in the spotlight

Is Tai Chi for you?

What is tai chi?

Tai chi is an ancient Chinese tradition that, today, is practiced as a graceful form of exercise. It involves a series of movements performed in a slow, focused manner and accompanied by deep breathing.

Benefits of Tai Chi

Tai chi has been found to be helpful for strengthening the body, developing better balance, improving flexibility and mobility, calming the mind, and managing stress among other benefits. It is a calming practice that leaves you with a sense of accumulated energy. Tai chi helps coordinate body and breath with gentle flowing movements that are done in a comfortable standing position.

Although tai chi is slow and gentle and doesn’t leave you breathless, it addresses the key components of fitness as well— muscle strength, flexibility, balance, and, to a lesser degree, aerobic conditioning. Is it exercise? Is it meditation? Really, it’s both!

Who can do tai chi?

Tai chi is low impact and puts minimal stress on muscles and joints, making it generally safe for all ages and fitness levels. In fact, because tai chi is a low impact exercise, it may be especially suitable if you’re an older adult who otherwise may not exercise. Tai chi can be easily adapted for anyone, from the most fit to people confined to wheelchairs or recovering from surgery. Women who are pregnant or people with joint problems, back pain, fractures, severe osteoporosis or a hernia should consult their health care provider before trying tai chi. Also, persons with a limiting musculoskeletal problem or medical condition — or who take medications that can cause dizziness or lightheadedness should check with their doctor before starting tai chi. Given its excellent safety record, chances are it will be encouraged.

Getting started

Tai chi is appealing because it’s inexpensive and requires no special equipment. You can do tai chi anywhere, including indoors or outside. You can do tai chi alone or in a group class. Taking a class may be the best way to learn tai chi. Most teachers will let you observe the class first to see if you feel comfortable with the approach and atmosphere.
The Ta’i-Chi Ch’uan Studio located at 2242 University Ave, St. Paul has a free intro class scheduled for Saturday, February 20. At the class, you will be able to explore what tai chi is and why it is so beneficial and fun to practice. An instructor will guide you through tai chi basics so you can experience this art of movement and relaxation in a comfortable way geared towards the beginner.

Visit for more information. You may also be able to find classes at your local Y or community education center.

Excerpted from:
Harvard Women’s Health Watch – the Health benefits of Tai Chi
Mayo Clinic Staff Newsletter – Tai Chi: A Gentle Way to Fight Stress