Tai Chi Escape

Tai chi helps to reduce stress and anxiety, while also helping to increase a person’s flexibility and balance. Here, Champneys resident instructor Michael Richards – who has recently been working with Waitrose and Pippa Middleton on their 10-week tone up campaign – provides an insight for those looking to learn the art of this ancient Chinese tradition. 

How is it different from other martial arts? 

It is called a ‘soft style’ martial art because the muscles are not tense. Instead, the whole body moves as one with smooth, continuous movements. In the last World Martial Arts Championships, seven of the top 10 martial artists were tai chi masters. 

What do I need to do to learn tai chi? 

The art of tai chi is learned through the repetition of postures, so it will help you become familiar with them. If you want to become an expert, you can spend many hours refining them. It’s up to you. 

I hear tai chi is good for me, but why? 

It’s a great activity because it requires the body, mind and breath to work together. Focus, movement and gentle breathing helps your body to enter the ‘rest and relaxation’ mode, which is essential for so many people in today’s fast-paced society. It’s suitable for everyone, and there’s a large variety of tai chi, such as chi gung, yang, wu or hao, that can be learned by adults of all ages. 

It looks very slow. Does it still count as proper exercise? 

Although the exercises are slow, they are continuous and load bearing, which makes them great for bone density and strength. There is clinical evidence that has led to the inclusion of tai chi in falls-prevention programmes delivered in the UK to help older people. 

Do I need any martial arts experience to try it? 

None whatsoever. A good teacher will instruct you from the beginning. Your body has to learn to relax while it moves, and this takes different amounts of time for different people. 

Interview first appeared in the Waitrose Weekend Magazine. 

Champneys run weekly tai chi classes at our Tring and Springs resorts, as part of our activity programme. We also offer private 55-minute sessions.

To find out more on the latter please check out our Expert Service brochure