The Chinese characters Tai Chi Chuan can be translated to mean 'the supreme ultimate force'. It is also associated with the ancient Chinese tradition of yin yang, which is the ultimate duality and balance between two complementary forces such as the male and the female and harmony in both.
The Chinese propounder of Tai Chi was Chang San-Feng who once had a vivid dream of a mortal combat between a snake and crane. He was so inspired by their movement that he invented Tai Chi.
It may have once been a form of exercise for martial artists but it has now become a form a relaxation of mind and body for people all over the world in these stressful times. Many of the movements are either derived from the ancient martial arts or from the movements of birds and animals. The gestures are slow, soft and graceful with smooth and even transitions while changing forms. The focus is to circulate the chi or the vital force in the body which is supposed to animate the body.
Tai Chi is taught in a number of places in Nepal. Self-Awakening Centre in Baber Mahal Revisited offers the latest, along with transcendental meditation, yoga, reiki and alternative therapy.
Deepak Shrestha, member of the World United Martial Arts and the Tai Chi Chuan Federation of Nepal, is the instructor there. Earlier he was interested in Kung Fu but health problems prevented him from continuing. It was at this point that his Chinese teacher introduced him to Tai Chi and he was hooked. It restored his sense of well-being and improved his health.
Shrestha now teaches Tai Chi in private sessions too, including at a park in Maharajganj where he teaches students as old as 81. Conducted in collaboration with the Tai Chi Federation, these classes cost Rs 300 a month.
"Not many young people come to my classes," says Shrestha, "maybe they find the slow movements boring but it has helped a lot of my students physiologically and many of them come because of their health problems."
The effects of Tai Chi have been known to benefit mind and body. The fluid movements help improve posture and movement while curing various illnesses. The exercises are not strenuous, they are done according to the physical well-being of the person so all age groups can practise it.
Shivili Rana of Self-Awakening Centre says: "People are always complaining about lack of peace, we try to give them peace from within. In today's world there is no safe haven and if people feel balanced from within, they can tackle any problem."
Shivili herself suffered from insomnia but with transcendental meditation, she overcame it and today, describes herself as a happier, more optimistic person. The Self-Awakening Centre is a place where people who lead hectic lives and have no time for themselves can go to find their inner selves to heal.
As Farah Usmani of UNFPA, who has only recently been taking Tai Chi classes, tells us: "It is really good, it gets you energised while relaxing you at the same time. It loosens your joints and especially if you have a desk job, it provides a break. Also it isn't very hard to learn, we have been coming for only a week but know the basics already."
Self Awakening Centre
Baber Mahal Revisited