An old Taoist proverb says 'No one can see their reflection in running water. It is only in still water that we can see'.

Tai Chi Chuan is a Chinese form of exercise derived from Taoism, one of China's oldest belief systems. The practice of Tai Chi Chuan is beneficial to health and it is also a subtle, sophisticated and scientific method of self-defence. The Taoists themselves used a special method of breathing modelled on the respiratory system of the tortoise, whose hard shell limits the outward expansion of its lungs. Its lungs are therefore forced to expand by extending the length of the body rather than outwards, thus making its breathing deep and harmonious. The tortoise may move slowly, but it lives a long time. This is why the Taoists and later the founders of Tai Chi Chuan adopted and adapted this breathing method.

We can look upon the practice of Tai Chi Chuan in two ways. First it is a method of physical exercise. Secondly, it acts as a catalyst in that when performed by our body it causes certain beneficial reactions to take place. As our muscles move they exert pressure on our veins, forcing our blood flow towards the heart, improving our circulation. Meanwhile, the deep breathing necessary for the performance of the Hand Form causes the diaphragm to expand outwards and downwards and contract inwards and upwards, and this movement of the diaphragm gently `massages' the liver and the intestines.

Tai Chi, as it is practiced in the west today, can perhaps best be thought of as a moving form of yoga and meditation combined.In Chinese philosophy and medicine there exists the concept of 'chi', a vital force that animates the body. One of the avowed aims of Tai Chi is to foster the circulation of this 'chi' within the body, the belief being that by doing so the health and vitality of the person are enhanced. This 'chi' circulates in patterns that are close related to the nervous and vascular system and thus the notion is closely connected with that of the practice of acupuncture and other oriental healing arts.

Constant practice of Tai Chi Chuan over a period of time will make our breathing slow and deep, while our internal organs will work in a gentle and harmonious fashion. When we inhale, our diaphragm will expand not only outwards, but also downwards in the direction of the abdomen, giving our lungs more space to expand downwards also. When we exhale, our lungs contract causing the diaphragm to contract also, both inwards and upwards. The rising and falling motions of the diaphragm help our lungs to function properly. At the same time the rhythmic nature of the diaphragm's movements act to massage our stomach and intestines, gently increasing the circulation of blood and transportation of nutrition.

Many health retreats offer Tai Chi and other foms of deep healing and relaxation. the daily practice and movement offering the opportunity to relax, enjoy your surrounds and experience the peace and energy of the living moment. tai Chi is certainly a beautiful practice to enhance a persons experience whilst enjoying a health retreat program.