Tai Chi is an ancient Chinese physical health practice originally developed as a martial art; it combines balancing postures and controlled breathing. You may have seen groups of people perform the "hand form" element of Tai Chi in parks and open spaces.
Tai Chi is based on Traditional Chinese Medicine principles relating to the flow of qi (life energy) through your body. The flowing movements of Tai Chi aim to help your life energy to move smoothly through the meridians and pathways of your body.
With a basis in the Yin and Yang principles, each movement in Tai Chi can be described as a defensive or offensive application, although each movement is graceful and slow, and one application flows into the next.
Whilst Tai Chi may not be considered "exercise" in the traditional Western sense (there actually is no running about or sweating), Tai Chi is believed to be effective in:
exercising your muscles
focusing the mind.
Another benefit of Tai Chi is that it is a low-impact form of exercise, so doesn't put much pressure on your bones and joints; this means most people should be able to do it, even if you're older or haven't exercised much before.
What to expect from a Tai Chi class
Tai Chi is often performed out of doors, so you may want to check it isn't raining before you set off for your session.
A typical Tai Chi class starts with a warm-up, designed to loosen your muscles and open your joints. The class itself will see you following a teacher through a progression of slow, methodical choreographed movements and poses. You will be encouraged to keep your breathing natural and relaxed, and focus your mind. Some Tai Chi classes will talk you through a guided meditation as you move.
Afterwards, you may feel energised, more awake, focused and alert.
If you're a beginner, it's a good idea to learn the basics of the Tai Chi movements from a teacher to ensure you are performing them correctly. This way the movements will be effective and won't cause injury or back strain. Once you've got the moves down, Tai Chi is something you can do on your own, whenever and wherever you can make time and space.
Tai Chi is a great way to start your day. Hundreds of thousands of workers perform the exercise before work each morning in China, so you're in good company!