We have a number of Tai Chi retreats in Europe on offer, but for those who don’t know much about this ancient practice, we’ve put together a little guide below.
What is Tai Chi?
Tai Chi, also known as Tai Chi Chuan, meaning ‘the supreme ultimate’, combines deep breathing and relaxation with flowing movements. The slow movements can look deceptive, just try doing slow motion punches, deflections and kicks and you’ll realise why Tai Chi is often referred to as ‘internal weight lifting’. Tai Chi has long been used as an exercise to promote harmony between mind and body while at the same time improving physical balance, energy and health and increasing strength.
In traditional Chinese medicine, humans are considered miniature versions of the universe, made up of the five elements – wood, fire, water, earth and metal. The energy from these five elements, known as ‘qi’ (pronounced ‘chee’), flows throughout the body, and practising Tai Chi helps to improve the flow and to channel this energy in a smooth and balanced manner – also known as ‘balancing your qi’.
Where did Tai Chi originate?
Tai Chi is centuries old, and descends from Qigong an ancient Chinese discipline, meaning ‘energy cultivation’. Both practices used to remain secret in China and were only taught to selected students or family members, or were practised by monks and nuns. Since the 1980s more Chinese masters have brought their teachings to the West and the practices have become increasingly popular. Most modern styles of Tai Chi trace their development to at least one of the five traditional schools, known by their family names: Yang, Chen, Wu (Hao), Wu and Sun.
What’s the difference between Qigong and Tai Chi?
While Qigong focuses on the inner development of one’s energy for physical, mental and spiritual health, Tai Chi uses that energy in the ‘outer world’ to defend and deflect for self-defence. Tai Chi can also be practiced as an exercise for health yet the deceptively gentle moves (done correctly and speeded up) can be applied effectively for martial arts. The warm-up exercises in Tai Chi classes tend to be Qigong – both are ideally suited to be practiced outdoors in parks or gardens.
Both practices combine breathing with subtle movements to create a calm, natural balance of energy. Much like yoga, there are many different varieties of Qigong and Tai Chi as teachers bring their own twist to it or focus on different elements. However, the underlying principle remains the same for Qigong and Tai Chi: ‘least effort, most effective’.
What are the health benefits of Tai Chi?
Benefits of Tai Chi include increased balance, improved strength, better flexibility, reduced stress and increased stamina. It’s a very relaxing exercise, much like yoga is, but initially requires a lot less flexibility to complete the movements. Flexibility increases gradually by practicing and relaxing into the movements.
Recent studies find that Tai Chi helps reinvigorate stem cells, see article. And 12 reasons to try Tai Chi to improve your health.
Tai Chi retreats Europe
There are a number of holidays offering Tai Chi and Qigong in Europe and also Asia.
The old Western spelling is Tai Chi Chuan and Chi Kung. – In the early 1990 Chinese authorities decreed that the spelling in Latin characters should be Tai Ji Quan and Qigong. This more closely matches the Mandarin pronunciation and differentiates the two different ‘chi’ – in Qi gong it means ’energy’, whereas Tai Ji Quan means the ‘supreme ultimate’ (‘Ji’ does not mean energy). So the modern spellings for short are Taiji and Qigong.