Should you learn Tai Chi?
Yes, training in Tai Chi can give you numerous benefits. The slow movements of the form give you balance, while the warm-up portion of the class will loosen your joints. Lastly, your oxygen levels will improve through better breathing habits.
Tai Chi Class
There are many ways to translate and spell Chinese words: Tai Chi. Sometimes people will spell it as T'ai Chi, Taiji, Taijiquan, and Tai Chi Chuan. So don't get confused when you see all of these terms somewhere online.
The truth is, it doesn't matter how it is spelled, all of the terms refer to the same thing... A set of slow-moving martial arts exercises, that for the most part is practiced using slow deliberate techniques.
These techniques are fighting techniques. They were meant to be used to defend yourself against an attack.
However, fighting ability is usually the last thing that people who study Tai Chi want to gain from the art. Instead, 99% of people who want to learn Tai Chi study the art for the benefits that come along with exercising in this particular manner will bring them. These benefits cannot be gained with any other activity.
Walking, lifting weights or even swimming will not give you the same kind of balance and strength that Tai Chi gives you. The slow-moving exercises and drills of Tai chi work wonders.
Let me explain exactly how this works.
Here Are The 3 Ways Tai Chi Benefits You
The slow movements gives you balance
First, all of the movements found in Tai Chi are slow. Compared to aerobics or Zumba class, Tai Chi looks like everyone is moving in slow motion. I know it's hard to imagine that moving so slowly can even burn a single calorie or strengthen a single muscle.
However don't let the slow movements fool you.
The slowness is actually the key. It is much more challenging to move slowly than to move quickly.
Never fear to fall: The psychological fear of falling can affect your everyday decisions. Live your life without excluding activities for fear of falling down and getting hurt.
You can equate Tai Chi to a more traditional aerobic workout
One study that compared Tai Chi and traditional aerobic evidence showed that people who took Tai Chi classes had greater improvements in the amount of distance, they could walk compared to those in the aerobics class.
Each movement of Tai Chi involves slowly shifting your weight from one leg to the other. When stepping forward or backward each step has to be slow.
Slowly shifting your weight gives you a real burn in your thigh muscles from having to bend your knees. This kind of burn is different than the kind of burn you get from lifting weights. The slow stepping forces you to balance on one leg while stepping. If you are not in balance there is no way that you can move one foot slowly into the next step.
Tai chi improves your balance because it targets all the pieces that you need to stay balanced: leg strength, flexibility, range of motion, and your reflexes.
Oh, and by the way, all of these attributes tend to decline with age.
If you have neurological problems Tai Chi can benefit you as well. A recent study in The New England Journal of Medicine found the program particularly effective for balance in people with Parkinson's disease.
What happens when a muscle bound body-builder tries Tai Chi?
Here's the story...
Once, a long time ago, I had a bodybuilder join my Tai Chi Class. As you can guess his legs were the size of tree trunks. I asked him How much weight can you squat? He replied 700 lbs.
Needless to say, I was floored!
It was hard for me to even imagine what 700 lbs. would look like on a weight bar. I am sure that when he lifted that much the bar must have started to bend.
However, the reason I am telling you this story is that when the bodybuilder came to class he couldn't hold his stance any longer than the regular students in the class could.
As you might have guessed, It's because there is no replacement for holding stances. It's specific training for Tai Chi.
Think about it this way...
When professional football players go to training camp, the wide receiver training is very different than the linemen or the punter, everyone does training that is specific for the skill they want to develop. Tai Chi training is the same.
Slow stance work develops incredible strength in the legs. Slow stance work develops incredible balance.
The second way that Tai Chi improves your health is through increased flexibility
To be graceful and fluid (which is the nature of Tai Chi) You need to become very loose and relaxed.
Tai Chi cannot be performed while stiff and tight.
So as you can imagine, stretching is an important aspect of the Chinese martial arts, Tai Chi included.
In fact, it is essential to stretch before any Tai Chi workout in order to prevent injury and prepare you for the best possible practice.
Tai chi, stretching is performed mostly for loosening of one's joints
When your joints are loose the entire body becomes flexible. Your muscles cannot stretch if the joints that they are attached to are still tight.
As I have gotten older I have lost my desire to perform the full splits.
When I was younger It seemed like my body would respond to stretching for the splits a lot more than today. My body cannot do the full splits and I believe that the stretching of the joints is far more important than being able to do the splits.
The particular Tai Chi warm-up exercises and stretches that is covered in our class targets all the major body areas such as your neck, back, shoulders and legs and only take 10-15 minutes to do.
You will start off very gently, then increase in speed and/or tension gradually. In tai chi we never force an exercise beyond what feels comfortable
These Tai Chi joint loosening exercises make your joints flexible in all directions. You can relieve joint pain and heal joint and spinal injuries. In addition, these exercises condition both the tendons and ligaments. You can increase your range of motion and make your joints more resilient, and less prone to injury.
The third benefit to tai chi training, is that it will improve your breathing
Did you know that by age 50 your lung capacity is about half of what it was at age 18? Yes, that's right, you lose a lot of lung capacity as you age. Starting at about age 30 your lung capacity slowly starts to deteriorate.
Any decrease in your lung capacity means that with every breath you take you are delivering less oxygen to each of your cells. This can lead to shortness of breath, decreased endurance while doing even daily activities and even greater susceptibility to respiratory diseases.
If you think it's nothing think again.
Prevent a host of health problems through daily Tai Chi practice
Lack of oxygen to the cells impair the metabolism of each cell. It impairs their ability to do what they need to do. The result?
You experience a lack of energy and vitality during the day. A sense of general fatigue falls over your entire body. You also experience a real decline in your ability to focus and concentrate like you were able to in your youth.
That's just the tip of the iceberg.
But what if you could prevent all of that just by doing Tai Chi?
Tai Chi is ideal for training lung capacity. Each of the movements is (should) be performed while coordinating deep breathing techniques.
Once your lung capacity is back to normal it will feel like you supercharged your system. Your cells will finally start getting the oxygen they are craving and your energy goes through the roof.
Let me just quickly recap
Tai Chi classes are social: In this age of isolation, wouldn't it feel great to be in a class where the people training were just like you? You leave feeling great: After every class, you feel like a million bucks. you feel energized and ready to conquer the world.