Good to Your Guf: Tai Chi
Tai Chi may be hundreds of years old, but it is the current low-impact exercise that is so frequently recommended for its benefits to many fitness levels and age groups.
When most people think of Tai Chi, they picture groups of people, in China or here, performing graceful movements at dawn or early hours in a park or similar setting. But what is it all about and how does it help?
Here are some answers to questions that people frequently have:
What exactly is Tai Chi? The gentle Martial Art that utilizes gentle, flowing movements with purpose and order to enhance health in the body and mind.
Who can do it? Anyone of any age, although there are particular benefits to the older adult. By tradition, practice usually begins around age 40. And the practice is easily modified for hip, knee, and shoulder issues.
If I already do other exercise, why would I do Tai Chi? It may be the softer practice to add to your usual athletic routine, or it may be the practice that allows you to handle moving with arthritis, other ongoing conditions, or chronic health issues. And if you are seeking ways to reduce/cope with stress, this is ideal.
How is it different from Yoga? All the movement is done standing. No work is done on a mat or the ground, and there are no inversions (head lower than the heart).
What if I have never really exercised before? This is an ideal place to start with many benefits.
So why is Tai Chi such a good movement practice? More than 500 studies during the past 50 years, of populations doing the practice regularly, have indicated pronounced benefits. In fact, here is the list presented by the Mayo Clinic:
- Decreased stress, anxiety, depression, and improved mood
- Improved aerobic capacity
- Increased energy and stamina
- Improved flexibility, balance, and agility
- Reduced risk of falls in older adults
- Improved muscle strength and definition
- Enhanced quality of sleep
- Enhanced immune system
- Lowered blood pressure
- Improved joint pain
What about the mental benefits? Tai Chi requires attention, memory, and learning components to master its physical movements, so its benefits go beyond the physical, increasing cognitive and mental functions and mindfulness.
While long-term practice can progress through many levels of skill, at the core of Tai Chi is the form: a series of linked movements that flow uninterruptedly from one into another. You constantly shift the body’s weight, alternately contract and relax leg muscles, raise and lower arms, rotate from side to side, change directions in space, and use these movement challenges to become grounded, aligned, mindful, and aware of yourself in the space.
As an experienced teacher of mind-body practices, Anita is especially skilled at “demystifying“ a movement practice like this to help you discover and use the principles and practices that let each individual reap the benefits of a Tai Chi practice.
Find out more about Tai Chi in your Center Peace, or by calling 210-302-6825. Classes are limited to ten participants.
Join the J's New Facebook Fitness Group!
Got some fitness-related New Year’s resolutions and goals for 2018? Join the “Fit Day at the J" Facebook group on the Barshop JCC Facebook page. This group will be moderated by some of your favorite JCC Sports and Fitness staff. We will help provide some fun fitness tips, basic nutrition advice, healthy recipes, and most of all, encouragement to help you make 2018 your healthiest year yet. For more information about the group, email Gretchen Hokenson.