Tai Chi is part of a new category of exercise called moving meditation.
"Tai Chi" and "Tai Chi Chuan" are deprecated terms (see wade-giles) for the newer "Taiji" (pronounced "tie gee" where "gee" is pronounced as in "gee whiz") which is supported by the Chinese government (see pinyin). The term 'Tai Chi' is more familiar to most people since it's been in use longer, and is often used as a recognizable marketing term. Sometimes 'Tai Chi Chuan' is used to denote taiji practiced as a martial art (taijiquan) whereas 'Tai Chi' may just refer to Tai Chi done for health reasons. However, Tai Chi may also refer to taiji practiced as a martial art. So there is no hard and fast rule. The important thing to note is that the all terms are used pretty much interchangeably to refer to the same thing (mostly, the practice of taiji for health).
Some form of Tai Chi practice is highly recommended for everyone's exercise program, regardless of age, and it is becoming extremely popular with active adults and seniors. Tai Chi is a moving form of Qigong that can be done as a martial art or for health. Today, most people practice Tai Chi for health maintenance and improvement or for mitigating the effects of chronic conditions such as arthritis and normal aging. Traditional forms of Tai Chi can take years to learn, but the health benefits of Tai Chi are much more easily accessible with simplified or shortened forms.
Live a Healthier Life with Tai Chi - a webpage filled with links to interesting articles on Tai Chi, including history, physical health, emotional wellbeing, and how to get started.
Time magazine has called Tai Chi "The Perfect Exercise". T'ai Chi Magazine (for Tai Chi practiced as a martial art) discusses the myriad health benefits of Tai Chi in its August 2006 issue. Newsweek's September 27, 2004 issue reports on the increasing use of Qigong in hospitals and cancer centers across the country. Lorenzo Cohen, head of integrative medicine at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, predicts that mind-body techniques will soon become as much a part of standard cancer care as chemotherapy or radiation.
History of Tai Chi. Dr. Paul Lam includes a discussion of the differences between the five main styles of Tai Chi as well as how each one was developed.
Taiji and balance/fall prevention. Balance and fall prevention are among the most studied outcomes of taiji research, and most review papers conclude that there is significant evidence that taiji can improve balance and reduce the risk of falls. However, the potential maximum benefit of taiji practice remains significantly underestimated and misunderstood by researchers and the general public. The reason is curriculum: still today most researchers (and the general public) equate taiji practice with slow choreographed movement only. Taiji is much more than this.
This Ancient Martial Art Can Fight Disease, Calm The Mind And Slow Aging. Americans have no difficulty adopting ancient practices into their health regimens. Take yoga, the ancient mind-body practice and contemporary fitness craze (and $27 billion industry), which continues its prominence in the mainstream -- even after decades of increasing popularity. Many forms of meditation, likewise, have been touted for stress-relieving, health-promoting benefits by prominent leaders in business, media and the arts. And then there's tai chi.
There are two main types of Tai Chi (also spelled "T'ai Chi" or "Taiji" and also referred to as "Tai Chi Chuan" or "Taijiquan"): Lineage-based (traditional) and Simplified. The two types are not mutually exclusive because lineage-based Tai Chi masters are now creating shorter forms to make Tai Chi accessible to more people. The first type is traditional, or lineage Tai Chi, such as Chen style, Yang style, and Wu style. Traditional Tai Chi is learned from masters and is handed down as an oral tradition from generation to generation. Qigong also has some lineage forms, such as Wild Goose. Generally, a Tai Chi form done for martial arts and not health has the "Chuan" on the end of it. Otherwise, it's often just called Tai Chi (or the newer taiji -- see an overview of Chinese character translation ), although the terms are often interchangeable. Note that Tai Chi magazine is called "T'ai Chi" magazine. Then in much smaller print below that, it's "The International Magazine of T'ai Chi Ch'uan". "Tai Chi" is the "marketing" term that you see in the popular press.There is also the second main type, the newer non-lineage Tai Chi forms such as Tai Chi Easy™, Beijing 24 Form, Tai Chi Chih, and Tai Chi for Arthritis. These shorter forms are based on the traditional forms, but are easier to learn, especially for older adults.
The term "form" can be a little confusing: It can refer to both individual movements (e.g. hand movements, a foot movement, a combined hand and foot movement, or several combined hand/foot movements) as well as a complete set of movements (e.g. Chen style 48 Form). People get excited by the popular media and want to "do Tai Chi". It looks cool and old people do it, so it must be good for you. They have no idea of what they are getting into when they sign up for their first Tai Chi class and don't know the difference between lineage and non-lineage forms. This distinction usually doesn't matter until the person has been practicing a while and wants to understand the practice at a deeper level.
