Taiji: Kung Fu for Body, Mind, & Spirit
These days, almost everyone has stress. It comes from many sources. Illness, injury, depression, chronic pain, addiction, grief, work— just plain living. But Taiji may be able to help!
Studies have shown that taiji and related qigong exercises and meditation techniques can help relieve stress and many types of chronic pain from arthritis to fibromyalgia, and they can help relieve anxiety and depression and improve the immune system. In fact, more and more scientific studies are finding taiji, qigong, and meditation to be “good medicine.” Check out the 2013 Harvard Medical School Guide to Tai Chi for more information.
What is Taiji?
Taiji is a gentle exercise that builds strength, balance, and stamina. It's easy to learn and can be practiced almost anywhere. Twenty minutes of practice a day can yield significant health benefits, both physical and mental.
In China, taijiquan, a.k.a. t’ai chi chuan, translates as “supreme ultimate fist,” and it is known both as an advanced martial art, and as a life-long personal physical fitness system. It is taught to young people and practiced far into old age because of its proven continuing health benefits.
In the U.S., because of its slow and gracefully flowing circular motions, taiji is most generally thought of as a suitable exercise for elderly people and it is. In fact, it is an excellent exercise for almost everyone, young and old, including even the most out-of-shape among us. It can be practiced almost anywhere, and no special equipment or clothing is required.
Traditional Chinese principles hold that the mind and body are interdependent and express different qualities of qi, the life energy. And Traditional Chinese Medicine holds that imbalances of these energies cause sickness and debilitation. Qigong (literally "breath work"), the system of exercises that shares roots with yoga and that underlies all of the taiji movements, continues to be used in TCM to integrate and balance the energy patterns of body and mind to treat illnesses and injuries; and it is gaining acceptance in Western medicine as more and more studies reveal its benefits for healing mind and body.
Often referred to as “moving meditation,” taiji practice emphasizes being relaxed but focused while executing the postures of the taiji form. Taiji teaches the practitioner to direct the body’s energy by engaging and focusing the energy of the mind, the yi. The relaxation of the body combined with the focusing of the mind creates a meditative state that reduces stress; and the slow speed at which the postures are practiced helps to gently build the body's strength, coordination, balance, and stamina.