Tai Chi for Seniors in Saint Leo, FL
Tai chi is an ancient Chinese tradition—sometimes called "meditation in motion"—and non-competitive form of martials arts known for its defensive, not offensive nature. It is also renowned for stress relief and numerous health benefits. As a gentle form of aerobic exercise that increases flexibility and strengthens muscles, it has become an ideal low-impact workout for seniors.
Tai chi focuses on utilizing slow, extremely controlled body movements which can help to improve eye coordination, and can help seniors develop better balance and become steadier on their feet. Even seniors with limited mobility can incorporate tai chi exercise movements into a rehabilitation plan.
If you are seeking a gentle form of exercise to help retain or regain mobility, schedule a consultation with a healthcare provider in Saint Leo who can discuss an exercise program for seniors which implements tai chi exercise movements. Call (813) 536-3212 or contact Evolution online.
Understanding Tai Chi
The tai chi tradition has been traced back centuries to 12th-century Taoist, Confucianist and Buddhist monasteries. There are five forms of tai chi, identified with five families who have preserved its essential traditions through the centuries. The basic concept of tai chi is rather profound: students of tai chi are taught to meet physical violence with "softness"—meeting yang with yin. In practice, physical violence is never used to combat physical violence because that would result in injury to one or both parties. Instead, tai chi movements are gentle and seek to follow the attacker's movements, using defensive moves only, until the attacker is exhausted or redirected.
Tai chi was originally taught as a martial art, but its popularity has soared since the 1990s as tai chi exercises for seniors have increasingly been incorporated into classes at hospitals and health clubs, as well as rehabilitation programs. Tai chi can be practiced in group classes or even alone at home once you learn the movements or postures. No equipment is necessary and loose, comfortable clothing is preferred so your movement is not restricted.
Benefits of Tai Chi
The benefits tai chi are numerous, and are now often backed by clinical research. Tai chi has been thought to be especially helpful to:
- Improve balance
- Relieve stress and anxiety
- Increase flexibility
- Strengthen muscles
- Improve hand-eye coordination
- Boost cognitive function and psychological health
- Improve aerobic fitness
- Maintain healthy blood pressure
- Strengthen cardiovascular health
- Increase agility
- Reduce falls
- Improve sleep
- Reduce pain levels
- Combat low mood
- Improve immune function
Another advantage is that tai chi is safe for seniors with chronic medical conditions like arthritis, congestive heart failure, and even chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. It does not worsen pain or breathing problems and increases their functional exercise capacity. Studies have shown that it can improve gait and posture in Parkinson's patients and improve immune response and blood glucose control in diabetics. Healthcare providers especially recommend tai chi for arthritis and fibromyalgia because of its ability to reduce joint pain and increase flexibility and range of motion.
Introductory Tai Chi Exercise Movements
Until you find an instructor or a group to join, you are perfectly able to begin tai chi movements at home. There are several movements that are simple and ideal for beginners. To get the knack, search for videos online and watch these tai chi moves being performed until you get the hang of it. Some introductory tai chi movements include:
- Touch the Sky: Sit comfortably in a chair, inhaling slowly and deeply, with your palms turned upward in your lap, your fingertips pointing to one another. Slowly raise your hands in front of you, with your palms turned outward and slowly lift them above your head. Continue to inhale, keeping your elbows slightly bent and relaxed. Exhale slowly and gently lower your arms to your side. Return to the original position and repeat 10 times.
- Repulse the Monkey: Begin by stepping back with your right foot and circling your left hand up pressing it palm forward. When you step back, step out to the side to maintain a strong, balance stance. You stand with your waist facing forward. The forward hand is a single pushing hand. As your left palm comes forward, withdraw the right hand palm up, circle it downward and shift your weight to your right leg. Then step back with your left foot, circling the right hand up palm forward. Your torso and head move in coordination with your arms and legs.
- Wave Hands Like Clouds: Begin with your hands in front of you like you are hugging a tree, with your left hand on top. Side step to the left, cross your right foot over to the left and let your hands float to the left. Then step to the right and let your hands float over to the right. The hands wave as the torso turns repeatedly to the left then the right.
In tai chi, there is a 70% Rule: only do 70% of what you think you are capable of doing. Warm up, move slow and be gentle with yourself. You might want to choose a specific commencement posture that you feel comfortable starting with each time.
Once you understand a tai chi movement and have mastered its mechanics, it is not time to move on to the next. It is said that tai chi will become a continually deepening experience as you return to each movement repeatedly over time, developing body memory and an ongoing relationship between your body and each tai chi posture.
Improve Your Health with Tai Chi
If you are simply looking to improve your current level of fitness or are in need of rehabilitation because of an injury or chronic illness, tai chi can be a safe and effective way to improve your physical and psychological health.
It is important to never begin an exercise program without first consulting a healthcare provider that can assess your current health and fitness levels, and recommend strategies and other lifestyle modifications to keep prevent injury and further promote your wellbeing. To meet with a healthcare provider in Saint Leo who can assess your overall health, call (813) 536-3212 or contact Evolution online.
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