23 Aug 2014
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Tai Chi: A Gentle Path to Fitness

The ancient art form of tai chi provides magical physical and mental health benefits.

Tai Chi: A Gentle Path to Fitness

Have you ever been in the presence of someone as they practice the ancient art form of Tai chi? Well, I have and let me tell you, it is something to marvel at. Last week, I was on a short jog near in Cupertino, where I saw a man in his 60’s or 70’s gracefully swaying his arms and legs in hypnotic movement. Watching his body move through the air in a slow, meditative and rhythmic pattern was absolutely breathtaking.

Originating in China, this Chinese phenomenon is quickly gaining more momentum throughout the world with most community recreation departments offering an assortment of daily classes. But the largest group of people adopting this new art form is the elderly.

Tai chi’s gentle flowing movements are known to relieve the stress we carry around with us day in and day out. Regular practice will improve your physical health by building muscle, lengthening tendons, improving cardiovascular fitness and it will help you build a strong core and a balanced body. It can prevent shingles and diabetes, improve symptoms of fibromyalgia and help prevent falls.

Tai chi also increases mental clarity, provides a greater sense of patience and can improve your overall quality of life. The intense concentration required for tai chi forces you to live in the present moment, putting aside all of your distressing thoughts.

There are many different styles of tai chi and each style may have its own subtle emphasis and variation on its principles and methods. There are also several differences within each style. While some may focus on health maintenance and stress reduction, others focus on the strict martial arts aspect of tai chi.

There are five primary styles of tai chi with dozens of new styles developed from them. With all this variation there is bound to be lots of movements—100 to be exact.

Many of these movements and positions within tai chi are named after an animal or nature. No matter what the variation, all forms of tai chi include rhythmic patterns of movement that are coordinated with breathing to help you achieve a sense of inner calm and relaxation.

Usually, there is a form of tai chi for every personality. Some forms of tai chi are more fast-paced and exerting than are others. However, most forms are gentle and suitable for everyone. So you can practice tai chi regardless of your age or physical ability—tai chi emphasizes technique over strength so you don’t have to be a body builder to excel at this sport.

In fact, because tai chi is low impact, it may be even more suitable if you are an older adult who would otherwise not exercise.

Although most forms of tai chi are generally safe, it’s always smart to talk with your doctor before starting a new exercise routine. This is particularly important if you have a history of medical conditions.

Cupertino residents can find tai chi classes in several locations throughout the area. Ranging from long sessions to drop-in classes, with a little research you will find the type of class that suits your lifestyle.

Tai chi classes offered at the following locations:

Li's Tai Chi & Kung Fu

O-MEI Academy

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