For centuries Taoist scholars, doctors and herbalists have investigated the inner workings of the mind and body. Many texts have been written, which are still in use today such as the Nei China or Yellow Emperor’s Classic. These have been traced back to the Xia dynasty of 2600 B.C. Many Taoist works subjects such as philosophy, science, medicine, alchemy, astronomy and agriculture have survived into modern times. Through dedicated research and experimentation the Taoist philosophy of Yin and Yang was evolved but above all it was discovered that each individual’s health depends on the quantity and quality of their internal energy or life force known as ‘Chi’. All modern forms of Chinese medicine such as Acupuncture, Acupressure, Herbalism, Taoist Yoga or Chi Gung and Tai Chi Chuan are derived from these earlier studies.
The major emphasis in Chinese medicine is on prevention rather than cure. Exercise, lifestyle and dietary habits are of primary consideration. From early times Taoist doctors found that natural foods and deep breathing exercises could help the body store energy rather than depleting it. Rather than treating disease after it had struck they decided to encourage people to take a more responsible and active role in their own well being. They developed Tai Chi as a popular way for people of any age or level to improve their health and to aid their recovery from illness from the roots by cultivating the chi.
More recently as Chinese people have emigrated to other countries, Tai Chi has become popular throughout the world as an antidote to the increasing pressures of the urban environment. Sometimes called moving meditation the gentle movements can be by young and old alike, as there is not the wear and tear on the body associated with more aggressive forms of exercise. Deep breathing and stretching exercises are also incorporated to help rid the body of toxins, but the most obvious benefit to most people is the deep feeling of relaxation, which accompanies the practice.
Tai Chi has become the living embodiment of a philosophical tradition, which has been directly transmitted from teacher to student often without recourse to written or oral teaching. Students are encouraged to observe the laws of nature at work spontaneously through their own eyes rather than copy something they have been told or read in a book. Taoist teachers often integrate their studies with other related disciplines such as Kai Men or Taoist Yoga, Wu Shu or self defence practice, Chang Ming or natural dietary therapy, and the many and various aspects of Taoist medicine and meditation techniques.
Tai Chi exercises can be practised anywhere as there is no need for any elaborate equipment. All that is needed is some space, some clean air and a little time each day.
With dedicated practice and an open-minded attitude, it is possible for students to feel the flow of internal energy and thereby take the first steps along the road towards a lifestyle which integrates the physical, mental and spiritual aspects of their being.