Movement options: Tai Chi introduction!
This week we want to introduce you to another way of moving--Tai Chi! Many people have heard of Tai Chi, but most of us have not tried it. Below, we review some principles of Tai Chi along with benefits and then provide some written instructions for the movements. We've also made a companion video so you could follow along with the movements in that way!
TAI CHI PRINCIPLES & BENEFITS:
Often referred to as the “exercise of longevity”, Tai Chi is an ancient Chinese martial art that practices meditation in motion. It involves a series of movements executed in a slow, rhythmic, and focused manner together with deep breathing. Each movement flows into the next without pausing, to ensure that your body is in constant motion. Tai Chi exercises are ideal for older adults due to their non-competitive, low impact, and self-paced nature. Tai Chi’s gentle and flowing actions promote relaxation, stress relief and a conscious awareness of the present.
Some health benefits of Tai Chi include:
- Improved Static/Dynamic Balance
- Increased Strength and Endurance
- Reduced Stress, Anxiety and Depression
- Decreased Fear of Falling
- Improved Self-Confidence
- Enhanced Quality of Sleep
- Improved Overall Well-being
The majority of Tai Chi movements can be modified to be completed in a seated position. So, if you feel you need some adaptation due to balance issues or physical issues, try some of these modifications as you try the video. In addition, exercises can be “upgraded” or “downgraded” to fit the participant’s current activity level. Types of modifications:
- Increasing / decreasing # of repetitions
- Increasing / decreasing speed of weight shifts
- Increasing / decreasing visual assistance; eyes open vs eyes closed
- Changing foot position: wide stance, feet together, semi-tandem, tandem, etc.
- Changing ground surface: solid surface, foam board, tilt board, dynadisk, etc.
- Syncing breathing with movements
- Seated versus standing
TAI CHI WARM-UP EXERCISES:
This video corresponds to the Tai Chi movements listed below. These exercises can be used as warm-up, cool-down, or “main-course” movements. Although Tai Chi can be completed in any environment, it is recommended to begin on a level indoor space for optimal safety. Once comfortable with the movements, practicing outdoors on less-even surfaces is acceptable.
- Neck Movement #1:
- As you inhale, bring both hands up slowly; head will follow hands.
- Exhaling, press your hands down slowly. At the same time, slowly look down.
- Neck Movement #2:
- Lift up both hands, turn your left hand inwards and push the right hand down near the hip. Look at your left palm.
- Move your left hand to the left, turning your head slowly to the left, then come back to face the front. Change palms.
- Shoulder Movement #1:
- Roll your shoulders gently forwards three times and then backwards three times.
- Shoulder Movement #2:
- Inhale and move your arms upwards slowly. As you exhale, gently press your hands down.
- Spine Movement #1:
- Hold your hands in front of you as though you’re carrying a large beach ball. Inhale.
- Exhale, push one hand up and push the other hand down, visualizing stretching your spine gently. Then change hands.
- Spine Movement #2:
- Hold your hands in front of you as though you’re carrying a large beach ball.
- With your knees slightly bent, turn your body to the left. Then change hands and turn to the right.
- Hip Movement #1:
- Stand with hands up in front of chest. Placing your left heel out in front of you, move body forward and push both hands back.
- Step backward with your left foot, stretching your hands forward. Alternate feet.
- Hip Movement #2:
- From hands in front of chest, push your hands to the side as though you’re pushing against a wall and stretch the opposite foot sideways.
- Change to the other side.
- Knee Movement #1:
- Make loose fists, and bend your knees slightly. Stretch out one foot slowly and gently. Punch out gently with the opposite fist.
- Bring your arm and leg back in and repeat on the other side.
- Knee Movement #2:
- With your fists next to you hips, bend your knees slightly and step forwards with one foot.
- Shift your weight onto the front leg, and as your body moves forward, punch out gently with the opposite fist. Bring your foot back and repeat on the other side.
- Ankle Movement #1:
- Gently tap floor with heel. Gently tap floor with toes.
- Ankle Movement #2:
- Lift up one foot, gently turn your foot inward and outward three times, not putting any weight on the turning foot. Change feet.
As our post on physical activity guidelines from just a couple of weeks ago highlights--moving in just about any form is beneficial! We hope you will give this video a try as one more way to keep yourself moving as well as to add to your tools for stress relief. We'd love to hear your reactions or other unique suggestions you have for movement and stress management!