This article is from the Alternative Medicine Therapies guide.
Tai chi (pronounced "tie chee") is an ancient Chinese discipline that integrates mind, body, and spirit. Practitioners use meditation and deep breathing as they move through a series of continuous exercises, called "forms," which resemble slow-moving ballet. Though it originated as a martial art (evolving from qigong), tai chi is now practiced more for its therapeutic benefits, which include reducing stress, promoting balance and flexibility, and even easing arthritis pain.
According to one legend, tai chi was developed in China in the thirteenth century. As the story goes, a man who was a monk and martial arts master invented it after watching a fight between a crane and a snake. Being the bigger and more powerful of the two, the bird appeared to have the advantage. However, the snake's elusive movements enabled it to win. Even today, practitioners who perform tai chi as a martial art use subtle movements to dodge blows and turn an attacker's own momentum against him.
Tai chi is far more than a mode of self-defense, however. For hundreds of years, groups of Chinese people, many of them elderly, have performed its fluid, graceful movements in parks throughout China as a way of staying vital. Today, many people in the United States, Canada, and Europe have become interested in attaining the health benefits of this ancient art as well.