We all know exercising is an important way to maintain our physical health. What sometimes gets lost in the conversation is how movement can also serve as a path toward mindfulness.
With our distracted lifestyles and tendency to multitask every moment away, a tai chi workout is an ideal way to incorporate low-impact exercise with meditative stress relief. This gentle workout can be done by anyone, anywhere, as no equipment is needed.
Here's what you need to know to get moving mindfully.
What Is Tai Chi?
Maybe you've seen a group of people at a local park or fitness studio leisurely moving in unison, like a slow-motion dance. This was most likely a tai chi class.
A Chinese martial art turned popular exercise regimen, tai chi is categorized by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society as an excellent method of improving one's muscle tone—while staying gentler on the joints than yoga. Through elegant motions performed as an ordered set, tai chi also promotes balance, flexibility, and body awareness. It's easily adaptable to accommodate people of varying abilities and strengths.
According to the Mayo Clinic, some benefits of tai chi may include:
- Decreased stress
- Improved mood
- Increased energy
- Better muscle strength and definition
The key belief systems of tai chi, as explained by Harvard Medical School, include qi, an energy force, and yin and yang, opposite elements that should be in harmony. To enjoy the full health benefits of this exercise, you don't necessarily have to be rooted in the philosophy. However, a tai chi workout is designed to encourage the proper flow of qi while balancing the yin and yang, so embracing the spirituality of it all could help you get more out of each class.
What to Expect in a Beginner's Workout
Since tai chi works through a series of precise movements, it's recommended that beginners start by taking a class at a local studio, park district, or fitness center. If you prefer to learn at home, try watching a how-to video online that can help you master the basics, like this one from the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.
Beginner workouts typically begin with a warm-up to get the juices flowing, such as neck stretches and shoulder circles, before moving on to sets of unified movements called forms. The 24-step form is popular among tai chi instructors all over the world. Once you've mastered this routine, you can tackle even longer forms, some of which incorporate hundreds of movements!
Remember to Just Breathe
Breath work is an important part of your tai chi workout, as it further relaxes the mind in a meditative state while focusing the body's energy. According to the Tai Chi for Health Institute, breathing exercises can assist with posture awareness, helping you get the most out of the exercise.
Try the Posture of Infinity by standing upright and relaxed. Keep your feet apart, knees relaxed, shoulders relaxed, and eyes looking forward. Your chin should be tucked in. Continue to breathe in and out, while clearing your mind and focusing on your posture—without tensing up.
Once you know the basics of tai chi, it can be practiced anywhere, from your home to the airport. While it's a low-impact exercise, it's still a good idea to consult with your doctor before starting any new fitness program.
By nurturing the body, mind, and spirit, tai chi can help you feel healthier, from your head to your toes, all the way to your heart and soul. Looking for more ways to incorporate mindfulness into your lifestyle? Check out these tips on practicing gratitude and the importance of self-love.
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Why It's Good
A tai chi workout combines mindfulness and movement to improve the overall health of your body, mind, and spirit. It's a low-impact exercise that boasts some of the same health benefits of yoga, and can be done anywhere, anytime.