IMG_3187

The Ultimate Workout

The Ultimate Workout
The question is, what kind of exercise is best for you? Weight training for strength? Pilates for six-pack abs? Yoga for flexibility? Or perhaps a mixture of several different kinds of exercise that you blend together – a format that fitness professionals call, “cross training.”
But what if there were a single workout that could satisfy all your fitness needs, and more?
And what would you call it?  What would you call a workout that was simultaneously a system of self-defense, a shield against disease, a means of meditation and a beautiful dance?  Well, you might call it “T’ai Chi Ch’uan” – one of the world’s most popular workouts. It’s practiced by hundreds of millions of people throughout Asia and around the world. T’ai Chi Ch’uan is called “the ultimate exercise” for body, mind and Spirit. If you’ve ever been curious about this ancient Chinese martial art, here are just three things you ought to know.
First of all, T’ai Chi is a phenomenal physical workout. It builds great lower body strength and flexibility, and along the way delivers a terrific cardio workout. The upper body also gets a great resistance workout as you begin to practice the T’ai Chi sword, or include the weighted T’ai Chi ball. The greatest workout benefit of T’ai Chi, however, is how it hones your balance and coordination, which makes it the perfect complement to any other workout. No matter what your other sport may be, T’ai Chi will make it better.The second important benefit of T’ai Chi is how it helps you manage and relieve stress – and who couldn’t benefit from that?  Good T’ai Chi practice teaches you to trigger what is known as the “relaxation response.” The relaxation response is a total release of the unconscious muscle tensions and a reversal of the stress hormones that have created our chronic “stress responses” (our automatic reactions to stress, like increased blood pressure and heart rate, shallow breathing and elevated cortisol levels).
Finally, T’ai Chi has a deeply metaphysical or philosophical side (some would even say Spiritual).The art of T’ai Chi is based on ancient principles that not only teach you about exercise and self-defense, but about life itself. What T’ai Chi does is teach you the principles for living in a very physical way. Here’s just one example: almost all Spiritual systems talk about the importance of “balance” in your life. But what does that really mean? How are you supposed to use balance to your advantage? Most of the time, you are left to figure that out for yourself. But T’ai Chi demands that you balance your physical body, teaches you how to do it, and shows you the consequences of not having balance (you fall down).
Of course, the most important feature of T’ai Chi is simply this: it’s fun. The traditional way of telling people you practice this art is to say, “I play T’ai Chi.” That by itself may justify the name, “The Ultimate Workout.”

IMG_3244This article was written by David-Dorian Ross, Tai Chi Master with more than 1million Tai Chi DVD sales through Gaiam, and bestselling author of Exercising the Soul. Visit www.daviddorianross.com.