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T'ai-chi Ch'uan

T'ai-chi means 'supreme ultimate' and, as practised in China as long ago as the 14th century, it developed into a system of simple, slow, beautiful and graceful movements of the body linked together in a dance-like formation. In China and elsewhere in the world today, it can often be seen being practised in the early morning in the open air. Although allied historically to the martial arts, it replaced aggression with slow, contemplative movements that help the practitioner focus on the integration of the body and mind. Its basic objective is to increase awareness of the energy (chi) in the body and remove deep, unconscious stress.

T'ai-chi primarily involves two steps -- meditation and movement. The meditation provides the experience of stillness and the movement is inspired from the belief that 'running water never stagnates'. Although it appears deceptively simple, T'ai-chi can take time to learn. Loose clothes are essential and the student is taken through each movement cycle in stages. The short form of movement consists of about 40 movements, while the long form contains over 100 movements which can take over half an hour to perform.
Though T'ai-chi is not used specifically for treating a particular condition, it is useful as a health-promoting and life-enhancing daily routine. It can help manage stress and tension, and diminish long-term muscular pains. It is believed that most people carry their stresses in the lower back region because the lower back contains all the major nerves that lead to the brain.Since T'ai-chi involves no sitting positions and all the work is done by the lower body, it is believed to help get rid of this stress by postures that take the lower back in and bring it down.

Similarly, the standing meditative posture is done in a way which places the body weight on certain points on the feet. Pressure on these points cause the kidneys to be stimulated. The Chinese believe the kidneys to be the most important organ in the body. So if the kidneys are in good health, the rest of the body is considered to be in good health too.

The warming-up exercises strengthen the muscles, tendons and ligaments. T'ai-chi movements are also known to help increase the capacity of the lungs and promote relaxation. Some find it improves concentration.



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