Regardless of whether a form is lineage or non-lineage, it is derived from a number of individual movements and conforms to the fundamentals of Tai Chi, such as ground connection and knee alignment. Furthermore, the strength, flexibility, confidence, stress reduction, etc. benefits (proven via medical research - see the Qigong and Energy Medicine Database™ for specific research abstracts) are the same. The main difference is the amount of time it takes to learn the form and how the form is taught. It can take years to learn a traditional form as opposed to one session, a few weeks, or just a few months to learn enough Tai Chi to be beneficial from a health standpoint. This is especially noteworthy for seniors.
The benefits of Tai Chi are more readily available with the easier forms because people can learn them faster and are less willing to give up in the face of a long-term commitment to learning a full form. So for many people, doing a simpler form is the right answer for their health. For others, starting with the easier forms and moving to the lineage forms when comfortable is the best solution. Still others will immediately fall in love with doing the longer lineage forms. Note too, that some "easier" forms such as the new Beijing 24 Form are getting to be as long as some of the shorter traditional forms. Regardless of which type of Tai Chi you practice and enjoy, the health benefits are enormous and well documented.
The Beijing 24 Form (video:7:16 ) is the non-lineage version of Tai Chi that has been standardized by the Chinese government and is taught in schools. For more information on Tai Chi visit World Tai Chi and Qigong Day.
Watch a truly amazing demonstration of Tai Chi by thousands of people.
Mayo Clinic Says 2.5 Million Americans Now Use Tai Chi to Improve Health. According to the Mayo Clinic more than 2.5 million Americans are practicing tai chi to reduce stress and anxiety, increase energy, stamina and flexibility, muscle strength and definition and balance. There is also evidence that Tai Chi improves immune response, sleeping patterns, lowers cholesterol levels, relieves joint pain and, in older adults, reduces the risk of falls.
The brain's GPS: The neural correlates of proprioception. Proprioception is having a sense of where you are, or your body position in space. This ability is critical, especially to older adults who are susceptible to developing a fear of falling as they age due to their diminished mental capacity to navigate in space. Tai Chi is a proprioception exercise. In other words, it is a coordination exercise that directly affects sensorimotor control of balance, neuromuscular function, and postural stability. This article reports on exciting basic neurological research that has revealed some of the mystery of how the brain implements proprioception.
Proprioception and Kinesthetic Sense. Taiji is a great exercise to improve proprioception and kinesthetic sense. During movement of any kind, we are constantly losing our balance and regaining it quickly. The better our ability to regain balance, the safer and more skillful our movement. Better balance makes athletes less likely to be injured and reduces falls among the elderly. Balance is improved by improving your proprioception and kinesthetic sense.
The vestibular system: a spatial reference for bodily self-consciousness. Proprioception and interoception fans should enjoy this research finding. In Qigong and Tai Chi practice we're always adjusting our posture. One such adjustment is having the head "dangling from a string" to have it centered, upright, etc. to improve structure and energy flow. This research provides a very interesting view of why this adjustment is so important and has such an impact upon our energy, practice, and consciousness.
Silk Reeling exercises are a set of repetitive movements practiced mainly from a standing position. The movements have a spiraling character, with their corkscrew motion centered in the lower abdomen or lower dantian. Silk Reeling practice seeks to integrate physical strengthening, body awareness and coordination, the grounding of energy, abdominal breathing, and relaxation. The Silk Reeling exercises serve as a vehicle for meditative mindfulness and for the development of internal energy and power. Spiral movements are a fundamental component and outcome of the practice of all forms (Chen, Sun, Yang, Simplified, ...) of Tai Chi.
Silk Reeling DVDs
|Yang Yang's Silk Reeling Demonstration-1||Yang Yang's Silk Reeling Demonstration-2|
International Tai Chi Chuan Symposium: Interview with Dr. Roger Jahnke (Audio: 1hr5min) on his impressions of the 1st International Tai Chi Chuan Symposium on Health, Education, and Cultural Exchange held outside of China. Grandmasters of the five traditional Tai Chi Chuan styles — Chen (Chen Zhenglei), Yang (Yang Zhenduo), Wu/Hao (Wu Wenhan), Wu (Ma Hailong), Sun (Sun Yongtian), — taught daily workshops on their styles. Topics covered during the symposium included biomechanics, kinesthetics, meditation, physical and mental health benefits, therapeutic value, the nature of chi and more. Presenters were from institutions around the world, including Harvard Medical School, Center for Cognitive Therapy, University of Missouri, National Institutes of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, University of Illinois, University of California, Beijing Sports University (China) and the Mayo Clinic. Having studied and practiced Qigong and Tai Chi for over thirty years, Dr. Jahnke has a unique perspective on the field. He talks about the traditions and development of Tai Chi and Qigong through the millennia; integral Qigong, which modifies Tai Chi for practical applications based on principles; how to live well for as long as possible; the current state of Qigong /Tai Chi science and research; and the impact of the adoption of new, short Tai Chi forms upon traditional Tai Chi practice.
