A Lifetime Commitment to Health with Tai Chi
Tai chi chuan comes from the Chinese meaning “supreme fist.” It is one of the most gentle forms of martial arts, and is often practiced today to increase fitness and agility rather than as a martial sport. It is gentle enough to be practiced by individuals of any age, can be done at home as an alternative to other home workout options or in a fitness studio. It is also great for pregnant women in their first two trimesters. Tai chi is a great way to make a lifetime commitment to your health.
Health Benefits of Tai Chi
Tai chi, also known as “meditation in motion,” is a gentle form of exercise that can help maintain physical and emotional wellbeing. This form of exercise is believed to have originated in China hundreds of years ago. Today, it is used all over the world to prevent and treat a number of health problems.
Tai Chi in Practice
The series of moves used in tai chi are low-impact and are performed in slow motion. Many moves are named after animal actions, like, “golden rooster stands on one leg,” or martial arts moves, such as “penetrating palm.” Each move flows continuously into the next, and as you perform the series of moves, you focus on your deep and natural breathing.
What to Expect from a Tai Chi Class
Generally, a tai chi class is comprised of three different sections:
Warm up: this initial stage uses slow, easy motions such as head and neck rotations, shoulder circles, and slow rocking motions to help warm up and loosen the joints and muscles and enable you to focus on your breathing.
Tai chi forms: this stage involves the practice of the sets of movements. Some short forms may include twelve or fewer movements, while long forms may include up to one hundred different moves.
Qigong: this stage involves the practice of breathwork. It combines regular and gentle breathing in combination with movements. The purpose of qigong is the relaxation of the mind and the revitalization of the body’s energy.
Benefits of Tai Chi
Tai Chi has a number of health benefits including:
- Improving flexibility.
- Increasing muscle strength.
- Improving balance.
- Providing aerobic benefits.
Tai Chi for Medical Ailments
According to the Harvard Medical School, Tai Chi, in combination with a number of standard medical treatments, can be beneficial for the following disorders:
- Breast cancer.
- Low bone density.
- Heart disease.
- Heart failure.
- High blood pressure.
- Parkinson’s disease.
- Sleep disorders.
Tai Chi movements are gentle enough that they can be easily adapted to suit anyone of any age or physical ability, even those confined to a wheelchair.
Tai Chi During Pregnancy
According to Carolyn Cooper, ACE and AEA Certified Fitness Professional and Tai Chi Instructor, the gentle movements of tai chi can benefit pregnant women physically, mentally and emotionally. Not only that, Tai Chi can actually benefit expectant mothers during labor because of its slow stretching movements and breathing techniques.
During the first trimester, morning sickness is not uncommon, and it may strike at the most unexpected moments. You should bear this in mind if you are continuing your Tai Chi classes through pregnancy. Be prepared to take regular breaks throughout the class. Let your instructor know that you are pregnant so that she will be aware and understanding of when you need a little time out. You may even need to take a small snack, such as a few crackers, to help you calm the nausea.
Because of the many hormonal changes that take place during pregnancy, you may at times feel as though you are riding an emotional roller coaster. Taking a moment to be still and breathe steadily in a tai chi pose can help you maintain a feeling of balance. It can also help you stay relaxed throughout the day, which means you will sleep better at night. All of these factors will help you adapt more easily to the changes taking place in your body and in your life.
Paige Johnson shares a vision with LearnFit.org, which is dedicated to providing information on living a lifestyle that is healthy for our bodies and our planet.