Tai Chi is a traditional health exercise from China practiced by more than a hundred million people worldwide.
It is based on the theory and practice of Traditional Chinese Medicine. The ancient Chinese world view revolved around the fact that the Universe and everything in it is composed of Qi (pronounced Chee). Every person has a personal store of Qi or life force inside them, and these ancient Chinese exercises can help to increase this store of energy. Everything in your life depends on this energy like the electricity which is stored in a battery. When you have a big store of energy then you are healthy and happy, you feel full of life and enthusiasm and you never get ill.
Ancient scrolls which have been discovered at archaeological sites in China testify to the fact that these kinds of exercises have been practiced in China for thousands of years.
What to expect at a Tai Chi class
Our Tai Chi classes last about an hour and a half. We start with warming up exercises, these help to get the circulation moving at the start of the class and gently stretch the muscles and tendons in preparation for the exercises. Then we do a Tao Yin or deep breathing exercise to activate the Qi or internal energy. This means relaxing to allow really deep breathing into the lower abdomen where the primary energy centre or Dandien is located. Then we spend a few minutes doing some Kai Men Qigong exercises. These help to open up the energy channels in the body and get the energy circulating in preparation for the Tai Chi exercises.
Tai Chi dance also known as Tiaowu is a flowing sequence of movements based on various stances. Concentrating on copying the postures and stances of the teacher helps to improve the flow of energy around the body. This form we do at the start of the class because it is stimulating to the Qi. Another form we do at the end of the class is more meditative and has less of a range of movements. All of these forms involve copying the teacher at a slow and even pace, at your first class you may expect to learn ten stances which you will perfect over the next few weeks.
Unlike Yoga, Tai Chi involves working with partners for specific exercises. In this way we gently test each other to make sure we are maintaining our balance not only on the physical level but also spiritually. We learn to follow the Taoist philosophy which Tai Chi is based on which means giving way when we are presented with force. This is something you can practice at any time but there is a special exercise called sticky hands we do in the class where you gently push against your partner’s arms and hands and learn to yield to the force to keep your balance.
The T’ai Chi club at Caludon Castle Sports Centre is part of the Taoist Cultural Art Association which has classes in different parts of the country and monthly weekend courses.