Tai Chi Meditation For Beginners: Technique & Benefits

tai chi on the beach

In this guide, we’ll look at how to do Tai Chi meditation for beginners.

Simply put: There are huge benefits of both Tai Chi Meditation for beginners to look forward to. 

The Tai Chi and Chi Kung Institute calls tai chi “meditation in motion’.  And the meditation part is equally as important as the movement part.

Cynthia McMullen [Oriental Healing Arts School], explains that the meditative aspect is important in tai chi because it creates a sense of physical and emotional stability. Indeed, Tai Chi and Qigong are two of the very best hobbies for mental health.

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Tai Chi Meditation for Beginners (Technique)

Here is a basic tai chi meditation for beginners.

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Now take the “Holding A Ball” pose (arms in front, with one hand about a foot above the other, palms facing each other, like you’re holding a ball).
  2. Now, this is where we go from tai chi to meditation. We want to focus the mind on the position of the body, just like you do when you’re doing mindful breathing. To do this, start with the energy in the palms of your hands. You should be able to feel qi flowing through the palms of your hands. It is a warm and soft energy. Focus your mind on that energy. If thoughts enter your mind, simply let them pass.
  3. Very slowly rotate your arms so you end up with the hands the other way around (the hand that was on top will now be on the bottom). While you rotate your arms, mindfully observe the sensation of movement (similar to how you would focus on your legs in Zen Walking). The key is to focus your conscious awareness non-judgmentally on the sensation of your body moving.
  4. We are going to repeat the same process, rotating the hands again. However, this time you will focus on more of your body. So far, you have been focusing on your hands. Expand your focus so you are aware of the entire movement of the arm.
  5. Repeat the same process again and again, gradually increasing your awareness. So, with each repetition, you focus on a larger area of your body. By the end you will be able to focus mindfully on the movement of your entire body. That is the meditation aspect of tai chi. 
  6. Repeat the same process with different movements.
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Analysis of Tai Chi Meditation

Qigong and Tai Chi are not technically meditation techniques. However, they do share many of the same principles as meditation. They are slow exercises that relax the mind and improve focus and concentration.

Tai Chi has been termed “meditation in motion.” It was created in China by a Taoist Monk named Zhang San around 1000 years ago as a form of self-defence but has evolved through the years.

Today, it is considered more of a Taoist meditation than a “martial art”. 

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)”. [1]

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)

About Chi

The ultimate purpose of tai chi “meditation” is to cultivate chi (read: chi meditations).

When we practice the slow flowing movements, we bring the mind and body together, we increase present-moment-mindedness, and we generate (and become aware of) chi in the body.  These are the traditional benefits of tai chi meditation. But there are also big health benefits of tai chi.

Health Benefits of Tai Chi Meditation 

1: Relaxation 

Just like meditation, Tai Chi incorporates the deep breathing techniques of meditation. Because of that, it is incredibly relaxing. And that’s the main reason most people (including me) do it.

When my mind is racing and I’m acting mindlessly, I like to slow down by doing some tai chi (and meditations).

It 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 stress slip away.

Relaxation really is the name of the game in Tai Chi. All the moves are slow, graceful, and smooth, and we do not exert force on the body. The muscles and joints relax, and this helps to cure many physical problems.

2: Anti-ageing

There is a growing amount of scientific research [2] that shows that Tai Chi is immensely beneficial for reversing the physical symptoms of ageing.

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 injury.

This is one way these practices are different from other exercises.

In many exercises the idea of “no pain no gain” is present, but not in tai chi and qigong. They are gentle forms of exercise that help the body to relax and to return to its natural state, free of strain or damage.

Because of this, they are invaluable to people with muscular or joint problems (Tai Chi helps with arthritis, for instance [3]).

3: Somewhat Spiritual

“Qigong meditation” and “Tai Chi Meditation” are somewhat spiritual practices.

You don’t need to be spiritual to practice tai chi. 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.

The traditional exercise 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 practise, 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.

4: Fitness

Many people believe that because Tai Chi doesn’t put a 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 it isn’t strong.

In the famous words of Lao Tzu, “Water is the softest thing, yet it can penetrate mountains and the earth. This shows clearly the principle of softness overcoming hardness.”

Sometimes, softness is strength. Tai chi is one of those “soft-but strong’ things.

Tai Chi meditation addresses all key components of fitness. It builds muscle strength, balance, flexibility and aerobic conditioning [3]. 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 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 way.

5: It’s good for muscle strength

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 could 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 practised walking and resistance training. The group who had practised 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 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: Improved Balance 

Tai Chi has been shown to significantly improve balance and to help elderly people and people with physical ailments to prevent falls. 

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).

It improves the functioning of neurons and stretches receptors. It also improves both flexibility and muscle strength. Together, this provides significantly improved balance and is helpful in preventing falls. 

7: It’s the best thing for arthritis

It is a well-established fact that tai chi helps arthritis. My mum agrees, and so does science.

In October 2008 Tufts University presented the results of a study in which they asked 40 people to practice Tai Chi for 12 weeks.

The study showed that by practising tai chi for one hour twice a week (not much of a commitment), the participants improved mood, reduced pain, and improved physical conditioning [of course, you can also use meditation for pain relief]. 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 practise 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.


8: 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. Specifically, it improves functional capacity (the ability to live a normal life and complete everyday tasks).

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 practise.

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 helps women suffering from breast cancer to live normal lives and to maintain their strength. 

9: It does wonders for your heart

One of the most important health benefits of tai chi is the effect it has on your heart.

The National Taiwan University asked 53 people to practice tai chi for one year while being studied by researchers [6].

The study showed that tai chi meditation 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.


10: Parkinson’s Disease:

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.

11: Sleep:

The University of California asked 112 healthy adults with sleep problems to practice tai chi for 16 weeks. Their duration of sleep and quality of sleep improved.

12: Stroke:

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.



Wow. Who knew there were so many health benefits of tai chi? However, i to get the most out of tai chi meditation, beginners will need to stick to it. As the Mayo Clinic says, while 12 weeks will give you some benefit “you may enjoy greater benefits if you continue tai chi for the long term and become more skilled.” 

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