The “Chi” in “Tai Chi” is the same ubiquitous “Qi” that the Chinese use to indicate life energy. According to this ancient oriental concept, Chi is a vital, living force, one which is constantly changing and yet remains imperturbably the same.
Chi is, in fact, life itself.
The Breath of Life
Interestingly, the meaning of Chi was intertwined in ancient China with the idea of vapor, or breath. The written form of “Chi” was the same as the symbols for the steam coming from boiling water, or the vapor produced by a breath exhaled on a very cold day.
Control of the breath is very important when practicing Tai Chi. This is the same kind of control that is employed in the practice of Yoga, meditation, and martial arts. In general, the idea is that, by breathing consciously, one can increase the flow of Chi.
This has all kinds of beneficial effects:
Major Benefits of Breath Control in Tai Chi
- Regulating the heart and blood pressure
- Calming stress and its harmful effects
- Balancing the immune system
- Bringing the spirit into harmony with the universe
As East meets West, we see the concept of “Chi” cropping up in various popular venues, from the TV series Kung Fu to “The Force” in Star Trek. Similar concepts in the West include the Christian “holy spirit” and the Native American “great spirit. In India, one might call it “prana,” and in Japan, “ki.”
Is Tai Chi in your Neighborhood Park?
Tai Chi Chuan is now the most-practiced group exercise in the world, accepted as a valuable fitness pursuit, moving meditation, and martial art in practically every country and practically every public park. Its enormous popularity stems from its incredible successes in providing a highly accessible path to a life which is more balanced, and which flows more freely with the blessings of life energy.
Advanced Tai Chi students will often graduate to the practice of the Tai Chi Ruler. It offers some advantages over group Tai Chi practice, which you can read about here, and in a more detailed discussion here.