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The Power of Tai Chi

2015_06_02_Tai Chi

The practice of Tai Chi, a Chinese martial art form, has gained popularity in recent years due to its myriad of health benefits. This low-impact exercise is suitable for all ages and abilities, even for those who require mobility aids such as wheelchairs, walkers, or canes. The gentle, flowing motions can reduce stress while building strength and improving balance. This beautiful martial art has been practiced for centuries, bringing its peace and health benefits to countless people of all ages around the world.

What is Tai Chi?

Tai Chi, more formally known as Tai Chi Chauan or “supreme ultimate boxing,” has been practiced in China for over 2,500 years. It exercises both the body and the mind, combining flowing movement with meditation. Originally, Tai Chi was developed as a form of self-defense, relying on internal energy, or qi, and subtle movements to defeat attackers. Currently, there are several varieties of Tai Chi, with their own variations on the movements, but all share the underlying graceful motions that characterize this art. Breathing and thoughtfulness are essential parts of the practice of Tai Chi, with each movement being deliberate and coordinated.

Tai Chi can be practiced anywhere, indoors or out, alone or in a group. Many practitioners enjoy performing their Tai Chi exercises in nature, in open spaces at parks and beaches. This can be observed in many areas of China, with practitioners gathering in the early morning, and more recently in the United States as well.

Tai Chi exercises typically consist of 15 or more movements, with each one flowing into the next, making a series of constant motions, ending in a pose. These motions and sequences can be quite simple for beginners, and advance with your skill level. In this way, Tai Chi evolves with you, making it engaging and accessible at all levels of fitness. Breathing and control are emphasized, leading to an internal peacefulness to accompany the motions.

Who can do Tai Chi?

Part of the beauty of Tai Chi is that it can be practiced by anyone. Young and old can gather together, performing the same set of motions, each to their own pacing and abilities. Tai Chi is very low-impact, so even those who have joint injury or pain can participate in this ancient practice. The movements can be modified so those using mobility aids, including wheelchairs and canes, can safely and effectively experience the benefits of Tai Chi.

Tai Chi requires no specialized equipment, making it affordable and easy for everyone. If you are new to Tai Chi, you can find instruction through videos or classes, depending on your personal preferences. There are many free videos online to give you an easy way to start your practice of Tai Chi:

These videos allow you to practice Tai Chi in the privacy of your own home, and at your own pace. Many senior centers and communities offer Tai Chi classes with certified instructors who can help you practice Tai Chi safely, making any modifications necessary for your particular situation. Once you master the basic movements, you can begin to practice Tai Chi whenever and wherever you are.

Health Benefits

Tai Chi has many health benefits and is supported by many doctors and health organizations around the world. Some of the most common benefits include:

Studies have shown that practicing Tai Chi can help with many medical conditions, such as heart disease, Parkinson’s disease, and recovering from a stroke. As the gentle stretching and flowing motions help build strength, they also encourage good posture and balance. If you suffer from a condition that affects your mobility, Tai Chi may be able to help you recover. It may allow you to move away from more intensive mobility aids like wheelchairs and walkers to using just a cane, or nothing at all. The regular balance training involved in Tai Chi reduces your risk of a fall and can lead to a significant boost in self-confidence and independence. However, even if you are able to move away from more intensive mobility aids, it’s a good idea to keep a folding cane on hand for occasional use just in case.

The benefits of improved mobility, balance and stability through Tai Chi are not limited to just those with a medical condition. Aging alone can take its toll on your mobility and balance over time. The study of Tai Chi can keep you from ever needing more intensive mobility aids. For those already using mobility aids for non-medical reasons, Tai Chi can be a part of your therapy to recover lost mobility, stability and reduce your risk of a fall.

Tai Chi has helped people reduce stress and build strength for centuries. Whether you are new to the practice or have studied it your entire life, Tai Chi provides many benefits for body and mind. Though it is easy and safe for people of all ages and abilities, if you have any health concerns, it’s always a good idea to consult your doctor before starting a new exercise program. 

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