T’ai chi is a Chinese exercise system that uses slow, smooth body movements to achieve a state of relaxation of both body and mind.
As a system of physical exercise used to improve and maintain health, t’ai chi can be helpful in achieving a state of physical and mental relaxation while also strengthening the cardiovascular system.
T’ai chi is an ancient form of exercise, about 2,000 years old, that at one point had over 100 separate movements or postures. In current practice, there are two popular versions, of 18 and 37 movements respectively. The fact that in China 10 million people practice some type of t’ai chi daily suggests that it is one of the most popular forms of exercise in the world. In the United States, t’ai chi is learned in classes in which students (or “players,” as they are called in China) wear loose, comfortable clothing and either go barefoot or wear only socks or soft shoes on the feet. In China, t’ai chi is almost always practiced outdoors at dawn, and ideally near trees. Unlike other martial arts, t’ai chi is not competitive. Classes usually begin with a few minutes of standing meditation to calm the mind and gather energy. Following warm-up exercises, students are taught the basics of a particular form or posture. Learning forms is not easy, and it takes some time to master what looks like a simple position. Properly done postures are done in a relaxed, artful, and linked way, with the circular and rhythmic movements of one position flowing seamlessly into the next.