As the body grows older aches and pains can develop and hamper any desire for serious exercise; yet there are some types of exercise that just about anyone can do and one of those is tai chi chih.
The History of Tai Chi Chih
The art of the movements for the "chih" version of the exercise was developed by Justin S. Stone in 1974. The American was born in 1916 in Ohio and worked on Wall Street for a number of years. In the 1950s he traveled to Japan and India and studied with yogis and Zen monks. Stone learned and taught tai chi chuan and from his experience and training, he developed tai chi chih. Stone went on to train others in these movements and qualified over 2,000 teachers worldwide to teach the art of the graceful movements.Credit: Source: Microsoft Office
What is Tai Chi Chih?
While tai chi chuan is a form of martial arts, the "chih" version is not. Stone's version of the exercise is considered a more simple practice than the former and usually takes only about eight classes or two months to learn. Each movement includes meditative thoughts and the movements are slow and fluid. Practicing these graceful movements takes little space, no special equipment or clothes and is a low impact workout. The set of movements focuses on developing Chi, an intrinsic energy. Correct posture and breathing is crucial to performing the movements properly.
There is one pose called the Cosmic Consciousness Pose and 19 movements. The 19 movements of Stone's version of the exercise in order are:
- Rocking Motion
- Bird Flaps Its Wings
- Around the Platter
- Around the Platter Variation
- Bass Drum
- Daughter on the Mountaintop
- Daughter in the Valley
- Carry the Ball to the Side
- Push Pull
- Pulling in the Energy
- Pulling Taffy
- Pulling Taffy, Variation #1, Anchor
- Pulling Taffy, Variation #2, Wrist Circles
- Pulling Taffy, Variation #3, Perpetual Motion
- Working the Pulley
- Light at the Top of the Head / Light at the Temple
- Joyous Breath
- Passing Clouds
- Six Healing Sounds
Credit: Source: MorguefileOnly those accredited in the practice can instruct others in the exercise. Classes are offered in various venues such as senior citizen centers, hospitals, churches, schools, and corporations as part of a wellness program.
Benefits of Stone's Exercises
According to Stone, his exercises affect inner organs as well as muscular structure of the body. The slow movements of the art affect blood pressure, and can help with weight control. According to the Tai Chi Chih Association, the fluid movements might help reduce pain and if practiced regularly can improve flexibility, balance and stamina.
The slow, easy movements may also help senior citizens sleep better. A study conducted by the University of California at Los Angeles revealed people between 59-86 years old who practiced Stone's "chih" for 25 weeks slept better and had better concentration during the day than those who participated in a 25 week diet, sleep habit and stress management course.  Practicing the 19 movements on a regular basis may increase energy and promote longevity.
Similarities to Chuan
Tai chi moves have roots in martial arts but is thought to also improve physical and mental health. While the movements created by Stone may appear to be like those of tai chi chuan, his movement patterns do not have any martial arts aspects. The study of chuan movements have three aspects:
- health which concentrates on relieving physical effects of stress on the mind and body
- martial art which involves using tai chi as a form of self-defense.
Credit: Photo courtesy of Rudolph A Furtado, Source: Wikimedia CommonToday, many people practice tai chi as a form of exercise. Like Stone's exercise, it is a low-impact exercise performed with fluidity and gracefulness. Both types of exercise have a core concept of Taoist yin and yang. The art of the movement is a way to keep the yin and yang in the body in harmony as the body is the strongest and healthiest when they are balanced.
In the history of tai chi, the practice was controlled by five families that developed their own styles of the practice and guarded the knowledge so only their inner circles knew the movements. The five main styles of today, named after the families that developed them are:
- Yang style
- Wu Hao style of Wu Yu-hsiang
- Chen style
- Sun style
- Wu style of Chien-ch’uan, and Wu Ch’uan-yu
A derivative of the Yang style is the most common style practiced today.Credit: Source: Wikimedia Commons
The Yang style has over 100 postures but like Stone's version, the movements are performed slowly. There is a fluidity of the movements with no pauses between the movements. Because these movements are low impact there is little stress on joints. This makes both versions of the exercise excellent workouts for those with arthritis. The meditation factor can reduce stress and anxiety. The four factors in practicing these versions are:
Practicing these movements does take some self-discipline as does any type of regular workout, but those who practice the movements find the benefits are well worth it.Credit: Source: Wikimedia Commons
Research has shown that intensive practice of these moves, regadless of which version, reduces the risk of falls in elderly patients, both healthy and recovering from various ailments such as heart attacks, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s. Many senior citizen centers offer the exercise for seniors programs. Whether choosing to practice the simpler "chih" version or the extensive martial arts oriented movements of "chuan"; individuals will benefit from the low impact workout.
The copyright of the article Tai Chi Chih and Tai Chi Chuan are Excellent for People of all Ages is owned by Cheryl Weldon and permission to republish in print or online must be granted by the author in writing.
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