Yang style tai chi is a branch of tai chi chuan that was founded by Yang Lu Chan in the mid 1800s. Tai chi chuan, or tai chi, began as a martial art form in China and supposedly was passed down from father to son in select families. The Yang style tai chi possibly marks the first time tai chi training was made available to the general public. Yang style has arguably become the most popular style of tai chi throughout the world that is practiced as both a martial art form and a form of exercise.
It is generally accepted that Yang Lu came from humble beginnings before gaining employment with the Chen family. While there, he gained the attention of tai chi master Chen Chang-hsing. Yang ultimately founded a tai chi school in Beijing and began teaching Yang style tai chi. He then passed on his knowledge to his sons.
Tai chi combines awareness of breathing, meditation, and physical movements, and is believed to be grounded in the Taoist tradition. The concept of yin and yang — polar opposites contained within the whole — and the idea that all things are connected by an invisible force called qi are key elements in virtually all styles of tai chi. Regardless of style, the general goals of tai chi are to bring yin and yang into harmony in order to allow qi to flow.
Yang style tai chi uses the slow, large movements that most people associate with tai chi. This style has become popular with people who want a low-stress form of exercise. Some of the physical benefits that tai chi promotes include increased muscle strength, increased flexibility, and better physical coordination. There are some suggestions that tai chi may also aid in treating high blood pressure, stomach ailments, and heart disease but there is not enough clinical data to support these claims.
For those who are interested in learning Yang style tai chi, most tai chi instructors will identify with the tai chi style they practice. Most countries do not require licensure for tai chi instructors but many instructors will state either what their lineage is or be able to show that they have completed a certification program. It is also important to note that although tai chi is a relatively low impact exercise, anyone with a serious health concern should consult a physician before participating in tai chi.