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Friday, May 13, 2011

Get Your Groove on With....Tai Chi

It's not LSD. But it's still mind-blowing. You don't even have to smoke it. Yet you can quickly inhale yourself into a state of ecstasy. It will render you blissfully high but it's not against the law. It's been around for centuries. Today, it's gaining worldwide popularity as the go-to alternative for natural mind, body and soul enrichment. It's like a triple threat combination of expensive psycho therapy, killer aerobics and weed. Only you don't have to spend a fortune, work up a sweat or gobble down a pan of brownies afterwards.

It's Tai Chi (tie chee). This ancient Chinese art uses gentle, flowing movements to improve health, reduce stress and provide physical and spiritual serenity. The renown Mayo Clinic describes tai chi as "meditation in motion" and touts its effective stress relieving and health improving benefits.

I discovered tai chi about twenty years ago in San Francisco. During my early morning walks around the city by the bay, I came across groups of mostly elderly Asian people exercising in slow motion in beautiful public gardens and parks. They appeared so serene. It looked like they were pantomiming catching butterflies with very deliberate, delicate, ballet-like movements. A sweet old gentleman with a neatly trimmed silver beard, stopped his routine and sat down with me on a park bench. He explained to me in broken English what tai chi was about. I've never forgotten.

However, it wasn't until just recently that I had the opportunity to take up tai chi. I love it. There are many variations of tai chi but most forms involve a series of precise postures that flow into one another ensuring that your body is in constant motion. The concentration required for tai chi forces you to live in the present moment and put aside all distressing thoughts. It is a very effective stress reliever. The movements are coordinated with precise breathing to help you achieve a sense of inner calm. Indeed, it's a beautiful thing.

The great thing about tai chi is that it's not expensive and it doesn't require any special equipment or clothing. It can be practiced indoors or out. Alone or with a group. Because it's a low impact exercise, tai chi is suitable for just about any age or physical ability.

Ironically, tai chi was originally developed in ancient China as a swift, deadly martial art form of self defense. Think: killer ninjas. Over the centuries, it has evolved into a peaceful, gentle form of meditative exercise that relieves stress, clears the mind of negative thoughts and brings harmony to your well-being. Medical studies show that tai chi promotes better balance control, muscle strength, joint flexability, cardiovascular fitness and can actually reduce the pain of certain physical ailments such as arthritis and fibromyalgia. Best of all, you feel happy and relaxed after every session.

Another wonderful bonus of joining a tai chi group is that you meet a lot of cool, interesting, mellow people. In my various tai chi classes, I've encountered a lady who plays the mandolin in an Irish rock band; a 91 year old woman who can ying and yang like nobody's business; a nun who dresses like a fashion model in chic crop pants and huge sunglasses; a 50 plus gal who races motorcycles; a rocket scientist turned cupcake baker; and a former lady of the evening who now grows prize-winning roses. Put them all together and they spell: Funky Party!

And that my friends, is how I get my groove on with tai chi. Try it yourself and feel the joy.

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Coffeypot said...

I have thought about trying it. It seems lower impact than other exercise programs. Will let you know.

ReformingGeek said...

I love yoga. I'm sure I would love Tai Chi!

I enjoyed watching the Asians practice in the mornings when I visited Hong Kong.

J.P. Travis said...

The top picture looks cool, but the bottom picture looks like a mime class for beginners.

Susan Anderson said...

I need to look into this!



Carol............. said...

I LOVE Tai Chi! I started years ago with an old David Carradine VCR!

Am not as dedicated as I used to be but now that you've reminded me.......

Unknown said...

I a have watched and marvelled. It's time I tried it for myself, especially as the high impact stuff just doesn't work for me. A VCR trail would be a good thing, where i could experiment in privacy.

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