Tai Chi: Meditation in motion

The ancient Chinese art of Tai Chi has found its way to Cayman, helping people to relax and de-stress, one breath at a time.

Just like yoga did a decade ago, the low impact art of Tai Chi is now enjoying a surge in popularity across the Western world, thanks to its long list of benefits that both young and old can enjoy.

The art of Tai Chi includes a series of graceful movements and gentle stretches, which help relax mind and body, while placing minimal stress on joints and muscles. You could almost describe it as meditation in motion. Just like yoga, Tai Chi requires no special equipment or clothing, and can be practised in group classes, alone in your home or the great outdoors.

Tai Chi instructor, and owner of Cayman Associated School of Karate, Sensei Greg Reid, started offering Tai Chi lessons a little over a month ago. He currently offers four one-hour lessons a week at King’s Sports Centre.

“I decided to start teaching Tai Chi, Chinese slow motion martial arts, and Dai Chi, Japanese slow motion martial arts, because there was nothing like it offered on the island,” Sensei Greg said. “Our programme is unique to CASK in Cayman. Previously, we only offered karate lessons, which can be considered more of a ‘hard’ style martial art, where Tai Chi is a much softer style.”

There are numerous different styles of Tai Chi. At CASK, Sensei Greg teaches Shaolin, the oldest and original form of Tai Chi. Its many benefits include increased body alignment, muscle strengthening, self-defence, mental focus, increased coordination, flexibility and blood circulation, in addition to being a great way to relax and switch off for a period of time from busy day-to-day lives.

“Tai Chi is a great way to reduce stress, learn to relax, and tone up your body and mind,” Sensei Greg explained. “It is particularly beneficial to people who have stressful jobs and need a way to relax.”

Anyone can participate in the gentle and calming art of Tai Chi and Sensei Greg welcomes adult newcomers at any time. Classes are available as a drop in, priced at $20. Alternatively for $100 per month you can attend as many lessons as you wish.

Originally from Trinidad and Tobago, Sensei Greg learnt Tai Chi while living in Okinawa, Japan, where he also studied karate. After his stint in Japan, he moved to Canada, where he worked as the national karate coach.

The class starts with some basic stretches and visualisations, which help aid muscle and nerve relaxation, before moving on to a series of group exercises, including palm Tai Chi and circular Tai Chi. The group exercises, Sensei Greg said, are designed to teach class participants to work in harmony with each other. Finally, he directed the group through what is called Shaolin Set 1, a series of graceful, flowing, almost dance-like meditative movements, which work on offence and defence equally. He said that the set teaches posture, angling, eye concentration and breathing control.

There is nothing hard or difficult about Tai Chi, the art truly is in allowing both your mind and body to flow from one movement to the next, or to “let go” as Sensei Greg said.

“Tai Chi is all about letting water flow over, or around, rock. As you practise Tai Chi, you have to let thoughts come and let them pass through. Tai Chi empties the mind. Given the chance, it can change your life, if you let it.”