How Does T`ai Chi Work?

T`ai Chi is a soft, gentle internal martial art as well as a gentle health exercise that enhances the most efficient use of the body’s life giving energy which the Chinese refer to as “Qi” (Chi). It is based on two basic principles: that life is about balancing opposite forces (Yin and Yang), and that health problems are the probable result of an imbalance in these forces.

The practical benefit of T`ai Chi is not only as a form of exercise and moving meditation but in its inherent integrity – as a system which adapts to physical and mental ability. There are practically no limitations as to one’s ability to become a T`ai Chi “player”. Young and old, healthy and not so healthy, fat or thin; everyone can obtain some benefits from the regular practice of this wonderful system.

T`ai Chi stretches the muscles so less tension is put on the skeletal structure. In this way the body moves more freely and with less effort – similar to the ease and flexibility with which a cat moves. T`ai Chi also strengthens the tendons and ligaments so that the body can compress and expand with less effort and strain. When the muscles put less tension on the body, circulation is enhanced resulting in the following possible benefits:

  • Lowering of blood pressure
  • Improved immune function
  • Relaxation and stress reduction
  • Increased resistance to injury
  • Improved balance and coordination
  • Promotion of healthy organs
  • An overall feeling of well-being

Along with T’ai Chi, the Academy also focuses on the practice of Qigong.  Briefly stated, the word is actually two words combined.  Qi (also written as Chi) is translated as “Energy” or “Life Force”.  Gong (also written as Kung) is translated as “Work” or “Cultivation”.  So combined, the term implies a process by which the Life Force is cultivated or “refined”.  This “work” takes on many different forms and certainly includes all the possible goals and benefits listed above.

The “Essentials” classes at the Academy are all based on Qigong exercise routines.  We work on the physical aspects like proper body alignment, balance, coordination, range of motion, and “rooting”.  Rooting can be described as relaxing deeply into oneself, and surrendering to the pull of gravity without losing structural alignment. On another level we’re lengthening and softening the meridian (energy) pathways of the body, to allow for smooth and effortless flow of the Life Force mentioned above.  On an even more subtle level, we’re also working on relaxing and quieting the internal chatter in the mind.  A relaxed and quiet mind leads to a more relaxed body, which in turn can facilitate an even more efficient flow of Qi through the body.  Ultimately we’re working towards feeling and experiencing internal stillness, not only in the classes offered, but more importantly in our everyday lives.   Clarity of intent is important here, but at the same time, these different levels of training can happen quite naturally while we perform specific movements developed to achieve these goals.  These different sets of exercises were first developed centuries ago in the Shaolin Temples of China and are discussed more fully on the “Class Descriptions” page.