Dr. Jahnke felt this is "one of the most profound experiences I have ever had in my professional life, given the fact that my profession is Qigong." He is a co-founder of the National Qigong Association, a licensed Oriental Medical doctor, author of several texts on Qigong and self-healing practices, Director of the Institute of Integral Qigong and Tai Chi, and an international lecturer. For more information on seminars and training offered by Dr. Jahnke, visit his websites, iiqtc.org, feeltheqi.com, and taichieasy.org. His trainings will be of special interest to those who would like to change careers to be a part of the health care revolution, such as yoga teachers who want to be certified in Qigong and Tai Chi.
The International Yang Family Tai Chi Chuan Association published a Free online Tai Chi Journal -Tai Chi Chuan Masters and Methods PDF 17.02MB). This is the first time that the Association has published a digital edition. One of the Association's main contributions to Tai Chi is the sponsorship of the International Tai Chi Chuan Symposiums, attended by the world's foremost authorities on the five traditional Chinese family schools of Tai Chi. The Journal provides information on the Association, a preview of the 2nd International Symposium, as well as articles by the experts on the art and practice of Tai Chi.
Dr. Roger Jahnke, OMD and Founder of The Institute of Integral Qigong & Tai Chi explains the meaning and origins of Tai Chi, Qigong, and Kung Fu.
"Tai chi’s approach of using conscious slow movements is a radical departure from the typical Western approach to fitness, which often focuses on repetitive movements and physical exertion, such as in fitness regimens like running, biking or weight lifting. Further, “success” in the many western sports and athletics is often determined by speed, distance, strength or when competing who “wins”. Tai chi has a completely different set of markers and guideposts for success such as consciousness within body, proper body alignments and developing the smooth flow of energy. It is about generating peace within your entire being." Bruce Frantzis.
Zhan Zhuang - The Hidden Essential of Tai Chi Training. The Art and practice of Tai Chi is built upon fundamenal principles of Qigong that can be learned through the practice of standing meditation, also referred to as Zhan Zhuan (“jan jong”), Wuji Qigong, or (sometimes) Primordial Qigong. There are thousands of different types of Qigong. Arguably the most popular type of Qigong for martial arts is Zhan Zhuang. This is also known as “stake standing”. The practitioner stands motionless in a particular posture to develop internal strength. Zhan Zhuang is very easy to practice yet is said to be difficult to master.
Standing Qigong practice develops integrated body/mind awareness and focus, called “sung” in Chinese. Some masters train only using this form of Qigong. As Author Mark Cohen explains"Whether we practice Tai Chi for health or martial arts, the inclusion of Zhan Zhuang (Standing Meditation) at the beginning of our daily training session becomes essential if we are to gain many of the greatest benefits spoken of in the Tai Chi Classics and historical anecdotes. For health, Zhan Zhuang training initiates the body’s internal healing, strengthening, unification and enhanced Qi flow which is then amplified by proper Tai Chi practice. In this case Zhan Zhuang becomes the Yin to Tai Chi’s Yang. While Tai Chi is often thought of in terms of ‘stillness within movement,’ Zhan Zhuang may be considered as ‘movement within stillness.’ Simply put, they are a perfect compliment to one another." MORE: By Mark Cohen Inside Zhan Zhuang: First Edition (2nd Edition).
Chen style Tai Chi Grandmaster Chen Qingzhou demonstrating zhan zhaung.
Mechanism of Pain Relief through Tai Chi and Qigong. The purpose of this paper is to outline the academic and medical evidence for Tai Chi and Qigong impact on pain, and describe the hypothesized mechanism that enables Tai chi and Qigong to work so well at relieving pain - often better than opioid pain medication, and with fewer side effects. This paper also describes a paradigm for research which will increase the likelihood that researchers doing projects in this field can synergize their efforts and start building a foundational body of knowledge rather than continue to do independent and disconnected studies on the phenomenon that enables Tai Chi and Qigong to work.
New England Journal of Medicine article on Tai Chi for Parkinson's chosen Top 10 story of 2012 by Journal Watch Neurology. Willamette University exercise science professor Peter Harmer’s publication in The New England Journal of Medicine is a Top 10 story of 2012 by Journal Watch Neurology. Harmer’s study, "Tai Chi and postural stability in patients with Parkinson's disease," was also recognized by the American Academy of Neurology as the most important advance in movement disorders research for 2012.
