Tai Chi chuan, or simply Tai Chi (because there are two translations of the Chinese language, it is also written Taijiquan, or Taiji), was developed centuries ago by martial arts experts to advance their self-defense skills. Most commonly practiced today for its amazing health benefits, this slow, graceful Chinese exercise simultaneously heals the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual body. It is performed with a completely focused yet relaxed attitude. Tai Chi forms involve a series of choreographed martial arts poses that flow together like a slow-motion dance. They are done in a precise order to help facilitate energy flow, fitness, relaxation, and mental concentration. Tai Chi encompasses several styles or forms, and over its long history, many interpretations of these styles have emerged, resulting in numerous variations in form. Most traditional forms take twelve to twenty minutes to perform. Although these forms can take up to one year to learn, and many more years of practice to experience all the subtleties of the art, there are also many simplified forms that take much less time to learn. These simplified forms make this ancient exercise more accessible to a greater number of people, and are a great way to get your feet wet while still providing many health benefits. The moves are simple, gentle, and easy to learn. They require no special skill, clothing, or equipment and can be done anywhere: indoors, outdoors, alone, or with a group.

Tai Chi improves overall fitness, coordination, and agility. People who practice Tai Chi regularly tend to have good posture, flexibility, and range of motion. They also tend to have more mental clarity and sleep more soundly at night. Tai Chi goes to the root of most health problems by relaxing the muscles and mind, aligning the spinal posture, and balancing the energy systems that run through the body, providing them with life energy. As a profound self-improvement tool, Tai Chi is one of the most powerful yet soothing things we can do for ourselves. The magic of Tai Chi is found in the unique combination of movement, breathing, and meditation.


Because Tai Chi involves all the major muscle groups, it improves agility, strength, flexibility, stamina, muscle tone, and coordination. This is of extreme importance as we have a large population of baby boomers. It is reported that one of every three adults sixty-five years or older falls each year, often with devastating results. Hip fractures are the seventh leading cause of death among older adults. If this could be reduced even by 10 percent, we would save over $1 billion a year, not to mention the pain and suffering of the patients and their families.

Appearing in the May 1996 issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society were the first two studies involving Tai Chi to be reported by scientists in a special frailty reduction program sponsored by the National Institute on Aging. The studies showed how Tai Chi’s attention to balance could increase body awareness, reducing the incidence of falls by up to 50 percent in elderly patients. Results of another randomized trial published in the December 2004 issue of Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise show that Tai Chi reduces falls in the six months after intervention for patients seventy years and older.

Through the postures of Tai Chi, we learn how to move the body correctly, thereby becoming conscious of our physical presence, so along with this increased balance, we are also less likely to lose mobility. Tai Chi rotates all the joints in the body, releasing any blocked energy that could contribute to the aging process. It also stimulates the liquid systems of the body to keep our joints and other tissues suppler, increasing range of motion and reducing any symptoms of arthritis. The many movements performed by turning from the waist work as an internal massage. By stimulating the abdomen, these movements aid digestion and help relieve constipation and gastrointestinal conditions.


The deep breathing of Tai Chi regulates the respiratory system, helping to treat ailments such as asthma, bronchitis, and emphysema. Exhaling toxins from the lungs while inhaling fresh air increases lung capacity, stretches the muscles involved in breathing, and releases tension. Symbolically, the exhaling and inhaling remind us to let go of that which is no longer serving us and allow new abundance to enter our lives.


Research shows that taking time to slow down the mind and body is not only calming, but also enhances mental acuity and focus, reduces anxiety, and lowers blood pressure and heart rate. Tai Chi’s meditative nature is also beneficial for the immune system and the central nervous system, which makes it especially good for people with a chronic illness, depression, or any stress-related conditions. The quiet mindfulness of Tai Chi teaches us to listen to our bodies, thereby helping us become aware of problems before they become acute. This same mindfulness can permeate all other aspects of our lives, helping us find gratitude in each moment.

** This article is one of 101 great articles that were published in 101 Great Ways to Improve Your Health. To get complete details on “101 Great Ways to Improve Your Health”, visit http://selfgrowth.com/healthbook3.html

Author's Bio: 

Carolyn Cooper is an A.C.E. certified fitness professional and longtime Tai Chi instructor. She is the founder of Tai Chi Flow, Inc., offering simplified, user-friendly Tai Chi videos/DVDs. The series includes an exercise routine designed for pregnancy, a kids workout, and a program for every-body (http://www.taichiflow.com). In addition, Carolyn is a gifted, intuitive energy therapist and creator of “Calyco Healing”. This powerful, cutting-edge vibrational healing realigns energy patterns and releases negative subconscious beliefs. Her clients report profound and life-changing results. Carolyn’s seminars attract an international audience (http://www.CarolynCooper.com). Married twenty-six years, Carolyn is the mother of five children.