by Dee McMath
T'ai Chi is an ancient Chinese mixture of exercise and meditation based on a gentle form of martial arts. It has been practiced for centuries to promote good health, longevity and spiritual awareness.
T'ai chi is thought to have been founded about a century ago by Chang San Feng, Taoist monk and martial arts expert. It has become increasingly popular in many parts of Europe and in the last few years has been added to the many alternative practices on offer in Andalucia. As with many rediscoveries of ancient exercises, you will find more classes and T'ai chi teachers in areas of Andalucia where there are more resident or visiting British and other foreigners. There are organised groups and alternative centres along the Costa del Sol, especially in Marbella, Fuengirola, and some of the other towns along the coast. The Granada area and especially around the Alpujarra mountain range has many natural retreats and holistic resorts where you can find one or two week retreats including T'ai Chi courses. Some of these can found advertised in UK alternative magazines and often even in the holiday ads of Sunday papers like The Mail on Sunday, and The Sunday Times. In fact, both these papers have at some time run articles on such holidays in Andalucia.
This ancient form of mind and body exercise is a combination of meditation and non-aggressive martial arts and if practiced properly and with due dedication, promotes wellbeing, calmness and a long healthy life.
No special clothing is needed, simply something loose, which you feel comfortable in. The teacher will be a T'ai chi master and take you through the exercises slowly. You should tell the teacher of any injuries or physical problems you may have before starting the class. Warm up exercises will be followed by instruction on the form of specific moves which may take more time than you think to pick up. The idea is to be patient and enjoy the classes, allowing yourself as long as it takes to pick up the flow of the moves.
You will use your arms and legs and whole body in T'ai chi and the moves are slow and graceful, encouraging your body to rebalance its energies along its natural channels (meridians). Going with the flow like this makes you feel more relaxed and at one with your mind and body. T'ai chi is a great way to reduce stress and can lower blood pressure. Arthritis suffers can get great relief from practicing T'ai chi, as can those recovering from heart attack or if they are rehabilitating after injury or illness. You should not push yourself hard and should not feel aches and pains after a session, but it will help you progress if you practice the moves in between classes.
Andalucia has both beautiful beaches and tranquil mountains for you to practice your T'ai chi moves. Even in the summer months, when the coast has thousands of visitors, the morning sunrise at the water's edge is a calm and ideal place where you can go. The quieter inland villages and mountain areas also offer the perfect setting for this type of calming therapy.