guiding you to better health

Part Of The Lighthouse Fitness & Well-being Brand  UK

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1. What is tai chi and its health benefits?

  

Tai Chi (also known as tai chi chuan, taiji and taijiquan) is a martial art characterized by a sequence of dynamic movements that combine soft and hard, with fast and slow actions, in a balanced and natural way that adheres to the philosophical Taoist principles of yin and yang, based on the understanding of the internal energy meridians as used in Traditional Chinese Medicine. During practice the body remains relaxed, with the practitioner’s consciousness, breathing and actions all closely connected. These unique features enhance benefits to health, fitness and well-being.


There are five major styles of Taijiquan, named after the Chinese family that developed it and many other more modern styles based on the ancient principles of Qigong or Chi Kung: the main differences between these styles are in the speed, pace, posture and intent. The oldest tai chi styles are Chen style, with spiralling moves and fast transitions in speed between slow and very fast, combined with stamping moves and explosive releases of power; and Yang style with more evenly paced, flowing moves.


For more information: http://www.taichiunion.com/what-is-tai-chi-chuan/

To understand why these slow exercises are so beneficial to health, it is useful to have an understanding of the concept of Qi (Chi) energy. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), which is believed to be over 2,000 years old, is founded on the principles of Yin and Yang. It is believed that there are meridians or pathways which travel through the body carrying Qi energy. If there is a problem, or imbalance in the flow of Qi energy, a TCM doctor would use acupuncture needles, or perhaps acupressure - the use of thumbs or hands, to stimulate acupoints, and release the blockages along the meridians.


Tai Chi Chuan and more directly, Qigong also promotes the smooth flow of this energy. By performing the postures of the Form (sequence of tai chi movements), in co-ordination with relaxed, natural breathing and the application of Yi, which is the intent or focus of the mind, we help to keep the Qi moving smoothly through the channels. Therefore, whilst doing these external movements, we are assisting the free flow of internal energy.

 
Aside from promoting the flow of Qi energy, Tai Chi Chuan can also help to increase flexibility, suppleness, balance and exercise the muscles. The low-impact nature of the routines improves the condition of bones, joints and muscles without strain, whilst encouraging balance, focus, flexibility and co-ordination to promote health and vitality. Tai chi exercises also help to regulate the body’s digestion, respiration and circulation. The smooth, controlled movements aid relaxation and stress-reduction, by encouraging a calm and focused mind.


Most studies of the benefits of tai chi on various health conditions are based on students attending 2 classes per week for a minimum of 12 consecutive weeks, with daily home practise between lessons. Most beginners underestimate the time and commitment involved to achieve the harmonious flowing movement they see in videos of Tai Chi Masters and their advanced students. Once you a commitment to learn, grow and practise the benefits will begin to appear and the changes in the body, mind and spirit can enhance your well-being. You will ask different questions at each level of advancement and eventually find acceptance and a tranquil mind.

2 What am I expected to learn?


Learning Tai chi is a personal journey. The sequences or ‘forms’ are designed to combine different tai chi movements into a flowing progression and to challenge balance, co-ordination and memory. It is important for students to make time for personal practise to improve and advance.


Unlike other exercise classes, the sequences in tai chi will take many months, even years to learn. Patience and tolerance are the side effects of learning tai chi. In tai chi, achievement is measured by learning and applying the principles, then progressing to apply the 8 Energies and 6 Harmonies. Any movement or posture where these parts are present, then becomes tai chi. The form is a pathway to the understanding and absorption of these aspects.


Once a student learns and has sufficient knowledge of the basic moves of a form, the emphasis of their tuition moves on to posture, alignment, breathing, energy flow and martial intent. Consequently one ‘form’ or even one move contains a lifetime of learning. The martial art aspect can only be understood once he student has acquired the level of skill to apply the 10, 8 & 6.


Lighthouse Tai Chi work to a term syllabus with a weekly lesson plan, using UK teaching methodologies. Unlike many tai chi ‘schools’ we do not follow Eastern esoteric teaching and have a selection of forms and styles to use. We have over 30 years of combined experience, which has shown us that the best teaching method in our sessions should avoid the student having to memorize long sequences of 120 postures without understanding or exploring the essence and essentials of tai chi and qigong.


The focus for a beginner is to learn the 10 Tai Chi principles


1. lift the head – raise the spirits by walking tall

2. lower the shoulders – tense shoulders block energy

3. soften the chest – let your lungs expand; take a deep breath

4. loosen the waist – all movement originates from here

5. weight distribution – be aware of this in your soles 50% : 50%, 70% : 30%, 90% : 10%

6. co-ordinate top half with bottom half of the body – knee and elbow move and stop at the same time

7. continuity in movement – once you start the practice, keep moving until the end

8. understand the purpose of each move – unite the mind with the body

9. use the mind, not force – keep muscles soft and relaxed to promote energy flow

10. seek stillness with motion and motion within stillness


Once this is understood and applied, the student can then begin to study the energies and harmonies.

3. What should I wear?

Shoes: thin soled sports shoes without strong grip on the bottom; such as standard pumps or plimsolls that are clean and comfortable. Kung Fu slippers or Fei Yue shoes can be bought online if you prefer something specifically designed for tai chi. Trainers, boots and heeled shoes will affect your balance, foot sensitivity and create pull on the joints.


Clothing: Clothes should be clean, loose-fitting and comfortable, that allow you to move freely and easily without tangling your limbs or body. Trousers, leggings or shorts with a t-shirt or sweatshirt style top are best. Tight clothing and specialist performance sports wear can inhibit your ability to breathe correctly. Some people like to wear a ‘mandarin suit’, which is made of silky material and allows the body to move freely. We do not expect you to wear this. We have branded t-shirts and hoodies etc for sale at classes.