The facts

Tai chi is a type of mind-body practice with its roots in self-defence and the martial arts. The movements and meditations of tai chi support overall health and well-being, and aim to establish the free flow of vital energy, or qi.

According to traditional Chinese medicine, qi flows freely when the body's two opposing but interdependent life forces - yin and yang - are balanced.

To balance these forces, people who do tai chi move through a slow, deliberate, and graceful series of movements and postures. These motions take inspiration from nature and from animals and integrate rhythmic movement and deep breathing to achieve a calm, relaxed, and present state of mind and body.

In addition to serenity, people who practice tai chi also benefit from the low-impact aerobic exercise the movements and breathing provide. Tai chi can be strengthening and can improve coordination and balance.

A word of caution

Though the motions of tai chi seem gentle and mild, one can still overdo it and experience muscle strains or injury if not careful. Tai chi should not be relied upon as the sole treatment for a medical condition, but rather as a complement. Be sure to inform your health care providers of your tai chi practice.

Instructors train under a master teacher to learn the art. However, tai chi training is not standardized, licensing is not required, and practice is not regulated.