Tai Chi moves the body, slows the mind

2011 Group Tai Chi For Karyn Veenis, tai chi is about living – and breathing – in the moment.

“It seems busyness is the new stress,” the retired teacher says. “Participating in a tai chi class suspends agendas, and I feel calmness bubbling up as I practice the forms.”

It feels like a dance, Veenis says, – “a slow, fluid measure centering my

Tai chi, sometimes referred to as “meditation in motion,” focuses on deep breathing and gentle movement that works all the muscles of the body,

The gentle workout – a modern day form of an ancient Chinese martial art – receives high praises not only for lowering blood pressure, but also for reducing stress and improving cardiovascular fitness.

“Tai chi helps you feel calmer,” says Baker, who’s taught tai chi for 15 years. “It is an exercise that focuses on balance, breathing and movement. But it is also great for mental health, emotional well-being and stress reduction. It is another way to think about exercise and is a great alternative for a world that is all about a fast workout.”

In this low-impact, slow motion exercise, participants go without pausing through a series of motions that imitate the movements of animals with whimsical descriptions like “rooster stands on one leg” or “parting wild horse’s mane” or “white crane spreads its wings.”

As participants move, they breathe deeply and naturally, focusing attention on body sensations. By concentrating on movement with focused awareness, individuals will affect heart rate, respiratory rate and heighten the mind and body connection.

Body movements are slow, circular and never forced. The muscles are relaxed rather than tense, and the joints are not fully extended. All movements come from the waist, hips and shoulders. Knees are unlocked in standing poses, and elbows, wrists and fingers have a soft curve. Finally, there is no equipment. The exercise is entirely relaxed body movement coordinated with breathing awareness.

Tai chi exercises are primarily done while standing, so it’s easy to take classes outside.  “What a blessing to have a beautiful outdoor space to gather and follow Kim’s instructions,” Sharon Lemley says. “I brought guests with me to the park, and they enjoyed the experience as well.”

Yoga instructor Jill Johnson has also taken part in tai chi classes and says it allows her to “unplug from the natural stressors of everyday life.” She feels it is a complement to her yoga and meditation practice. “I move with the natural flow of my body and breath,” Johnson says. “Not only do I feel better, but I love learning about the concept of ‘effortless effort.’ ”

Tai chi is gentle on joints and full of movement. It doesn’t take long for participants to relax into the feeling of the moves and find the flow.”


SHE Magazine: Article originally written by Virginia Olson December 3, 2014