What Is Tai Chi?
The ancient art of Tai Chi began in China as a form of martial arts used for self-defense. Over many years it has evolved into a form of exercise that has been described as “meditation in motion.” The practice of Tai Chi engages mental focus along with controlled breathing to perform a series of slow, gentle movements and stretches.
What Are the Benefits of Tai Chi?
The virtues of Tai Chi have long been extolled. “Mental focus, increased range of motion and breathing capacity are some of the benefits that my students have noticed from practicing Tai Chi,” says Mrs. Lisa Walker, a certified Yoga instructor for the Scott & White Wellness department with 27 years experience in fitness, personal, weight and cardio training. Mrs. Walker who also has several years experience in Tai Chi instruction says “many of my students have expressed improved mind and body control.” Since Tai Chi focuses the mind on the movement it has been credited with helping to lower blood pressure and improve strength and balance.
While Tai Chi may not be known as a cardio exercise like running or biking, it has been shown to improve cardiovascular fitness and aid in rehabilitation of common conditions in many older adults. These reasons have given weight to the case that Tai Chi can be employed as an adjunct therapy, a therapy that is used in conjunction with other primary medical treatments to treat a disease or its symptoms.
Some studies have shown that Tai Chi seems to be a helpful adjunct therapy in chronic conditions such as low bone density, heart disease, stroke, arthritis, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Mrs. Walker, who has started incorporating Tai Chi into her Yoga workout with a group of Parkinson’s patients, has found that her patients have experienced a sense of peacefulness. “In fact, a few of the students have even asked for some specific moves that they can practice at home,” she says.
Medical studies have shown a correlation between Tai Chi and better psychological health. According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, those who practice Tai Chi on a regular basis experience feelings of overall well-being along with reduced stress levels, anxiety, and depression. “To achieve the best results, it is recommended that you perform Tai Chi on a regular basis. Tai Chi could be done everyday, but benefits could be derived with just three times a week for about 10 – 15 minutes,” says Mrs. Walker.
Is Tai Chi for Everyone?
Because Tai Chi focuses more on technique and breathing, it is an exercise that is suitable for all age and fitness levels. And, because there is no equipment involved, it can be done anywhere. “You just need some space and a good surface beneath you,” says Mrs. Walker. As with any exercise program, individuals should always consult a physician before starting any exercise regimen, especially if other medical conditions exist, such as joint problems, osteoporosis and problems balancing. If you have these conditions Tai Chi may be practiced, but with assistance from an instructor or an apparatus such as a chair.
“Since there is currently no accreditation course for Tai Chi it is important to select an instructor that has years of experience,” says Mrs. Walker.