PT Classroom - Understanding the Fundamentals of Tai Chi ׀ by Tricia Yu, MA, Kristi Hallisy PT, MS, OCS, CMPT, CTI, Patricia Culotti, BSA, CTI, MTF


T'ai Chi Ch'uan, or Tai Chi (pronounced taiji) as it is commonly called, is a slow graceful exercise developed around the 13th century by Chinese families, a combination of meditation and martial arts. It was passed down from generation to generation and kept secret among the families until the 1800's when it was taught as an advanced form of martial arts to the Chinese army and eventually to the public. It has since been promoted as a health exercise and became widely popular among adults of all ages. Today Tai Chi is practiced daily, on street corners, in parks, before going to work. In the late sixties it began to take root in the United States and Europe. There are different styles developed by different Chinese families but the Yang style form remains the most widely used and taught. T'ai Chi translates as "supreme ultimate", the center or common source that unifies all apparent opposites.

Tai Chi can be practiced by people of all ages and most physical conditions. Regular practice helps develop healthy breathing patterns and relaxation skills. As a non-impact exercise it strengthens the body with minimal stress to the joints. It improves body awareness, postural alignment, coordination, strength and flexibility. It trains you to utilize deeper structural muscles which strengthen the tendons and bones.

Tai Chi is a moderately aerobic exercise that can reduce stress levels and enhance the body's immune response. Regular practice lowers blood pressure and promotes emotional well-being. It is also an ideal weight-bearing exercise that helps improve balance.

Tai Chi works at multiple levels of the Nagi Model:


FROM: (8/22/07)

Addresses Physical Impairments
• Range of motion (AROM, PROM)
• Flexibility
• Strength
• Postural stability (muscular endurance, proprioception)
• Bone density (Weight-bearing exercise)
• CV system: ↑ circulation, ↓BP, ↓ RR

Addresses Functional Limitations
• Balance and coordination
• Gait improvements (↓ risk of falls)

Enhances Mindfulness
• ↓ stress / ↑ relaxation
• Improves overall Quality of Life

Tai Chi teaches you to move with effortless grace, a skill that can be applied to any activity from running, surfing, rock climbing, and basketball to walking, lifting objects, and even playing a musical instrument. This ancient Chinese "supreme ultimate" exercise has universal applications. Tai Chi offers health care professionals a new tool to use with their patients and a personal practice that enhances their effectiveness as well as their own state of mind. Patients and clients receive a lifelong practice that improves their overall quality of life.


Last revised: March 5, 2010
by Tricia Yu, MA, Kristi Hallisy PT, MS, OCS, CMPT, CTI, Patricia Culotti, BSA, CTI, MTF

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