Tai Chi relieves arthritis pain, improves reach, balance, well-being. Researchers at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill School of Medicine have found that patients with osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia felt better and moved more easily after taking twice-weekly classes in Tai Chi. Practicing Tai Chi "reduced pain, stiffness and fatigue, and improved their balance."
Evidence for determining the exercise prescription in patients with osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis (OA) is a chronic joint disease that affects more than one-third of older adults (age > 65 years), most often involving the hip and knee. Osteoarthritis causes pain and limits mobility, thereby reducing patient quality of life. Conservative, nonsurgical, nonpharmacologic treatment strategies includeweight reduction, orthotics, physical therapy modalities, acupuncture, massage, and exercise. The breadth of the current literature on OA can make determining the appropriate exercise prescription challenging. Aerobic exercise, strengthening exercise, Tai chi, and aquatic exercise can all alleviate pain and improve function in patients with OA.
Tai Chi Chuan Exercise for Patients with Cardiovascular Disease. Exercise training is the cornerstone of rehabilitation for patients with cardiovascular disease (CVD). Although high-intensity exercise has significant cardiovascular benefits, light-to-moderate intensity aerobic exercise also offers health benefits. With lower-intensity workouts, patients may be able to exercise for longer periods of time and increase the acceptance of exercise, particularly in unfit and elderly patients. Tai Chi Chuan (Tai Chi) is a traditional Chinese mind-body exercise. The exercise intensity of Tai Chi is light to moderate, depending on its training style, posture, and duration. Previous research has shown that Tai Chi enhances aerobic capacity, muscular strength, balance, and psychological well-being. Additionally, Tai Chi training has significant benefits for common cardiovascular risk factors, such as hypertension, diabetes mellitus, dyslipidemia, poor exercise capacity, endothelial dysfunction, and depression. Tai Chi is safe and effective in patients with acute myocardial infarction (AMI), coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG) surgery, congestive heart failure (HF), and stroke. In conclusion, Tai Chi has significant benefits to patients with cardiovascular disease, and it may be prescribed as an alternative exercise program for selected patients with CVD.
Tai Chi more effective than yoga? After years of being exalted as an exotic form of martial arts, Tai Chi is now seen by the medical world as an answer to most physical grievances. Week after week, researchers are bringing to light the many healing benefits of this form, which includes it being beneficial to people suffering from osteoarthritis, diabetes, and musculoskeletial pain triggered from working on computers. It is also being looked upon as an alternative option to yoga.
There have been some excellent publications on the health benefits of Tai Chi in the medical/research press, such as in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. Some of the well researched benefits of Tai Chi include increased postural control and balance, flexibility, strength, confidence in mobility and coordination, sensitivity and awareness, quality of sleep, and reduction in stress. Dr. Yang Yang at University of Illinois Kinesiology Department has published a very compelling book on the medical benefits of Tai Chi. Tai Chi has been shown to increase balance control with resulting self-confidence and reduction in falls, especially among the elderly. Studies show it is effective for arthritis and pain, osteoporosis, strength and flexibility. Cardiovascular functioning is also improved. Research has found Tai Chi to be equivalent to moderate aerobic exercise. Tai Chi reduces cholesterol and blood pressure, and increases the capacity of the immune system. The American Journal of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation reported a study showing that Tai Chi is safe for rheumatoid arthritis patients.
CDC - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Tai Chi Research and Therapy
Tai Chi for Health Institute - Medical Studies of Tai Chi for Health Programs.
Current Tai Chi Research. taichieasy.org. Whether you want to improve your balance, increase your flexibility, relieve pain, recover from injuries or diminish the effects of daily stress, the practice of Tai Chi is suitable for both men and women and for people of all ages, even those in their eighties and nineties.
World Tai Chi and Qigong Day website - Medical Research on Tai Chi & Qigong. This page has an easy to use alphabetically-ordered drop-down menu of health issues. Each issue has a synopsis on how it is affected through Tai Chi and Qigong practice.
The National Institutes of Health background information on Tai Chi includes links for research, images and video, and ongoing medical studies.
Tai Chi Exercise May Reduce Falls in Adult Stroke Survivors. An American Heart Association report on research presented to the American Stroke Association's International Stroke Conference 2013 stated that Tai Chi was more effective in fall prevention for stroke survivors than a control group using only the U.S. Medicare covered SilverSneakers Program. THIS IS A HUGE FINDING. It is becoming increasingly apparent that Tai Chi and Qigong could save national healthcare systems hundreds of billions, if not trillions in avoided future health expenditures.
