I came to China to practice Kung Fu and Tai Chi. I still practice Tai Chi. It’s such a big part of my life, so I want to share some of my personal experience about it.
More and more research is showing how Tai Chi can help you to stay healthy or to help older people to maintain balance, a normal blood pressure, a healthy heart and much more.
In fact, most people still see Tai Chi as something for old people. Even in China, most people forgot about the benefits and the ancient art of Tai Chi and see it just as exercise for the old to keep fit, a bit like aerobics for the elderly.
Nothing can be more from the truth. Tai Chi is more than that, as I will tell you from my personal experience.
When I was younger, I was already interested in martial arts, so I practiced judo and karate, but just as a recreational sports, not for competitions. So, I only practiced twice a week. I was sometimes into running, but was never good at it (2 or 3 km, at most 5km, and I was as red as a tomato and was panting for the next hour).
I loved exercise and I went to the gym frequently, but now I realize that I was never pushing myself. I was never trying to improve much. I just went along with the coach, e.g. during a spinning class, or was just trying to lift heavier weights, but never enough to improve my fitness level.
Until now, I didn’t realize what I was doing. I thought I worked on my health and that I was fit enough. Little did I know.
I hang out with people now who are into mountaineering, marathons and ultraruns. Compared to them, I am in really bad shape. But, I am also amazed at my current fitness level. I can’t run a marathon, but the girl who could only run 2 or 3 km, can all of a sudden run 16km without much preparation. Rock climbing? Ok, I’ll try and to my surprise I can finish routes that are a bit above beginner level (with pushing myself hard and people shouting encouragement from 20m down, yes, it’s also about overcoming a fear of heights).
How come that I can run 16km in 33 degrees celsius, while my more than 10 years younger self was panting at 3km in a colder climate?
The answer I got after reading some books and after some self-evaluation, is because of my Tai Chi.
Tai Chi gives you good balance, so I will put my feet and my body in a good way, which will make me less prone to injuries. The most important change is my breath. Tai Chi teaches you to breathe deeply and properly, the abdominal breathing. This way of breathing gives me more oxygen, which gives me more endurance. Tai Chi is a fully integrated system: the different movements let all your muscles work and because you practice them in a soft flowing way, you are more aware of what is going on in your body. If you put a foot or other body part in a different position, you will be more aware of it and you will adjust it faster. Another important feature is that it gives you a better posture, so my back is straight all the time. Every time when I curve my back or I slouch a bit, my body will correct itself immediately. This is important for running, but also in our every day life. As we are spending more time behind the computer or on the couch, a good posture is inevitable to stay healthy and fit into old age.
So, Tai Chi gives you a lot of advantages and not only when you are old, you can benefit from it at any age. That said, Tai Chi is no miracle cure too. You should always listen to your body and give your body enough rest after you do strenuous exercise like running. But, as Tai Chi will teach you, be aware of what is going on in your body and you will know when to stop or when to take a rest for some days.
I invite everyone to try some Tai Chi classes and feel the difference yourself.