What is Tai Chi?

Tai chi is an exercise. It is an exercise of the body, the mind, and the spirit. It is performed very slowly, as if the practitioner were moving through very thick air. Moving slowly allows one to breath deeply and permits the mind to become deeply concentrated. From the deep breathing and concentrated mind one becomes calm and tranquil, and can profoundly center oneself.

In learning tai chi, one studies a series of movements. This series of movements, or postures, functions as the medium through which one attends to learning and practicing the principles of tai chi. These principles are the real essence of tai chi. They are concepts of mind and body comportment which are the depth of tai chi and also the depths of life. Concepts such as proper body alignment, relaxation, vitality, naturalness, fluidity, rootedness & balance, mindfulness, raising the spirit, and stillness within movement are the fundamental maxims which are these principles.

Regular tai chi practice enhances health by activating the mind, by calming the nervous system, and by keeping the joints flexible, the muscles toned, and the internal organs invigorated. The slow, graceful movements of tai chi help neutralize stress and release the tensions which tend to accrue in daily.

Done correctly, tai chi enlivens and refines the human organism by stimulating and mobilizing the chi - or life force -- which courses through the body. The activation of chi is complimented and balanced by the fluid, calm, and soothing movements. This harmonization of energies is the quality unique to tai chi. Through its action tai chi improves the health of body, mind, and spirit.

Tai chi can be done by people of all ages and temperaments. It is taking time out from the fast, sometimes overwhelming pace of life to relax into the present. Allowing time for tai chi can offer the practitioner respite from the vicissitudes of life and permit regrouping -- or it can center and energize one for being in the world. How one uses tai chi is up to the practitioner.

In the end, tai chi is about balance, connecting one to nature and nature's principles. It restores a frame of mind which is more appropriate for happiness and well-being. It fosters cherishing and connection with life. It is a profound exercise which reaches deeply inside the practitioner, and inside life, and unifies the two. All this results in the reputation of tai chi as being the finest exercise known.

Tai chi was created In China and s rooted in the Chinese philosophy of Taoism -- a philosophy of naturalness. Taoism seeks a harmonious way of life -- a life which lends itself not just to survival, but to a quality existence. Those follow the ideas of the Tao are those who strive to walk a path of peace and serenity and be in tune with nature. Such people strive for vitality, health, ethical behavior, and connection to all in life that is life sustaining and life enriching.

Taoist thought says that it is humankind's refusal to regard itself as part of a greater natural order that causes confusion, ignorance, and unhappiness. Taoism says that if one can balance oneself with this order, one can live a life of simplicity and understanding. To be following the way of the Tao is to believe that respecting and working to uphold the Interconnectedness of all things helps foster peace and accord within oneself and also in the world.

Of course tai chi is simply an extension of the taoist philosophy -- a vehicle for the ideas of naturalness and unity which are the same concepts Taoism embraces. With tai chi nothing is overlooked. All the ingredients of life are of equal importance. What one eats, how one exercises, and the way one acts are as important as what one thinks and believes. Such a philosophy of life guides one toward self-growth and refinement, toward living longer, with better health, and toward realizing one s highest potential. The tai chi person strives toward having a positive spirit and toward letting go of negativity. Tai chi people seek to know themselves and to cherish life. The tai chi attitude chooses care and mindfulness not speed and insensitivity.

As one goes through the movements of tai chi, passing from posture to posture without any break in flow, the tai chi form expresses the passage we all make through life. There are traumas, there are blockages, there are easinesses, there are ecstasies. The form is a perfect expression of the constant and continuous field of energy flux that life. There are no places where we can grasp it and stop it. When we are in tune we just allow, and all is in place.

To be sensitive, open, spirited, healthy, and in tune with nature are qualities that would benefit anyone. These are the goals of tai chi.

--- Eo Omwake