Westerners often look at Taichi as a form of healthy exercise — and relate it to the long life of Chinese people. But why exactly is it so healthy? There are several reasons of its benefits.
The first one is simply the physical activity. Although you don’t really run out of breath when you practice, you can feel a light sweat beginning after 15 or 20 minutes or practice. As Ms Yip, a taichi teacher, often says, it’s because it makes you use gently but deeply your muscles. “You always have to keep your legs bent, that’s the key to a fluid motion and it’s what makes Taichi a physical activity,” she says. “Slow moves” doesn’t necessarily mean “effortless exercise”; as long as the whole body moves to its full motion — extension of the arms and legs for instance — it benefits the body.
Another caracteristic of healthy Taichi is the use of all the limbs. As we saw in previous posts, Taichi uses the coordination of the legs and arms. This reinforce the strength of the joints and the muscle without deteriorating them, unlike other sports.
Indeed, according to the Arthritis Foundation, professional football or tennis players (to name but a few) have a greater chance to end up with arthritis due to the repetitive motions of their training.
However, it has been proved that Taichi actually reduces risks of arthritis (according to this study).
The reason is that gentle exercises help reduce arthritis as opposed with hard shocks that deteriote articulations and joints.
A less known and more arguable (for westerners, that is) reason is the use of Qi (pronounce “chee”), the internal life-force that runs in our body.
When practising Taichi, you can feel a tickeling sensation in the palms of your hands; as my teacher says, “It’s the Qi! Can’t you feel it?!” Although I still doubt it’s some kind of energy that flows out of my body, I undeniably feel something.
For most Chinese people, this is actually the main reason of a better health. If you regularly train, your Qi will ‘improve’ your internal organs’ activities and this will result in a better health.