T’ai Chi Ch’uan For Health and Fitness

By Paul MacFarlane and Bill Grivna

Like everyone else, the St. Louis T’ai Chi Ch’uan Association has found itself having to change its usual class schedule in response to the corona virus. We hope to have in person classes when our fall semester begins in September. We may limit class size, have live stream classes, or some combination of the two. One thing is certain, we must be mindful of the world around us so we can respond to change, much like the practice of T’ai Chi itself.

You’ve probably seen people practicing T’ai Chi on TV, in a movie, or even locally, in a park or at the botanical garden. You know it’s a slow moving, graceful exercise that is supposed to be beneficial. You may have heard that at advanced levels it is a formidable martial art based on relaxation, yielding, and using an opponent’s energy against himself. But what do you really know about the many health benefits that can be gained from this wonderful, relaxing exercise system?

T’ai Chi, when practiced regularly, has been said to improve relaxation, concentration, coordination, flexibility, postural alignment, and both physical and mental balance or centering. T’ai Chi is a weight bearing exercise, and recent studies show that weight bearing exercises improve brain health. If some or all of this sounds intriguing to you, then we’d like to introduce you to the St. Louis T’ai Chi Ch’uan Association, a not-for-profit organization has been offering classes in the art of T’ai Chi Ch’uan since 1979. 

The five principles embodied in the form that we practice are: relax and sink, separate the weight, waist as commander, body upright and beautiful lady’s wrist said Shelley Shray, current President of the Association. Ms. Shray has practiced the Yang Style Short Form, as taught by the Association for over thirty years, and, like most of the Association’s students, T’ai Chi Ch’uan has changed her life in many ways. In addition to better balance and improved postural alignment, Ms. Shray has also benefitted from T’ai Chi’s meditative qualities with a more relaxed, centered and focused approach to life’s stresses.

As Mike David, long time practitioner, once described it, “These benefits come subtly, like laying a sheet of paper on top of a sheet of paper. Over time, you find the way you sit, stand and move tend to change. You gain strength, balance, suppleness, stamina, and most of all, a more meditative approach to daily living.”

For centuries, T’ai Chi Ch’uan was kept a closely-guarded family secret in China. But today, anyone with a sincere interest can learn the basics of the Form. With dedicated practice, some, if not all of the above benefits can be realized –something of value for the remainder of any student’s life.

The Yang Style Short Form taught at the Association was condensed (mostly by eliminating repetitions) from the Long Form by Professor Cheng Man-Ch’ing, a supremely gifted master of T’ai Chi Ch’uan, painting, poetry, calligraphy, and medicine. His teachings have been passed down to current Association instructors via one of Professor’s foremost students, Benjamin Lo, and Mr. Lo’s senior students.

Yang Style T’ai Chi is characterized by slow, rhythmic movements of the body. The Form can be practiced at any age, requires no special equipment beyond comfortable, loose clothing and flat, thin-soled shoes. Once learned, the Form takes about eight minutes to practice.

To learn more about T’ai Chi Ch’uan, call 314-961-1355, visit our web site at www.taichistlouis.org or email us at taichistlouis@gmail.com.

Beginner classes start September 6 & 13 at the Monday Club in Webster Groves. (The first class is free for new students.)