There are some days when you really feel the benefits of tai chi.
Like when your mother in law accidentally posts that really embarrassing photo on Facebook and you need to escape to the land of Zen.
Days like that, you really feel the benefit of tai chi, you feel that slowing, soothing energy, that Qi.
Some people focus on the martial arts aspects of tai chi.
Big mistake. And not only because when you take tai chi too seriously the whole of China becomes enrages (no, seriously).
The real benefits of tai chi and Qigong are about the mind, the brain, and our overall wellbeing. Because of these benefits, tai chi is considered by many to be one of the best hobbies for health, and especially for those with arthritis.
What are Tai Chi and Qigong? Flow. Zen. And The Reason I Don’t Crash Out
Tai Chi has been termed “meditation in motion.”
Tai chi was created in China by a Taoist Monk named Zhang San around 1000 years ago.
It was originally developed as a form of self defence but it has evolved through the years.
Today, tai chi is considered more of a Taoist meditation than a “martial art”.
Tai Chi teacher Paul Lam tells us, “The essential principles include mind integrated with the body; control of movements and breathing; generating internal energy, mindfulness, song (loosening 松) and jing (serenity 静)”. 
And also helping you chill when life turns sour.
The ultimate purpose of tai chi, apparently, is not to stop us punching people (who knew?). Actually tai chi is used to cultivate chi (read: chi meditations), the life-force. When we practice the slow flowing movement of tai chi we bring the mind and body together, we increase present-moment-mindedness, and we generate (and become aware of) the chi energy in the body. These are the traditional reasons for practicing tai chi.
However, over the past half decade scientific research has proven that there are many benefits of Tai Chi. Because of this, most people practice tai chi for stress relief and relaxation.
QiGong is very similar to tai chi. The main difference between tai chi and qigong is that Qigong is purely for healing and is not a martial art.
Let’s take a look at some of the most important health benefits of Tai Chi.
The 5 styles of tai chi
- each style is named after the family that created it
Chen style (陳氏) of Chen Wangting (1580–1660)
Yang style (楊氏) of Yang Luchan (1799–1872)
Wu Hao style (武氏) of Wu Yuxiang (1812–1880)
Wu style (吳氏) of Wu Quanyou (1834–1902) and his son Wu Jianquan (1870–1942)
Sun style (孫氏) of Sun Lutang (1861–1932)
Health beneftis of Tai Chi#1 : Relaxation
Tai Chi incorporates the deep breathing techniques of meditation. Because of that, tai chi is seriously relaxing. And that’s the main reason most people (including me) do it.
When my mind is racing a mile a minute and I’m acting so stupid I accidentally put the remote control in the fridge (yes it happened), I like to slow down by doing some tai chi (and meditations).
Tai Chi is perhaps the most relaxing of all exercises.
While you move through the motions you breathe deeply while focusing (meditating) on the parts of the body. This helps to relax the mind and body. And it helps you to slow down and to let any stress slip away.
Relaxation really is the name of the game in Tai Chi. All the moves are slow, graceful and smooth, and there is never force exerted on the body . The muscles and joints relax and this helps to cure many physical problems.
Health Benefits of Tai Chi#2: Anti Aging
There is a growing amount of scientific research  that shows that Tai Chi is immensely beneficial for reversing the physical symptoms of aging. Though it may not be quite as powerful as meditation for youthfulness, at least, not according to this 200 year old Buddhist monk.
Because Tai Chi and Qigong use slow and smooth motions which are free of any stress and strain, they help the body to repair without the risk of extra injury.
This is one way Tai Chi and Qigong are different from other exercises.
Most other exercises, like running, weight training, and even yoga, put some degree of strain on the body (yoga stretches the body which can exacerbate tissue damage).
In many exercises the idea of “no pain no gain” is present. (you know that burn when you sprint up a steep, hill, like your knees are beginning for mercy) .
Tai chi and qigong are gentle forms of exercise. They help the body to relax and to return to its natural state free of strain or damage.
Because of this, Tai Chi and qigong are of immense value to people with muscular or joint problems (Tai Chi helps with arthritis, for instance ).
Practicing Tai Chi and qigong before or after other exercises helps the body to avoid injury when we go full-burn.
For instance, practicing Tai Chi before a run prepares the hips, so when we start running we are able to do so smoothly and without strain. For these reasons, tai chi and qigong are two of the best warm-up exercises.
Health Benefits Of Tai Chi #3: Spirituality
No, you don’t need to be spiritual to practice ti chi. Like, meditation, tai chi is not spiritual per se.
But millions of people have gotten into spirituality via tai chi. And that’s a good thing because there are some seriously impressive benefits of being spiritual.
For instance, spirituality has been shown to help with stress, anxiety and depression and to help people to achieve higher levels of happiness.
Tai Chi (and qigong) can help to put you in touch with your more spiritual side.
Traditional Tai Chi involves the movement of Qi around the body.
Qi is the central energy force of the body.
If we find ourselves stuck in life, tired or just fed up, many Tai Chi teachers would say it is because our Qi is not flowing.
When we practice Tai Chi we cultivate Qi and this promotes spiritual, mental, and physical wellbeing.
Another spiritual aspect of Tai Chi is the idea of yin and yang. Yin and yang are opposing elements which should be kept in balance. Tai Chi helps us to promote the balance of yin and yang.
Health Benefits of Tai Cchi #4: Fitness
Many people believe that because Tai Chi doesn’t put strain on the body it isn’t very effective at developing strength or fitness.
But just because something is smooth and gentle doesn’t mean is isn’t strong.
