Our Care Virtual Care Programme Tai Chi What is Tai Chi? Tai Chi originated in ancient China and had its roots in healing, meditation, and martial arts traditions. It is a form of exercise that combines relaxed, flowing, circular movements with a calm but alert mental state. Tai Chi involves learning a sequence of movements known as a form, which when performed look like an effortless, slow motion dance. Tai Chi is now practiced around the world as a health promoting exercise. It is safe and gentle; there are very few precautions which means that it is suitable for most people, irrespective of their age, fitness or level of mobility and function. Tai Chi can easily be adapted and performed in all postures including standing, sitting lying and even visualising. Benefits of Tai Chi The many benefits of Tai chi are physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. Research has shown that Tai Chi may help: Improve exercise tolerance Control and reduce pain Increase flexibility Strengthen tendons, bones, and muscles Boost the body’s immune system Reduce blood pressure Improve balance Reduce the risk and rate of falls Improve cardiovascular function Improve sleep Improve quality of life Reduce depression and anxiety Reduce stress Improve function Improve psychological wellbeing Movement principles Tai Chi is ‘meditation with movement’ with a focus on breathing and the body’s internal sensations (muscle tone, joint movements, and pressure changes). The body must be in a relaxed state. In the western world relaxed means limp or floppy, but the Chinese translation means open and loose. Posture and Alignment Your body should be held as upright as possible, with your head erect, back straight, shoulders aligned over your hips, knees and feet which are flat on the floor in a comfortable position. Imagine the crown is suspended and the spine hangs from it like a string of pearls. Picture three clear crystal bowls full of water. One lies within the pelvis, one within the shoulder girdle and one on top of the head. During all postures and movements, you must aim to keep these areas balanced and level, if the bowls tilt the water will spill. Breathing Breathing should remain natural, gentle, and relaxed. You should aim to breathe naturally through your nose using your diaphragm or ’into your tummy’. Imagine you have a lit candle two inches in front of your nose, you want to try to breathe out gently without disturbing the flame. Movements Tai Chi movement is called ‘silk reeling’. It should be slow, smooth, and continuous. If movements are fast or jerky you will break the silken thread. Dan Tian Chi means energy. The Chinese believe the body’s energy or Chi is stored in the body in areas called Dan Tians. The main energy stores are in the head, the heart, and the pelvis. Chinese beliefs refer to the flow of the Chi energy through the channels or meridians of the body, and the importance of this for physical, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing. Tai Chi movements or forms are believed to correct and increase the flow of Chi through these channels. For more information watch our video about seated Tai Chi.