means 'supreme ultimate' and, as practised in China as long ago as the
14th century, it developed into a system of simple, slow, beautiful and
graceful movements of the body linked together in a dance-like
formation. In China and elsewhere in the world today, it can often be
seen being practised in the early morning in the open air. Although
allied historically to the martial arts, it replaced aggression with
slow, contemplative movements that help the practitioner focus on the
integration of the body and mind. Its basic objective is to increase
awareness of the energy (chi) in the body and remove deep,
T'ai-chi primarily involves two steps -- meditation and movement. The
meditation provides the experience of stillness and the movement is
inspired from the belief that 'running water never stagnates'. Although
it appears deceptively simple, T'ai-chi can take time to learn. Loose
clothes are essential and the student is taken through each movement
cycle in stages. The short form of movement consists of about 40
movements, while the long form contains over 100 movements which can
take over half an hour to perform.
Though T'ai-chi is not used specifically for treating a particular
condition, it is useful as a health-promoting and life-enhancing daily
routine. It can help manage stress and tension, and diminish long-term
muscular pains. It is believed that most people carry their stresses in
the lower back region because the lower back contains all the major
nerves that lead to the brain.Since T'ai-chi involves no sitting
positions and all the work is done by the lower body, it is believed to
help get rid of this stress by postures that take the lower back in and
bring it down.
Similarly, the standing meditative posture is done in a way which places
the body weight on certain points on the feet. Pressure on these points
cause the kidneys to be stimulated. The Chinese believe the kidneys to
be the most important organ in the body. So if the kidneys are in good
health, the rest of the body is considered to be in good health too.
The warming-up exercises strengthen the muscles, tendons and ligaments.
T'ai-chi movements are also known to help increase the capacity of the
lungs and promote relaxation. Some find it improves concentration.