Jul 28, 2014

Treat Your Whole Body With Tai Chi

The ancient art form of tai chi provides magical physical and mental health benefits for Santa Cruz County residents.

Treat Your Whole Body With Tai Chi

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. I often take my kids to pirate ship park (also known as Twin Lakes Park) on Seventh Avenue, and on almost every outing to the park, there is an unnamed man there, most likely in his late 30s or early 40s, practicing tai chi.

Watching his body as it gracefully sways back and forth in a hypnotic, slow, meditative and rhythmic pattern is absolutely breathtaking. I have yet to find out the name of this tai chi master, too focused to interrupt.

Originating in China, this phenomenon is quickly gaining more momentum throughout the world with most community recreation departments offering an assortment of daily classes.

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 helping you build a strong core and a balanced body. It can reduce high blood pressure and the likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes, and help you lose weight, while giving you the tools you need to lead a healthy lifestyle. 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 the 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.

There is a form of tai chi for every personality. Some forms 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. As tai chi emphasizes technique over strength, you don’t have to be a body builder to excel at this sport. In fact, because it is low impact, it may be even more suitable if you are an inactive person who would otherwise not exercise.

There’s really no better place to live if you want to practice the art form of tai chi (except Asia), and Santa Cruz residents can find 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 are offered at the following locations:

Scotts Valley Community Center

Tai Chi Natural Health Club

Academy of Martial Arts

Santa Cruz Integrative Medicine and Chi Center

Blooming Lotus Tai Chi

Watsonville Aptos Adult Education

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