Tai Chi Classes in Bristol
Tai Chi for Health and Happiness is a centre for Tai Chi, Qigong and Meditation practice based in Bristol. Classes are led by Andrew Wormald, and we follow the teaching of Dr Shen Hongxun who taught Tai Chi standing exercises (Taiji 37) as a means to develop strong internal movements for the purpose of self-healing and martial practice. Dr Shen also founded Taijiwuxigong which is a style of Qigong derived from Tai Chi but simplified in order to clarify the movements and make them accessible to all. In our classes you will learn the Taiji 37 Standing Exercises and Yang Style Form as well as Taijiwuxigong, but also draw on exercises from other systems such as the Tendon Changing Classic (Yijin jing), Dragon Daoyin, Twelve Emei Daoyin, and Five Animals Daoyin. During our classes we explore basic partner exercises in order to understand how Tai Chi forces feel when applied to one another but we do not engage in any kind of sparring or competition. At a later date, we can learn to practice Pushing Hands, Free Fighting (sanshou), and Straight Sword Form.
What is Tai Chi?
Tai Chi is a traditional form of Chinese martial art which focuses on the cultivation of physical and mental wellbeing through harmonising body, breath and mind into one unbroken whole. The practice developed as a result of combining traditional martial arts with the principals of Qigong exercise. It is enjoyed today by people from all walks of life who have come to appreciate the profound effects that come with finding tranquillity in movement.
Tai Chi and Qigong practice provide a gentle physical exercise which medical studies have shown to be beneficial for the health of the heart, bones, nerves, muscles, and immune system. Regular practice has also been shown to lead to improved balance, vigour, and flexibility. Within the exercises there is a strong emphasis on the health of the spine, meaning that regular practice can also provide great relief for those suffering with back pain. The exercises practiced at our school are appropriate for people of all ages, and can be varied in terms of intensity according to each individuals needs.
On a very fundamental level, Tai Chi and Qigong practice help bring the practitioners mind back into their body, helping them to develop an awareness of their current physical state. This kind of awareness has recently entered public consciousness under the term “mindfulness”, research into which has shown it to benefit people’s emotional state, to reduce stress, and to alleviate symptoms of depression. In addition to this physical awareness, Tai Chi and Qigong practice also place great emphasis on developing a strong mental intention which can lead to a more lively and spirited state of mind.
Note: The NHS website recognises that Tai Chi has been shown to reduce stress, improve posture, balance and general mobility, and to increase muscle strength in the legs. The Harvard Medical School website also notes that Tai Chi can help maintain strength, flexibility, and balance and could be the perfect activity for the rest of your life. And, this BBC article from 2015 suggests that in the future it might be possible to consider prescribing Tai Chi for patients with several types of illness.
Beginning Tai Chi Practice
What to Expect
In a typical Tai Chi class you can expect to see people from all walks of life, some who are there for the remedial benefits that Tai Chi practice can offer, some who simply enjoy this unique form of physical exercise, and some who are interested in the meditative aspects of practice. A typical class will start with warm-up exercises to get the body loose and open, before moving on to practice simple Qigong exercises which incorporate important principles that will be explored in the Tai Chi form. In addition to these solo exercises, it is also possible that a class might include various forms of partner work to further develop awareness of our body and how we interact with others. The end of the class might incorporate some form of simple meditation practice, helping us to further explore the peaceful qualities we have developed.
What to Wear
It is best to wear loose fitting clothing and simple flat-soled shoes. Then, after practicing for some time, you might also like to invest in a pair of cotton-soled Tai Chi shoes. In addition to appropriate clothing, it can also be worthwhile bringing some water to class, and perhaps a small towel if you are planning to engage more intensively with the exercises. It is also advised that you remove any jewellery in order to avoid accidents.