Tai Chi is known as a soft martial arts technique that emphasizes health, longevity and proper form above self-defense. Tai Chi originated in China but in recent years it has become popular around the world, particularly among older people looking for an exercise that is smooth and easy for them but that also contains a mental or spiritual aspect.
The idea behind Tai Chi is that you are working to balance two extremes, the yin and yang. It works to balance the flow of energy through the body, which can improve:
- Blood circulation
- Body heat retention
- Breath movement through the body
- Functioning of the lymph system
Tai Chi also focuses on relaxation through slow, repetitive movements rather than muscle contraction, which makes the exercise less stressful and more relaxing than other martial arts styles.
Many think of Tai Chi as a moving meditation because there is so much focus on making precise body movements, breathing steadily and seeking balance. The way Tai Chi is often practiced in Western countries the martial arts/self defense aspects are set aside for more emphasis on the health and meditative aspects.
Like yoga, Tai Chi is a practice that can lead you to spiritual growth, even if that is not what you were intending when you began the practice. Focusing inward to do the movements steadily and properly causes people to pay attention in a way they might not have for a long time previously. This can help open you up to spirituality and a deeper feeling of connection with the world around you (especially when Tai Chi is practiced in nature).
If you are looking for spiritual growth through practice of Tai Chi, mindfulness is the key. Pay attention to your breathing, to what parts of your body are moving and which are standing still as you go through the movements, and where your balance is coming from.
Move through the practice with thoughtfulness and grace, and visualize yourself becoming more in balance, both internally and with the world around you. Breathe in golden light and breathe it back out as your gift to the world.
Whatever reason brings you to Tai Chi, you will find many health and spiritual benefits. Some studies have show Tai Chi may help people lower cholesterol and improve cardiovascular and respiratory function. You may find you have more literal balance as well as more grounding and spiritual balance after just a few weeks of regular Tai Chi practice.
By Conrad Raw