Tai chi is a physical and mental art form that originated in China, with roots reaching back into antiquity. The practice of tai chi develops an open and aware mind--principles of naturalness, balance, and relaxation inform the training. The physical exercise centers around a set of postures that flow continuously from one to the next. Movement through the postures loosens and stretches the body’s ligaments, strengthens its muscles, enhances balance, increases circulation, massages the inner organs, and calms and centers the mind.
Typical Tai Chi classes include form practice, stretching, warm-up exercises, push-hands, and meditation. No prior experience is needed or expected. Beginners will find a welcoming environment where they can learn from the ground up. More experienced practitioners will have their training deepened. All ages, body types, and fitness levels are encouraged to participate. The material covered is accessible to everyone and will be tailored to each person's needs.
Those practitioners seeking a more meditative practice can take the steps and movements at their own pace and focus on their mental state. Those who seek a more rigorous physical workout can stand lower, move faster, and drill more to push themselves as hard as they choose.
Tai Chi theory encompass a large body of thought growing out of Taoism, and the broader philosophical history of China. But there are certain ideas that will help any practitioner in their training. Perhaps first among these is the idea of the soft overcoming the hard and the related idea of flow. A commonly used example of these principles is the flow of water around stone; it both wears down the stone, while also flowing naturally around it. Another major idea is relaxation and ease, or lightness, of movement. Tai Chi helps train a body and a mindset that is open, unstressed and spontaneous. Through constantly practicing without tension and by keeping the mind present and aware of the body, trainees develop movements that are easy, energetic, and graceful.
Since its earliest days, the most serious students have taken these ideas and techniques even further and used them to help dissolve the sense of separateness from the larger world. The practice can help harmonize the apparent opposites of inner and outer, subject and object. In this way, Tai Chi grows into something more Art than Martial and provides an opportunity to train not only our bodies, but also to heighten our experience of and relationship to the world.