The gentle nature of Tai Chi allows for a wide range of possible practitioners. For example, people who find high impact aerobics and other exercise routines painful or uncomfortable are excellent candidates for Tai Chi, a slow moving, low-impact exercise.
Unlike other exercises that can be learned simply from following diagrams, Tai Chi is a fluid movement that requires very deliberate and precise movements. It is therefore best to find an instructor who can demonstrate the Tai Chi movements and techniques.
Tai Chi sessions usually are in a group format and last for approximately an hour. Beginning with a warm-up, the group learns and follows the Tai Chi motions of a 'form' - a series of movements connected fluidly. There are different types of forms in Tai Chi, such as, the Yang long form, the Yang short form, and the Wu form, which is more dance like. Each Tai Chi form is composed of several postures, each with a carefully chosen name that correlates with its movements - names such as 'Grasping Sparrow's Tail', 'Pushing the Mountain' and 'Embracing the Tiger'. The Tai Chi session may end with a cool-down
Each individual Tai Chi movement can be modified to best fit the user. If a particular motion stresses a problem area, it may be modified or eliminated from the routine. Once a Tai Chi form has been learned, practitioners can implement the movements and techniques in the privacy of their own homes, or continue in a group environment. Tai Chi group classes usually cost in the range of $10 - $15 per session.
There are virtually no contraindications for Tai Chi, other than to avoid the sensation of sharp pain. Because of its gentle nature, safety ultimately has largely to do with a particular instructor and the individual who is practicing Tai Chi. Taking usual exercise precautions such as warming up, cooling down, and stretching will be beneficial. As always, it is also important to check with one's treating physician before starting any new exercise program such as Tai Chi.