T'ai chi (pronounced tie-chee) is a gentle form of Chinese martial arts that has been practiced for thousands of years. T'ai means pole or center. Chi means life-giving energy. Practicing t'ai chi can help you improve your balance and posture. T'ai chi also helps you build your stamina
and improve your flexibility
. Because t'ai chi can make you feel relaxed, it can help you handle stress
. And t'ai chi can help your performance in other sports and activities. back to top
What is t'ai chi?
You may have seen someone doing what looks a little like ballet in slow motion. Well, it's probably t'ai chia series of slow, controlled movements called forms. Whether you are very active, recovering from an injury, or just starting to get fit, you can do t'ai chi. And t'ai chi is a low-impact activity, so it is good for your joints. Keep in mind that t'ai chi does not raise your heart rate
enough to provide a cardio workout
. But t'ai chi can increase your muscle strength and endurance
, especially in your lower body. The leg bends, leg lifts, and lunges that you do in t'ai chi strengthen your thigh and calf muscles. back to top
Where can I learn to do t'ai chi?
If you're curious about t'ai chi, you may want to rent a video or check out a book from the library. There are several different types of t'ai chi to choose from. If you decide to try t'ai chi, it's best to take a class with an experienced teacher. To find a class, check out health clubs
, martial arts schools, and community centers in your area. back to top
What should I wear?
When you practice t'ai chi, wear loose-fitting clothing that allows you to move freely. If you're doing t'ai chi on a wooden gym floor, wear shoes or sneakers with thin, flat soles. You need some traction to keep from slipping. Don't wear thick-soled athletic shoes
. It's important to be able to feel the floor with the soles of your feet. If the floor is carpeted, go barefoot or wear socks. back to top
T'ai chi tips you can use
If you're interested in trying t'ai chi, here are some tips:
- Breathing is an important part of t'ai chi. Your teacher may tell you to breathe in and out with each movement. Or while you are learning the forms, you may be instructed to breathe as you do when walking. Once you are comfortable with the movements, you will learn to link your breathing and movement in a natural way.
- Whether you are practicing t'ai chi alone or in a group, be sure to keep your eyes focused straight ahead. Think of holding your head as if it were suspended by a string from the ceiling. Turning your head to check out the other people in the class and looking down at your feet can throw off your balance and movement.
- When you take a step, use the muscles of your other leg to support your body. This will help you maintain slow, controlled movements. It also helps strengthen your leg muscles.
- Don't rush your movements. T'ai chi is meant to be done slowly. back to top