids get off the bus.
How to Choose a Tai Chi Class
Before you get down to business with your moving meditation in your living room, it’s best to start with guided instruction so you get the movement patterns down. Each flow has a specific purpose, so you’ll want to learn from someone who has been practicing for more than a few years.
Tai Chi is similar to yoga in that some instructors focus more on the spiritual side of the practice, while some emphasize the physical benefits. You’ll want to find a class that jives with your goals and your personal needs.
There are two ways to find a list of Tai Chi classes in your area. First, if you are already involved in an alternative medicine or holistic wellness community in your area, ask your wellness providers for recommendations. People who offer wellness services like acupuncture, yoga, nutrition counseling, Tai Chi, and detox therapy are typically connected to each other in a tight-knit community. Don’t be afraid to ask your yoga teacher if he or she knows an excellent Tai Chi instructor in your city.
If you are not already tapped into your city’s wellness community, go to Supreme Chi Living, the Online Journal by American Tai Chi and Qigong Association. The site has a database of instructors listed by location. Once you have your list of options, then you can start to investigate further.
When choosing an instructor, ask who they studied with as a student before becoming a teacher. Renowned and skilled masters tend to produce high quality, dedicated teachers. Also, ask to take a trial class before you commit to paying for a training package. Many instructors will be happy to work out a “try before you buy” situation because they know you’ll have a great first experience.
Common Tai Chi Moves You’ll See in Class
It helps to become familiar with a few of the moves at home before you go to your first class. Here are a few common Tai Chi moves:
Beginning Movement: The beginning movement is the basic move that prepares beginners for Tai Chi practice. To complete, stand straight up with your feet a little wider than hip width apart. In a relaxed movement, raise both arms forward with your palms down until your arms are shoulder height. Allow your arms to sink down with your body as you bend your knees.
The Single Whip: Stand with your feet apart and face forward with a slight bend in the knee. Float your arms upward, then step out and make a quarter turn with your body. Pull your arms all the way across your body and back, then step to make another quarter turn.
White Crane Spreads Wings: Step into a small side lunge with your back foot facing 90-degrees outward and your front foot facing forward, with a slight bend in both knees. Turn toward your front knee and extend both arms. Cross your wrists, then sweep one arm up and one arm down in a flowing movement.
Bonus: Can’t make it to a class and are having a hard time figuring out the movements on your own? There are many Tai Chi streaming video instructional programs that you can follow along with at home.