Tai Chi in Recovery

From Addiction to Tai Chi

When people manage to break away from addiction, they free up time that they can then devote to healthier pursuits. One of the activities that can bring great benefits to their life is Tai Chi. This is not only a practice that brings physical benefits, but it can also improve mental well-being. There are also many people who use this martial art as a type of spiritual path. Tai Chi is probably not enough by itself to ensure success in recovery, but it can certainly become a useful ingredient.

Introducing the Supreme Ultimate Fist

Tai Chi Chuan originated in China and it can be translated into English as the supreme ultimate fist. It was originally created for personal defense, but it has now become more famous as an art that promotes lifelong physical fitness. It is believed that this soft martial art was originally only made available to the top levels of Chinese society, but these days it is practiced by people of all backgrounds around the globe. Tai Chi is thought to have been around for at least 700 years.

Tai Chi is most famous for its flowing movements that are incorporated into forms. Most classes will have a number of different elements including:

* Special warm up exercises that gently prepare the body for exercises
* Chi Kung (also written Qigong) exercises that promote physical and mental health. These exercises are based on Chinese medicine and involve promoting the flow of Chi/Qi throughout the body.
* Pushing hands is a two person technique where people get to experience the combat potential of Tai Chi. This is a type of sparring, and it is possible to enter push hands competitions where contestants attempt to push each other off balance to win.
* Open hand forms include the flowing sets of movements most associated with this martial art. It can take many months to learn just one form and a lifetime to master it.
* Weapons forms are sets of movements that also involve using a weapon. The common weapons used in Tai Chi are the sword, the staff and the saber. There are even weapons forms that rely on a fan or walking stick.

Styles of Tai Chi

For hundreds of years, this martial art was associated with a number of families spread out around China. It was passed down from generation to generation. This meant that there developed variations in the different styles of the art. The types of Tai Chi that people are most likely to practice in the West are:

* Chen style, which is believed to have originated in Henan Province during the seventeenth century. There are seven main forms in this style, including weapons forms. Chen style includes a type of sparring known as push hands.
* Yang style is the most popular form of this martial art practiced around the globe. The original long form of this style contains three hundred separate movements. The simplified form has just 24 movements, making it ideal for beginners.
* Sun style, which is probably the most spiritual form of Tai Chi. It is most well known for its smooth movements and gracefulness.
* Wu style, which is a good option for people who are most interested in learning Tai Chi as a form of combat.

There are also some modern forms of Tai Chi which have been combined with more intense elements of aerobic exercise.

Benefits of Tai Chi

These are some of the many potential benefits associated with the practice of Tai Chi:

* This gentle martial art is well-known for its ability to help people deal better with stress. There are many types of mental and physical illness associated with excessive stress, so anything that is able to remedy this is to be welcomed.
* It is an activity that can bring health benefits to people of all ages. This is why it is now so common to see elderly people practicing this activity in parks around the world.
* Tai Chi is an effective form of self-defense. The individual will hopefully never have to use the techniques to defend themselves, but knowing that they have this ability increases self-esteem and confidence.
* It increases muscle strength in all parts of the body.
* Tai Chi has been shown to improve balance. This is particularly beneficial to people as they get older because it helps to prevent falls.
* It can be an effective technique for improving pain management caused by various chronic conditions.
* This activity is often described as a moving meditation. This means that the individual will benefit from many of the benefits of more traditional meditation such as improved mental health.
* Regular practice can increase energy levels and make people more mentally alert.
* Although most forms of Tai Chi will be practiced slowly there can still be aerobic benefits from attending this type of class. This martial art is a path to lifelong physical fitness.
* Tai Chi has been shown to benefit people dealing with several different health conditions including hypertension, arthritis, Parkinson’s disease, cardiovascular disease, stroke and insomnia.
* Tai Chi can be a spiritual path. This activity is closely related to the Eastern spiritual traditions of Taoism and Buddhism. It is not necessary for people to embrace these philosophical traditions but some practitioners may choose to do this. Having some type of spiritual practice can be of great benefit to people in recovery from addiction.
* One of the nice things about Tai Chi is that the emphasis is on technique over strength. This means that practically anyone can become good at this martial art if they are willing to put enough time and effort into the practice.
* It is a superb activity for increasing upper- and lower-body flexibility. This can be of benefit to people of all ages, as it increases the potential range of movement. Those who practice the activity may still be able to touch their toes when they are in their 80s.

The Benefits of Tai Chi or People in Recovery

Tai Chi can be a highly beneficial technique for people in recovery to take up. It will not only help them improve their physical health, but also their mental well-being. The meditative aspects of this art mean that people develop an increased ability to deal with life. This can be particularly beneficial when people are facing the challenges of early recovery. This is an activity that people can practice throughout their recovery, and it will continue to bring them benefits.

How to Prepare for a First Tai Chi Class

This martial art is open to practically everyone. There are things that people are advised to do before attending their first class:

* Although Tai Chi is not a particularly intense physical activity, it may be advisable that people speak to their physician first of all. This is especially important for the newly sober, or for those that have a preexisting health condition.
* Traditionally, there is no real grading system associated with this martial art. Some schools in the West have introduced a belt system because it gives students a way of judging their own progress. It also encourages them to keep on learning so that they can achieve the next belt rank. If people would prefer to train in a style where there is a grading system they should check the availability of this before joining a class.
* There are now many books and videos that claim to teach people this art. The problem with learning at home is that it is too easy to pick wrong techniques, as there is no one to correct mistakes. It is therefore advisable to have a teacher at least in the beginning.
* There are different types of Tai Chi and a variety of teaching styles. Practitioners are advised to find something suitable to their aspirations. Those who are keen to improve their physical fitness might choose a class that emphasizes this. Those more interested in the spiritual aspects of this martial art should be able to find a group that focuses on this.
* Practitioners need to wear comfortable clothing when performing Tai Chi. The clothes should be loose enough to allow for full-movement. Some people like to practice in their bare feet but many choose to wear Kung Fu slippers or comfortable sneakers. There are some schools that wear a specific uniform while training.
* Most schools provide a free introduction lesson, and this is a good way to evaluate what is available.
* In many parks around the world, people come every morning to practice Tai chi. It is usually permissible to just join in with these groups.

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