Tai Chi is many things to many different practitioners. For some, it is a powerful Chinese martial art. For others, Tai Chi is a meaningful health therapy or fitness plan. Even as Tai Chi has remained in the news as a valuable, healthy exercise for mind and body, there are still numerous misconceptions about this ancient art.
Let’s dispel some of these Tai Chi myths.
Misconception 1: Tai Chi Is Too Slow to Offer Any Health Benefit
Often, a person’s initial understanding of Tai Chi comes from something that they’ve seen on Youtube or in movies. They may have even watched a fitness video of Tai Chi and felt like the slower, continuous movements of Tai Chi couldn’t possibly be offering the workout they desired.
This is one of those areas where looks can be extremely deceiving. On the contrary, Tai Chi is actually one of the most beneficial activities that you can do for your overall health. Research has found that Tai Chi benefits memory, even possibly delaying the onset of conditions like Alzheimer’s. Additional studies have found that Tai Chi contributes to lower blood pressure, reduced inflammation, greater balance and coordination, increased muscle strength, and wider flexibility.
Tai Chi is, of course, not an intense physical activity. Instead, it is often referred to as a kind of meditation in motion that still offers incredible cardiovascular benefits. However, it is the very difference between strenuous exercise and Tai Chi that helps offer these benefits. Intense aerobic exercise has its place of importance, but the calming, strengthening, mentally focused activity of Tai Chi provides separate, even unique benefits — the full spectrum of which research is only beginning to uncover.
Misconception 2: Tai Chi Is Not an Effective Martial Art
Tai Chi is absolutely an original martial art, dating back to 13th century China, in fact. While Tai Chi is perhaps more often undertaken these days for the myriad health benefits, the martial art aspect is still a key component of the movements and forms. You must learn the basics of Tai Chi before you can proceed more deeply into Tai Chi as a form of self-defense. These deeper techniques include actions known as sparring and push hands, as well as expanding upon the visualization techniques and foundations of the art that you learn early on when beginning Tai Chi. Ultimately, it’s down to the individual martial artist rather then the art itself. A diligently practitioner of just a few years in one martial art would easily defeat a poor practitioner of 20 years in another art. So making comparisons is never really a valid thing to do.
Misconception 3: It Has to Be Done Outside/In a Group/In a Certain Environment
The beauty of Tai Chi is that it can be practised anywhere, from the park to your own home. While a class is extremely beneficial in helping you learn the proper techniques involved in Tai Chi, and to experience partner movements and other Tai Chi activities, once you’ve learned these techniques, you can easily practise them at home on your own, as well. Tai Chi can be whatever you need it to be to fit your lifestyle.
Misconception 4: Only Certain Ages (Usually Older) Do Tai Chi
Tai Chi is for everyone! While it is of high benefit to elderly individuals for its gentleness and specific health benefits, including research showing it can even reduce the risk of falls and strengthen the mind, anyone of any age can — and should! — consider trying Tai Chi. This is an extraordinary exercise that will change your overall health for the better regardless of age, fitness level, or even injury restrictions.
Misconception 5: You Have to Have a Specific Uniform to Practise Tai Chi
You do not have to wear any specific uniform to practise Tai Chi. Generally, loose clothing is recommended due to the flow of energy (known as Qi) that is an essential part of Tai Chi practise. You can choose to wear shoes, particularly if you do practise outdoors and to assist with balance in your movements, but many Tai Chi practitioners choose to perform their movements barefoot. Eventually, as you find yourself enjoying Tai Chi and wanting to feel more connected to the art, you may wish to purchase traditional Tai Chi attire, but it certainly is never required.
Misconception 6: Tai Chi Is Just Like Yoga
Tai Chi and yoga are both wonderfully beneficial exercises, and even have similar goals, but they are also completely different. While yoga consists of specific postures that are often held for certain lengths of time, Tai Chi is more dance-like, consisting of a constant flow of movement without those same pauses.
Most of the moves and poses of yoga are practised on a mat, while Tai Chi is typically spent standing and moving around, quite possibly making it a little easier for those who might find spending time on the floor to be difficult. There are a variety of styles of both Tai Chi and yoga. If you take yoga, you might consider trying out a Tai Chi class to note the differences and determine your preferences.
Tai Chi Can Make a Difference in Your Health and Wellbeing
If you’ve never tried Tai Chi, or are looking to return to Tai Chi practise, consider attending one of my classes in York. I offer classes three days a week, and am also available for a 15-minute phone consultation to discuss your specific needs and goals beforehand.
You’ll be amazed at how this ancient art form can completely transform your life.
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