T’ai Chi Ch’uan is a gentle exercise program that is a part of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Derived from martial arts, T’ai Chi Ch’uan is composed of slow, deliberate movements, meditation, and deep breathing, which enhance physical health and emotional well-being.
T’ai Chi Ch’uan is based on spiritual and philosophical ideas that advocate a need for balance in the body, mind, and spirit. Central to T’ai Chi is the idea that Qi (Chi) or life energy, flows throughout the body. Qi must be able to move freely for good health. The principle of yin/yang is important, too. Yin and yang are opposite and complementary forces in the universe, in the same way as light and dark are. T’ai Chi Ch’uan is meant to harmonize these pairs of opposites. Finally, T’ai Chi Ch’uan imitates motion found in nature, such as movements of animals, thereby uniting human beings with the natural world.
Western Medicine recognizes a multitude of benefits of practicing T’ai Chi Ch’uan: increased oxygen intake and utilization (more efficient breathing), reduced blood pressure, slower declines in cardiovascular power, increased bond density, increased motion of the joints, greater leg and knee strength and flexibility, reduced levels of stress hormones during and after practice, an improved immune function, better posture and help alleviating repetitive stress injuries.
Despite it’s ancient history, T’ai Chi Ch’uan have been studied scientifically only in recent years. Research suggest that T’ai Chi Ch’uan offers numerous other benefits beyond stress reduction, including: reducing anxiety and depression, improving balance and coordination by strengthening important joint and muscle groups, releasing mental and physical tension, improving sleep quality, slowing bone loss in women after menopause, pain relief for people with arthritis (especially knee arthritis/osteoarthritis), lowing blood pressure, improving cardiovascular fitness, countering/balancing a weak immune system, relieving chronic pain and stress or trauma related injuries, improving physical balance and functions within the body (digestion, blood circulation), increasing energy levels in general.