In the famous words of Lao Tzu:Water is the softest thing, et it can penetrate mountains and the earth. This shows clearly the principle of softness overcoming hardness. Click To Tweet
Sometimes, softness is strength. Tai chi is one of those “soft-but strong’ things.
Tai Chi addresses all key components of fitness. It builds muscle strength, balance, flexibility and aerobic conditioning . The aerobic conditioning is not so great as it is in running, swimming or other cardio based exercises, but it is nevertheless a benefit of Tai Chi.
In a time when many are obsessed with weight training, the idea that Tai Chi makes us stronger is disregarded by many.
The fact of the matter, however, is that Tai Chi has been scientifically proven to help strengthen muscles and to tone the body. Of course, it will not give you big and bulky muscles. Instead, it works the core, strengthening the body in a more natural and less forced way.
5. Tai chi is as good good for muscle strength as resistance training
Tai chi is as good as resistance training for strength.
In 2006 the publication Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine published research conducted by Stanford University .
The study looked into the benefits of Tai Chi for strength training. 39 men and women who had below average fitness levels and were at risk of developing a cardiovascular condition were asked to practice tai chi for 12 weeks.
After the 12 week period they showed markedly improved lower body strength and upper body strength (these were tested by seeing how many times they could sit up from a chair in 30 seconds and how many arm curls they were able to do).
But how does Tai Chi fair against resistance training?
A Chinese study asked 113 adults to practice Tai Chi for twelve weeks, while other groups practiced walking and resistance training. The group who had practiced Tai Chi improved their lower body strength by 30%, which is better than those who walked and almost exactly the same as those who did resistance training.
The reason why Tai Chi works for strength building is that, although there is no resistance, the unsupported arm exercises strengthen the upper body, while other postures condition the midsection and lower body. All without risk of injury too (as someone who permanently damaged a rib by lifting weights, this is a big deal).
6. Tai chi improves your balance (no more falling over in Half Moon Pose, yogis)
Tai Chi has been shown to significantly improve balance and to help elderly people and people with physical ailments to prevent falls.
(It also helps me to stop tripping up during yoga).
As we grow older our proprioception declines (proprioception is our sense of positioning in space. It’s a big deal for balance, especially for grandmas and grandads).
Tai Chi improves the functioning of neurons and stretch receptors. It also improves both flexibility and muscle strength. Together, this provides significantly improved balance and is helpful in preventing falls.
(Yes, you should combine yoga with tai chi or qigong).
7. Tai Chi for Arthritis
It is a well established fact that tai chi helps arthritis. And my mum agrees…. so does science, actually.
In October 2008 Tufts University presented their results of a study in which they asked 40 people to practice Tai Chi for 12 weeks .
The study showed that by practicing tai chi for one hour twice a week (which, of course, is really not a great deal of commitment), the subject improved mood, reduced pain and improved physical conditioning. The study also showed that Tai Chi was more effective than standard stretching in people with knee osteoarthritis.
A Korean study also showed that eight weeks of Tai Chi classes followed by home practice improved flexibility and slowed disease in people suffering from ankylosing spondylitis, which is a debilitating and very painful inflammatory type of arthritis that has a severely detrimental effect on the spine.
In the video below, tai chi master Paul Lam discusses many of the benefits of Tai Chi for rheumatoid arthritis relief.
8. Tai Chi improves life for people with breast cancer
Tai Chi has been scientifically proven to improve the quality of life of people suffering from breast cancer. Specificially, tai chi improves functional capacity (the ability to live a normal life and complete normal everyday tasks while suffering).
One study published in 2008 by the University of Rochester revealed that muscular strength, flexibility, aerobic capacity and functional capacity improves in just 12 weeks of Tai Chi practice.
Another group was given supportive therapy and did not receive Tai Chi training. This second group of women showed worse functional capacity after twelve weeks. In other words, Tai Chi is helps women suffering from breast cancer to live normal lives and to maintain their strength.
One wise idea is to combine tai chi with meditations for pain relief.
9. Tai Chi and the Heart
One of the most important health benefits of tai chi is the affect it has on your heart.
The National Taiwan University asked 53 people to practice tai chi for one year while being studied by researchers .
The study showed that tai chi lowered blood pressure, boosted exercise capacity, improved cholesterol levels, insulin levels, triglycerides levels and C-reactive protein in people at high risk for heart disease. Another control group were asked not to practice tai chi. This second group showed none of the improvements of the tai chi group.
Harvard Medical School conducted a study in which 30 people were asked to practice tai chi for twelve weeks. The study showed that tai chi reduced blood levels of B-type natriuretic protein. This protein is a sign of heart failure, so by decreasing it, tai chi was shown to help people to avoid heart failure.
More Health Benefits Of Tai Chi:
The Washington University School of Medicine has 33 people practice tai chi. The subjects were suffering from Parkinson’s disease. They showed improved walking ability, balance and wall being after 20 tai chi lessons.
The University of California asked 112 healthy adult with sleep problems to practice tai chi for 16 weeks. Their duration of sleep and quality of sleep improved.
136 people who had suffered a stroke within six months prior to testing were asked to practice tai chi for 12 weeks. They showed improved balance, and improved muscle mobilisation.
The Best Beginners Tai Chi Tutorial [Video]
The video below is (IMO) the best beginners tai chi guide. It will take you from an absolute beginner to intermediate level within a few hours.
As the video states, it’s important when learning Tai Chi for beginners to adopt a daily practice. If you can commit to twenty minutes per day, you will learn quickly and effectively.
Wow. Who knew there were so many health benefits of tai chi?
For best results, combine tai chi with movement meditations.
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