For information on current U.S. Department of Health and Human Services clinical trials research, go to ClinicalTrials.gov and search for 'Qigong', 'Tai Chi', 'Acupuncture', etc.
Psychological effects of Tai Chi Chuan. This article reviews the scientific studies which have been carried out at the international level on the psychological benefits that Tai Chi Chuan brings to those who practice it. All of the larger more inclusive [research] summaries confirmed the potential for Taiji to produce significant improvements in emotional wellbeing with regard to depression and other mood disorders, as well as stress, anxiety, and fear of falling. These studies also found that Taiji supported a general sense of well-being and self-efficacy, the feeling that one is capable of facing what lies ahead in life. For a summary of the research, see Tai Chi and Mental Health.
Dr. Yang Yang founded The Center for Taiji Studies in 1996 and created the Evidence-Based Traditional Taiji (EBT™) Program. The term "Evidence-Based" indicates that the curriculum has been proven effective in Randomized Controlled Trials - the gold standard of scientific design. It is a key term for acceptance as an intervention by the medical community.
Selected Research on the benefits of Tai Chi - A Martial Art and moving form of Qigong From: Taijiquan - The Art of Nurturing, The Science of Power. Yang Yang. Zhenwu Publications. Champaign, Illinois. 2005. Contact: email@example.com.
In 2001, a coalition of organizations released a national planning document in the area of aging and physical activity. The National Blueprint: Increasing Physical Activity Among Adults Aged 50 and Older was developed to serve as a guide for multiple organizations, associations and agencies, to inform and support their planning work related to increasing physical activity among America's aging population.
To this end, the Blueprint partnership organizations held the National Expert Meeting on Qigong and Tai Chi at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign on November 14-16, 2005. The National Blueprint Office at the University of Illinois, in conjunction with the National Council on Aging (NCOA), received funding from the Archstone Foundation to explore the opportunities, issues, and challenges of integrating Qigong and Tai Chi into the Aging Network. National and international experts came from three areas: physical activity and the Aging Network; Qigong/Tai Chi research; and Qigong/Tai Chi practice. The goal was to investigate the challenges of translating existing research models into effective community-based programs for the health benefits of older adults, and to make recommendations in the form of a consensus report.
The meeting was a milestone in the long-term vision to make Qigong and Tai Chi as popular among older Americans as Yoga has become in community fitness centers and exercise programs today. A key outcome of the meeting is the finding that in order to make the health benefits of Tai Chi more readily accessible to the population, shortened and simplified versions of it need to be created.
Qi Gong and Tai Chi: promoting practices that promote healthy aging (.PDF). Summary of the recommendations and outcomes of the National Expert Meeting.
Qigong literally means "gonging" or cultivating your vital energy ("qi") over time. As a practice it consists of a combination of movement, self-massage, meditation, and breathing (MORE: What is Qigong, Getting Started with Qigong, Scientific Basis of Qigong). Tai Chi is the most well-known and popular moving form of Qigong. It is essentially meditation in motion, as are all moving forms of Qigong. Qigong practice per se, principally wuji sitting and standing meditation, provides the energetic foundation of Tai Chi. Tai Chi, Qigong and Yoga. All of these practices work with the breath, intention, and focus. Tai Chi, most forms of Qigong, and some types of Yoga add movement, which creates additional health benefits.
The main differences between Tai Chi and Qigong involve how the form is practiced, how the energy is manipulated, the body posture, and whether the practice is done alone.
Easy to learn and practice versions of Tai Chi are being created to meet the recommendations of the National Expert Meeting. These forms of Tai Chi can be done sitting, standing, or walking, and movements may be done individually or in combinations. For an example approach to simplified Tai Chi visit the Tai Chi Easy™ website.
"When I began teaching students the simplified movements similar to those used in our clinical protocols...I saw quicker results and students kept coming to class. Among students who studied for only a few months and did not learn the formal Tai Chi choreography, I observed improved balance, strength, and greater sense of well-being." Dr. Peter Wayne. The Harvard Medical School Guide to Tai Chi.
World T'ai Chi & Qigong Day was started in the late 1990's by Bill Douglas, author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to T'ai Chi & QiGong Illustrated, Fourth Edition, and his wife Angela Wong as a way to introduce people to the profound healing and health maintenance benefits of Tai Chi (a moving form of Qigong) and Qigong. The event has grown into a worldwide phenomena, practiced in over sixty countries. It starts at 10 AM in the earliest time zone the last Saturday every April, and flows as a gentle wave across the entire planet. More.