Most people know that swimming is an excellent form of exercise, however not everyone likes water and there are certain medical problems such as skin conditions and infections etc. that preclude this form of activity. Tai Chi is an alternative form of exercise with similar health benefits which is suitable for those people who dislike or cannot tolerate immersion in water. Cheng Man-Ch’ing, the famous Tai Chi grandmaster described this art as ‘swimming on land’.
Tai Chi movement is performed very slowly and gently just like moving through water. The body and limbs are relaxed so that they feel as though they are floating. Like swimming you can practise Tai Chi for a longer period than traditional exercise without becoming short of breath or excessively tired and it helps to build up stamina.
Here is an exercise to help appreciate how Tai Chi movement is like swimming. Sit or stand in an upright posture. Slowly perform a wave like movement with your arm. Think of the air that surrounds you as a thick, viscous liquid and imagine that your arm is moving slowly through this liquid. Feel how your arm floats through the air. Feel the air move through your fingers.