What is tai chi?
Tai chi is an ancient Chinese practice that originated as a martial art and form of self-defense. The practice has evolved into a form of exercise that incorporates a series of gentle, focused movements with deep breathing and relaxation. While there are thousands of different styles of tai chi, all are based on specific forms and moves. Often referred to as “meditative movement,” this non-competitive, self-paced practice is great for stretching, balance and calming the nervous system.
Tai chi basics for beginners:
* Styles of tai chi include: Yan, Wu and Chen.
* The ancient practice is based on forms, with short being best for beginners.
* Tai chi involves moves, which are a combination of actions. Many moves have been named after animals, such as Bird’s Tail, Horse Stance and White Crane Spreads Its Wings. But, don’t let the complexity of the names deter you.
What are the health benefits of tai chi?
According to the Mayo Clinic:
• Relieves stress and anxiety
• Benefits cardiovascular health
• Increases stamina and energy
• Assists with balance, flexibility and agility
• Improves muscle strength
Results of studies evaluating balance, sleep quality and cognitive performance can be found at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3396052/.
Additional benefits include:
• Noticeable improvement in quality of sleep
• Immune system enhancement
• Lower cholesterol levels and blood pressure
• Helps diminish joint pain
• May improve chronic pain
Studies have proven that regular tai chi practice results in a reduction in the number of falls among participants. In addition, in a study involving stroke victims who practice tai chi, significant improvement in balance, quality of life and mental health issues were reported. Read more here.
What health conditions can tai chi benefit?
• Balance, equilibrium issues or vertigo
• Arthritis and any condition affecting the joints
• Chronic conditions such as fibromyalgia
While tai chi is generally a gentle, safe form of exercise, always consult your healthcare provider before starting a practice.
Who can practice tai chi?
• Individuals of all ages and fitness levels
• Older individuals who otherwise may not be able to engage in exercise
• Those recovering from injury or illness
• Individuals or groups
How can you find a class?
• Experts suggest you find a qualified teacher to learn tai chi movements
• Videos and books are available to augment classes
• Local YMCA/YWCAs, senior and health centers offer classes
• Sites such as https://www.taichinetwork.org/ can help you find a teacher in your area.
Suggestions for maximum benefits of tai chi:
1. Set regular practice times
2. Practice several times per week, in addition to your class
3. Aim to workout for 20 minutes or longer
4. Wear loose, comfortable clothing
So, if you're looking for a new activity that offers numerous health benefits, can include the whole family and is relatively inexpensive to try, the ancient Chinese practice of tai chi might just fit the bill.
Be Wize & Be Healthy,