The all encompassing tai chi

Tai chi is a mild form of exercise that uses slow, fluid body movements. It is not a jarring form of exercise.

by Ben Serpas — 

There are several techniques one can use to manage stress, such as deep breathing, biofeedback, massage, meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, thought-stopping, visualization and yoga. However, one specific technique includes all of these — tai chi, a form of qi gong (chi kung), which is considered the Chinese form of yoga.

Tai chi has its origin in China, especially in mountain temples such as Wudang and Shaolin, where monks used different forms of martial arts for well-being and self-defense. Today, tai chi is practiced worldwide by all age groups as an anaerobic exercise for body, mind and spirit.

Tai chi has been practiced for more than a thousand years by young and old alike, who receive similar benefits. Recent U.S. studies favor tai chi as a good complementary exercise for seniors as a means of preserving good health and attaining overall well-being.

Here are some interesting observations:

  • Studies, like one from Emory University, report that tai chi practitioners fall only half as often as those practicing other balance training.
  • The Oct. 9, 2003, issue of the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine reported on a study that found tai chi “could decrease blood pressure and results in favorable lipid profile changes and improve subjects’ anxiety status. Therefore, tai chi could be used as an alternative modality in treating patients with mild hypertension, with a promising economic effect.”
  • The concept of using tai chi as an effective tool for reducing or even avoiding high blood pressure, or other illnesses altogether, is echoed in many other articles published by well-known institutions. The Mayo clinic’s Web site,, recommends tai chi for relaxation training in an article entitled, “Relax: Techniques to help you achieve tranquility.”

Tai chi is a mild form of exercise that uses slow, fluid body movements. It is not a jarring form of exercise. Tai chi is proven to be a beneficial therapy that has no ill side-effects, dramatically improves immune and respiratory functions, lowers the incidence of anxiety and depression, and profoundly improves the balance of its practitioners. This is very important, considering that hospitalization for falls in Arizona costs about $270 million a year, not including the fees for doctor visits, rehabilitation or long-term disability.

We should ask ourselves what the best course of action is for our health. If tai chi is such a viable alternative, the next question becomes: Why are not physicians offering it as a prescriptive option to their patients? And why aren’t all insurance policies covering prescriptions for tai chi?

In the end, we must all suffer the consequences of our lifestyle, so why not try something like tai chi that can benefit us so greatly? Once you do, there is no going back.


Ben Serpas is the national director for the Philosophical Martial Arts Institute in Phoenix and is a master of tai chi and archery. 623-696-8244, or

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 27, Number 2, April/May 2008.

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