A light and easy form of exercise, Tai chi is a form of Chinese medicine that helps promote and/or maintain balance, flexibility, and strength, and could be the most ideal activity for your health and wellbeing that you can do for the rest of your life.
This type of exercise can be depicted as “meditation in motion,” but due to its healing abilities, it can be also referred to as “medication in motion.” Tai chi came from China and was originally considered as a form of martial art. There is so much proof now showing this mind-body activity is a great way to prevent or treat many types of health problems. And it can even be performed anytime even if you’re not in the best of health or if you’re not in tip-top shape.
This slow motion and low-impact exercise gets you through a set of motions without pause. These motions are named for martial arts actions (e.g., box both ears) or animal movements (e.g., white crane spreads its wings). You breathe in a natural and deep way as you move, and as in certain types of meditation, direct your attention on your body sensations. Tai chi is dissimilar from other types of exercise in a number of ways. The motions are not forced and are usually circular, the muscles are not tensed and always relaxed, the connective tissues are not stretched, and the joints are not fully bent or extended. Tai chi is an easily adaptable exercise that anyone can perform. It can be adapted by people recovering from surgery, those confined to wheelchairs, or people who are in the best of health.
Tai chi movement
As mentioned before, Tai chi helps promote and maintain balance, flexibility, and strength
A research was conducted to review a growing body of evidence that shows the effectiveness of tai chi as a complementary therapy to Western conventional medical treatment for the rehabilitation and prevention of several health problems commonly attributed to the aging process. A complementary therapy (also called adjunct therapy) is a treatment that’s used alongside primary medical treatments, to treat either the primary symptoms of a disease or the disease itself or more generally, to boost the quality of life and functioning of the patient.
Chinese Medicine Concepts
Performing tai chi movements can be done even if you aren’t aware of or believe the Chinese philosophy underlying this activity. You will enjoy its health benefits when you practice it even without being aware of the following concepts associated with this activity:
1. Yin and Yang — These two complementary and (at the same time) opposing elements are believed to make up the universe. To enjoy good health, the yin and yang energies in your body should be in balance and harmony.
2. Qi — The life force of a person that’s believed to flow throughout the body; it is believed that tai chi can release and promote the correct flow of qi.
Tai chi Class
These factors are usually included in a tai chi class:
1. Warm-up – Easy movements such as rocking the head back and forth or turning it side to side or shoulder circles helps you focus on your body and breath and helps to loosen your joints and muscles.
2. Teaching and practice of tai chi styles and forms – Different styles entail larger or smaller movements. Forms are a series of movements. Long forms may include hundreds of movements while may include a dozen or less movements. At the onset, a short form with slower and smaller movements is usually recommended, especially if you’re in not in prime shape or old.
3. Chi kung (Qigong) – Chi kung is literally translated as “energy work” or “breath work.” This activity involves a few minutes of gentle breathing at times coupled with movement. The goal of chi kung is to activate the qi of the body and to relax the mind. It can be performed lying down, sitting, or standing.
In general, if you want to derive the maximum benefits Tai chi has to offer, you should be practicing it before you develop any functional limitations or a chronic illness. No equipment is used in tai chi. It is very safe and so easy to get started.
Here are some tips to enjoy Tai chi and to derive its benefits:
Consult with your doctor first: If you are considering Tai chi but are taking drugs that make you lightheaded or dizzy or have a medical condition or musculoskeletal problem seek advice from your doctor first. The odds are high that you’ll be allowed to practice given this activity’s outstanding safety record.
Consider learning it in class: The best way to learn tai chi is by attending a class that teaches it. Learning it with others, seeing a teacher actually performing it and getting feedback are all great ways to learn. Most instructors will allow you to observe their class which can help you determine if the atmosphere and approach is to your liking. Teaching can be done on a one-on-one basis. Ask about classes at your local community education center, senior center, or YMCA. If you want to know if a tai chi program is offered in your area you can go online and type www.arthritis.org or call toll-free 800-283-7800, which is the number of the Arthritis Foundation.
If you want to learn tai chi at home, you can rent or buy tai chi videos. It would be better to learn tai chi from a video than in books with illustrations or photos since it would be difficult to comprehend the flow of movements from books.
Talk to the teacher: Teachers of tai chi are not required to undergo formal training or get a license to teach this activity. To ensure you learn the proper movements, seek an experienced instructor who is willing to accommodate people with health problems.
Don’t be confused with the terminologies: Tai chi has different branches with different names like Cheng, Wu, and Yang. These are the names of individuals who’ve created the series of movements called forms. Some programs play down the stress reducing and healing aspects of tai chi and espouse more the martial arts component. Some forms focus more on meditation and breathing and may involve shorter series of movements while some forms teach long sequences of movements. Seeking an approach that suits your needs and interests is more important than learning the names of the different tai chi branches.
Monitor your progress – According to medical studies, a minimum of 12 weeks of practice at home once or twice a week for most tai chi interventions and start up programs is enough for a person to know whether he/she will enjoy practicing tai chi for life; it is also the sufficient amount of time to experience its positive psychological and physical outcomes.
Dress comfortably – When practicing tai chi, wear loose-fitting clothes that won’t restrain your range of movement. You can wear any type of shoes but it would be good if you practice with no foot wear at all or at least, wear flexible, comfortable, and lightweight shoes. There are also Tai chi shoes available, but you don’t have to buy them if you have shoes that you are comfortable with. Shoes that help support your balance and won’t slip are also good as well as shoes with soles thin enough that enable you to feel the ground. It’s not recommended to wear running shoes that were designed to push you forward.
The Benefits of Tai Chi
Even if tai chi doesn’t leave you breathless and is a gentle and slow exercise, it can reinforce the balance, flexibility and muscle strength of the body and even give you certain aerobic benefits.
Balance – According to research, tai chi prevents or minimizes falls and improves balance. As we age, the ability to sense the position of our body in space (proprioception) wanes. Tai chi improves proprioception as it stretches receptors in our ligaments and muscles and enhances the function of sensory neurons in our inner ear. It raises muscle flexibility and strength, making it easier to recover from a fall. Studies have also shown that tai chi reduces fear which indirectly helps us prevent from falling since the fear of falling may make one more likely to fall.
Flexibility – Tai chi can increase lower- and upper-body strength and flexibility.
Muscle strength – When tai chi is practiced on a regular basis, its benefits can be comparable to brisk walking and resistance training. It bolsters both the upper and lower extremities as well as the core muscles of the stomach and back.
Aerobic conditioning – Tai chi can generate certain benefits depending on the size and speed of the movements.
Amy-SuiQun Lui, L.Ac.
Asian Health Center
27059 Grand Army of the Republic Hwy
Cleveland, OH 44143
Tel: (440) 833-0983