If you’re looking for an activity that benefits the mind and body, tai chi for beginners is the perfect solution.
This ancient movement practice is celebrated for its transformative benefits for mind and body.
Plus, it’s a firm favourite amongst older adults looking to increase their physical activity with gentle exercise in a social setting.
This article will cover the basics of tai chi for beginners and inspire you to get started on your movement journey.
Here’s a summary of what we’ll cover:
- Tai chi stems from an ancient Chinese practice with links to martial arts and mindful movement.
- There are a number of stylistic variations to the practice, but it is largely accessible to people of all ages and fitness levels.
- The wellbeing benefits of tai chi are plentiful, from decreased stress levels to reduced risk of falls.
- Older adults and beginners can learn from an instructor in a group setting, which makes it healthy, as well as sociable.
What is tai chi?
Tai chi is sometimes known as a moving meditation, as it focuses on gentle movement combined with breath work.
It began as a martial art in which slow, controlled movement is valued as a mindful practice.
The practice is loved around the world by people of all ages and fitness levels, who practise it for reasons including to:
- Improve mindfulness
- Build strength and balance
- Make friends and socialise
- Create a healthy routine
Where does tai chi come from?
Tai chi comes from an ancient Chinese traditional practice of Qigong, which was part of the Taoist philosophy.
The Taoist belief in the body as a mini universe saw the development of the practice as a way to establish balance and harmony.
It is based on the principles of yin and yang, in which opposing forces act upon each other to create this balance.
The styles of tai chi
Chen, the original style developed by Chen Wangting in around 1670, is physically demanding as it contains powerful moves.
From this, a new modified style grew known as Yang – using higher stances and slow, gentle movements, making it more accessible.
And from Yang and Chen style, three other major styles called Wu, Hao, and Sun were developed, with Sun being the most modern.
These styles share a foundation of essential principles, but each contain different features and characteristics.
Tai chi for beginners
Tai chi is an accessible practice for beginners to get stuck into, feel the health benefits and really enjoy.
It is advisable to find a group or instructor to join so that you can learn the moves.
They can also provide you with insight into using your breath with the movement so you can get the most out of it.
And once you’re familiar with the movements, you can find plenty of resources online, including youtube, to keep you inspired.
Is it suitable for seniors?
Tai chi is a great practice for seniors who want to build their strength and add something positive to their retirement routine.
It’s also essential if you’re wondering how to prevent falls in elderly loved ones.
Tai chi increases awareness of the body while improving balance.
The practice also encourages self-care and building mindful moments into everyday life.
What are the benefits of practising tai chi?
- Helps keep your brain active as you age
- Strengthens muscles and improves balance to prevent falls
- Manage symptoms of chronic conditions
- Improves awareness of the body
- Helps you sleep better
- Lowers blood pressure
Which tai chi style is best for seniors?
Many tai chi practitioners recommend the Yang style of tai chi for seniors and beginners.
This is because the movements are executed in a way that is slow and flowing so that you can gracefully transition from one to the next.
The upright posture adopted in Yang allows you to practise movements without putting too much pressure on the joints and muscles.
This makes it a great exercise for arthritis as it can strengthen your body without straining it.
Do you have to be fit to do tai chi?
Tai chi doesn’t require a high level of physical fitness or strength when starting out, however you are likely to improve as you continue practising.
While it is a form of physical activity, it is thought that the mindful benefits of tai chi can help you transform other aspects of your life.
For example, feeling more motivated to do other types of physical fitness or helping you understand how to cope with loneliness.
For more exercise ideas read our guide to Getting in shape after 50: Three exercises that reverse aging.
Tai chi for arthritis
- Tai chi can be particularly beneficial for people with any of the types of arthritis.
- The gentle movements can reduce pain and encourage mobility.
- Sun tai chi is recommended for people with arthritis.
- This programme was developed by Dr Paul Lam of the Tai Chi for Health Institute to include modifications to make it even safer.
How to start practising tai chi
Find an instructor
If you want to try tai chi for the first time, it’s a good idea to sign up to a class where you can get professional instruction and support.
This ensures that you are following the sequence and executing the moves correctly in a way that is beneficial.
Having an instructor guide you also means that you can discuss any mobility needs you have to practise safely.
Staying consistent in your practice will help you feel the benefits of tai chi in your day to day life.
Even if you attend a weekly class, you can begin to use your knowledge to perform the movements on a daily basis at home.
Just 10 minutes of tai chi a day could make a huge difference to how you feel.
You may want to take your practice outdoors so you can connect with nature for a more mindful experience.
It’s important to have a positive attitude towards your tai chi practice and that includes being patient.
You may not be able to master a certain move the first time, or it may take a while to feel the benefits.
Being patient both with yourself and with the practice will help you feel more grounded and controlled.
What you learn through tai chi may help you in many aspects of your life, mentally as well as physically.
Tips for practising tai chi
- Breathe naturally with a closed mouth
- Find strength in your legs and lightness in your core and upper body
- Be open minded and relaxed for your practice
- Practise regularly
- Go at your own pace
- Wear loose comfortable clothing
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