Tai chi originated in China as a martial art and a means of self-defense. Over time, people began to use it for health purposes as well and it has become a mind-body practice in complementary and alternative medicine. Tai chi is sometimes referred to as "moving meditation" - practitioners move their bodies slowly, gently, and with awareness, while breathing deeply.
The term "tai chi" (shortened from "tai chi chuan") has been translated in various ways, such as "internal martial art" and "supreme ultimate fist." It is sometimes called "taiji" or "taijiquan."
Tai chi incorporates the Chinese concepts of Yin and Yang (opposing forces within the body) and Qi (a vital energy or life force). Practicing tai chi is said to support a healthy balance of Yin and Yang, thereby aiding the flow of Qi.
People practice tai chi by themselves or in groups. In the Chinese community, people commonly practice tai chi in nearby parks - often in early morning before going to work. There are many different styles, but all involve slow, relaxed, graceful movements, each flowing into the next. The body is in constant motion, and posture is important. The names of some of the movements evoke nature (e.g., "Embrace Tiger, Return to Mountain"). Individuals practicing tai chi must also concentrate, putting aside distracting thoughts; and they must breathe in a deep and relaxed, but focused manner.