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Tai Chi

Known as a “moving meditation”, Tai Chi is a mind-body practice that originated in China as a non-competitive martial art form


An Introduction to Tai Chi

Also known as “moving meditation”, Tai Chi is a mind-body practice that originated in China as a non-competitive martial art form. It’s characterized by slow, controlled movement accompanied by deep and focused breathing.

Practitioners focus their attention on bodily sensation while their body is in constant motion moving through a series of movements named after animal actions or martial arts moves.


What is Tai Chi?

With its origins in Chinese martial arts, Tai Chi consists of low-impact, slow-motion movements that can be further adapted and modified, which makes it suitable for beginners and advanced athletes likewise.

With its expansion all over the globe, there are numerous Tai Chi styles taught based on five traditional styles originating from China. Tai Chi finds its roots in the basic concept of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), known as Qi (pronounced “chee”), the vital life force that flows through the body.


Concept of Qi – lifeforce

The concept of Qi is the foundation of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Qi is an energy, a force that is dynamic and constantly changing from one aspect into another.

Traditional Chinese philosophy uses the terms yin and yang to explain two opposing but complementary forces that are a manifestation of Qi – when these forces are balanced the result is wellbeing and contentment. Imbalance in Qi translates (causes) to pain, illnesses, and suffering.

The basis of TCM is finding balance and harmony between yin and yang through various treatments including the movement and concentration exercises of Tai Chi. It is used along with other treatments to treat patients as it is said to unblock and improve the proper flow of Qi.

How can you benefit from Tai Chi?

How can you benefit from Tai Chi?

Tai Chi is a gentle exercise that is generally safe for all ages and fitness levels.

People who practice may find the benefits to be wide-ranging including:

  • Improving overall body strength and muscle tone
  • Improving flexibility
  • Increasing stamina
  • Improving stability and balance
  • Better coordination
  • Improving posture and mobility
  • Improving mood and mental wellbeing
  • Better ability to cope with stress
  • Feeling more balanced and harmonious
  • Increased happiness
  • Increased energy and vitality
  • Promoting longevity
  • Deepening relaxation and feeling well-rested
  • Improving awareness and clarity

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Further Reading / Studies

More and more studies are being conducted into the health benefits of Tai Chi. While they are yet to be conclusive, preliminary findings are very promising.


A comprehensive review of the health benefits of Tai Chi (and Qigong) covering 77 studies concluded there is a compelling body of research evidence that suggests there is a wide range of health benefits in response to these meditative movement forms.

This includes:

  • A favourable effect on bone health
  • Favourable cardiovascular and pulmonary outcomes
  • The effect on balance to be similar to conventional exercise or physical therapy control interventions
  • Improvements in psychological factors such as anxiety, depression, stress, mood, fear of falling, and self-esteem
  • Improvements in the number of immune-related blood markers



The risk of falling increases with age since the person’s ability to sense one’s body in space declines as we grow older. The fear of falling is common among older adults because consequences are often more damaging or even permanent. According to the study from 2016, Tai Chi can help reduce the risk of falls as well as fear of falling that has a major effect on the psyche and confidence of the elderly.


Stress and anxiety

Focus on the breath and mindful movement in Tai Chi help reduce stress hormones and can decrease anxiety by making you be more present in your body. Results from a study conducted on higher graduate students showed reduced anxiety and stress levels, common among young people leading hectic and busy lifestyles.


Muscle tension and joint pain 

A systematic review of 18 randomized controlled trials demonstrated positive evidence regarding the effects of Tai Chi on chronic osteoarthritic pain, and some beneficial evidence for lower back pain and osteoporosis.

Another study noted Tai Chi practice showed significant improvements in all functional balance tests and strength assessments of 16 major lower-limb muscle groups

A study in 2013 concluded Tai Chi is beneficial for improving arthritic symptoms and physical function in patients with osteoarthritis and proposed that Tai Chi should be included in rehabilitation programs


Sleep and fatigue

A systematic review of 10 randomized controlled trials on the effects of Tai Chi on fatigue suggests that it could be an effective alternative and /or complementary approach to existing therapies for people with fatigue. Results also indicated sleep improvement among the Tai Chi group was greater than it was in the conventional treatment group.

What are the styles of Tai Chi?

What are the styles of Tai Chi?

Chen Style

Named after the Chen family of Chen Village in the Henan province of China, dating from the 17th century, Chen Style is the original Tai Chi style, and others are derived from it. It may not be suitable for beginners as it involves explosive movements such as jumps, kicks, and strikes. Graceful, spiral movements that flow from the feet to the hands are alternated with quick ones, Chen style, therefore, appealing more to younger practitioners and martial artists.


Yang Style

Developed directly from the Chen style, it is the most popular and widely-practised Tai Chi style. The founder of the style, Yang Lu-ch’an adapted the original style to a less athletic version practised by everyone, from athletes to those with limited physical capabilities.


Wu Style

Along with the Yang style, Wu is another style that is widely popular in the world. Wu Ch’uan-yu, who trained under Yang Lu-ch’an, developed a style that emphasizes leaning to the front and tilting backwards, unlike other styles. Movements are smaller and more compact than in Yang style and the stances are generally taller, which makes it easier for people with physical difficulties with lower stances.


Sun Style

Sun Lutang, a Confucian and Taoist scholar, combined various Tai Chi and martial arts styles to develop a unique style with emphasis on unique footwork and flowing, circular hand movements. With its fluid, graceful movement, the Sun style is appropriate for everyone.


Hao Style

Hao style of Tai Chi is practised by very few, even in China. The focus is on focusing on qi internally rather than controlling the movements externally, thus making it advanced for general practitioners.


What is the difference between Tai Chi and Qigong?

Tai Chi classes always include the concepts and theories, and usually movements of Qigong, but a Qigong practice won’t necessarily include concepts from Tai Chi. While the movements of Qigong may be different from those of Tai Chi in some cases, both practices incorporate strength and flexibility with breathing exercises, focused attention and imagery.

While they share many characteristics, most people consider Qigong and Tai Chi to be two distinct practices. Qigong can be thought of as a movement you do for a certain situation, as opposed to Tai Chi, which is a series of movements that work on the entire body in a flowing sequence.

What does a typical Tai Chi class look like?

What does a typical class look like?

The only requirement for the practice is comfortable clothing, it can be done anywhere with no equipment.

Typical the practice consists of three parts – warm-up, the practice of forms, and breathwork:

  • The practice starts with easy motions to warm up the muscles and loosen the joints.
  • The practice of Tai Chi forms, which are sets of movements ranging from dozen to hundreds in one set.
  • Breathwork or energy work – Qigong. It is gentle breathing sometimes combined with movement and can be done standing, sitting, or lying down.


Who is it suitable for?

It is generally safe for all ages and fitness levels. To start practising, the best would be to seek guidance from a qualified instructor to learn the proper technique. Yang and Wu styles are considered the easiest to learn.

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Medical concerns

Holistic disciplines can assist you in your wellbeing, though they are not a substitute for medical care. This information should be used as a guide only to help you explore which holistic disciplines may assist you. We recommend researching the discipline and speaking with a practitioner before choosing to book any service.

This information is not, nor is it intended to be used as a medical diagnosis. Any information provided must be considered as guidance only, and not a substitute for obtaining a diagnosis from a medical professional. Please see the full terms and conditions of use. Always consult your doctor for any medical concerns.

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