T’ai Chi, Yoga and Pilates
T’ai Chi is a form of meditation-based exercise that seeks to balance the inner chi (subtle energy) to gain overall fitness and vitality. Originally an ancient Chinese martial art form (Tai chi chuan) requiring extensive training, T’ai Chi has evolved into several modern avatars, including the one created in the 70s by Justin Stone known as Tai chi chih. In fact, today the more popular connotation of T’ai Chi is that of an effective means to holistic wellbeing.
T’ai Chi is comprised of one posture and 19 related movements that help circulate our inner energy. This has earned it the moniker of “moving meditation”. T’ai Chi is based on four basic principles:
- Relaxation: Remaining alert so that your body loosens up, becomes graceful, releases tension, and lets the chi flow freely.
- Posture: Keeping your head steady and your spine vertical at all times.
- Centrality: Paying attention to the core of the body from where energy flows out.
- Yin/yang: Standing on one leg at a time to distinguish between yin and yang and also build overall balance.
T’ai Chi works well with diverse lifestyles because you can do as much or as little as you’re comfortable with. The regimen makes you fit; what’s more, you have a heightened sense of peace and awareness. It also facilitates psychic healing, effective metabolism and blood circulation, a positive attitude, and a healthy mind.
Rooted in ancient Vedic philosophy, Yoga is an Indian practice with a holistic approach that addresses physical, mental and psychic well being. In modern times, it has emerged internationally as one of the most popular exercise forms around. There are several schools of yoga; generally speaking though, yoga is based on five basic principles:
- Proper relaxation: By letting go of anxiety and tension.
- Proper diet: Consuming what nourishes the body and the mind; also, by eating in moderation and only when one is hungry.
- Proper breathing: Deep breathing to allow the free flow of prana (life force) along the body’s subtle energy channels
- Proper exercise: Executing the asanas (yogic postures) correctly and coordinating breathing with movement.
- Meditation: Emptying the mind of negativity and clutter, through practices that incorporate special breathing techniques.
Yoga brings hundreds of benefits including relief from arthritis, back pain, fatigue, constipation, osteoporosis, Carpal tunnel syndrome, allergies, depression, diabetes, asthma, insomnia, heart disease, and stress. It also regulates blood pressure and improves muscle tone, stamina, blood circulation, memory, concentration, hand-eye coordination and endurance. Yoga also detoxifies your system, helps you lose weight, boosts immunity, delays ageing, makes you sleep well, lowers glucose, reduces sodium and increases red blood cell count.
Pilates was developed by a Greco-German gymnast, Joseph Pilates, during World War I to help war veterans regain their fitness. Ever since, millions of people worldwide have adopted the practice. Pilates helps you attain overall fitness but also addresses specific needs. The exercises are designed to attain mind-body balance and are based on six main principles:
- Breathing: Breathing in and out completely is important in order to wake up your body and flush out toxins.
- Centring: Deriving energy from your “centre” – the area between your lower ribs and abdomen – called the “powerhouse”. Energy from the core needs to flow out to the rest of the body.
- Concentration: Paying close attention to your body during exercises.
- Control: Coordinating every muscle mindfully and correctly so that no body part remains uncontrolled.
- Precision: Perfecting each movement so that it is in tandem with other movements. Clumsy movements defeat the purpose of Pilates.
- Flow: Transitioning smoothly from one exercise to another for complete core strengthening.
Pilates is customisable depending on your fitness level and goals. It focuses on building a toned, graceful and flexible body. Pilates improves posture, awareness, energy levels and stamina, and helps lose weight.