Stand Like a Mountain, Move Like a River …The Many Benefits of Tai Chi
by Tim Drevna, February 18, 2015
The ancient martial art, Tai chi originated in China. It is often described as “meditation in motion”. Chi means life-force energy, which unites mind, body, and spirit. There are many forms of Tai Chi, some which emphasize its health benefits while others stress self-defense techniques, punches, kicks and jumps. Tai Chi Chuan is a short form of 36 postures performed in a slow moving manner and is frequently practiced for its health benefits. The 5 Key Elements of Tai Chi are as follows:
- Slowness, to develop awareness.
- Lightness, to make movements flow.
- Balance, to prevent body strain.
- Calmness, to maintain continuity.
- Clarity, to focus the mind.
Tai chi focuses on improving posture and moving the body in a mindful, fluid way. The results of these postures, which flow from one position to the next, are better balance, strength, and stability. Improved body awareness occurs while practicing these slow paced circular movements. In addition, Tai chi places very little stress on joints. Therefore, Tai chi is a very “joint-friendly” weight bearing exercise which can stimulate bone growth.
Because the movements are performed with attention to breathing, Tai chi enhances relaxation, vitality, and confidence. Tai chi breathing is inhalation (gather and store life’s energy or “chi”), exhale (delivering the force of energy). Breathing accompanies all of the movements of tai chi. It is most effective with proper posture. It instills a sense of calmness and improves focus.
The basic elements of Tai chi offer both physical and mental benefits no matter what your age. The health benefits of Tai chi are numerous and well documented. Studies show that Tai chi has a significant effect on lung function, can increase bone mineral density, and aid in reducing risk for falling. Overall effects include: reduced stress, anxiety, and depression; increased flexibility, strength and stamina; improved balance, coordination, and sleep quality. It can also help with relieving chronic pain.
Tai Chi can be modified for any person, regardless of their condition. It is one of the few exercise programs which is appropriate for virtually any person regardless of their condition. Research has shown improvements in activities of daily living for people with rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, Parkinson’s Disease, and multiple sclerosis.
Now, stand (or sit) straight, yet relaxed. Imagine an invisible string attached to the crown of your head, pulling upward- this will allow your spine to fall into its natural curves; lift your ribs up, eyes on the horizon…inhale…then exhale as though blowing out many candles, relax and gather in that chi as you inhale from your diaphragm and release, exhale.
Enjoy your day!
Anita Alonte Roma, PT,DPT, NCS