You may have observed a class or seen people practicing in a park making slow, flowing movements. It looks like a slow-motion dance of moves that shift like waves in water. Someone told you, “That’s T’ai Chi!” But really, just what is it??
T’ai Chi Chuan, also called Tai Ji Quan, or simply, T’ai Chi, is an ancient Chinese martial art, exercise, and moving meditation consisting of a specific series of postures joined by movement and weight shift. The individual postures and their transitions are combined into what is called a “Form.” Forms are named for their family of “parentage”—the Chinese family that developed, maintained, and taught the form for generations. Today, people all over the world practice variations of the Yang, Chen, Wu, and other T’ai Chi Forms.
Who can do it?
T’ai Chi was derived from the same sources as Kung Fu and may be used for combat and self-defense, but in the West it is best known as a “Healing Art” closely related to acupuncture and Qi Gong (breathing). T’ai Chi can be practiced by people of all ages and physical abilities and is especially beneficial for those seeking to improve balance and prevent falls.
What are the benefits?
T’ai Chi is not an aerobic exercise, though it tends to improve “core” and lower body strength. T’ai Chi practitioners often describe achieving a “flow state”: a feeling of focus, mental clarity, and physical relaxation that comes from regular practice of the Form. Many recent studies confirm that T’ai Chi is a beneficial tool for stress relief, balance, relaxation, and body awareness, and is often recommended for those with arthritis, Parkinson’s, and other diseases that affect balance and movement. With daily practice, most students can expect some health benefit within 1 or 2 weeks.
What can people expect from the first class?
In a first class, students are introduced to basic stances, warm up exercises, important principles, and one or more postures of a Form.
How can students get started?
Take a Beginner Workshop! At Cornerstone, most classes start by learning the Yang Family 13 Posture Form, which is also practiced in the ongoing, weekly “mixed level” T’ai Chi classes.
“Beginner T’ai Chi” is a workshop consisting of one class per week for 6 weeks and is for students who want to learn all 13 postures of the Yang Form completely and in sequence. After this class, students can practice on their own or move deeper into T’ai Chi with more advanced workshops.
Unable to take the Beginner Workshop? You can “drop-in” on one of our ongoing weekly “mixed level” classes which reinforce the basic T’ai Chi principles, review the Yang 13 Postures, transitions and form, practice Qi Gong, T’ai Chi “stepping,” and other topics. Even without previous experience in T’ai Chi, all students are welcome to drop-in on our “mixed level” classes.
“Beginner T’ai Chi” Workshop:
Thursdays, April 26 – May 31, 6:30 – 7:30pm, Cornerstone, Warrington, PA
For information or to register, call 215.918.5900
Christopher Plummer has studied and practiced T’ai Chi Chuan since 1980. He has taught privately, in corporate fitness and adult education programs, and yoga studios since 2004. He joined the Cornerstone Clubs teaching staff in 2016.