Tai chi is called “medication in motion” by Harvard Medical School. It’s a gentle and simple style of exercise that can have a huge impact on your balance, mobility, and flexibility. But how do you get started? Take a deep breath, stretch, and get ready for some tai chi for beginners!
Tai Chi for Beginners
What do white clouds, a flying crane, and parting a wild horse’s mane have in common? These are all moves you can practice in tai chi. As you may have guessed, tai chi is different than most traditional exercises. It is an ancient Chinese art of movement and meditation, where practitioners are meant to be as focused on what is happening in their minds as their bodies.
Tai chi is practiced by doing simple, continuous movements that are named after animals or natural phenomena, accompanied by deep breathing. If you have done yoga before, this may remind you of some of the poses you practiced in that exercise, like Downward Dog or Crane pose. Tai chi is similar in that it is also focused on posing your body in ways that allow you to breathe and stretch. Tai chi is also slightly different, however, in that the goal is to move fluidly from pose to pose, emphasizing graceful movement and mindfulness. People watching a tai chi demonstration for the first time often compare it to a dance!
Why Should I Practice Tai Chi?
Aside from the joy of movement, there are lots of concrete benefits that come from practicing tai chi. The best part is that those benefits happen at every level of practice. Even tai chi for beginners can have a huge impact on your mental and physical health!
First of all, the focus on breathing and motion can significantly help your balance. Tai chi helps your body build strength and flexibility in the knees and ankles. It also helps build muscle in your core, which has the added benefit of helping with common back pains. All of this adds up to making you stronger and more flexible, which can help you avoid falls and other injuries that can be particularly dangerous for seniors. A study from Emory University shows that seniors that practice tai chi can reduce their risk of falling by 50 percent!
Secondly, tai chi has health benefits above and beyond what you might expect. Studies show that tai chi can give your immune system a needed boost, making you less likely to get sick. Recent studies are also showing the importance of the mind-body connection emphasized by tai chi. Tai chi can reduce depression symptoms and even help with cognitive issues like memory loss. If you’re struggling with any of these mental or physical ailments, you owe it to yourself to find out what tai chi can do for you.
How Can I Start?
Speak with your doctor first to check that practicing tai chi will not aggravate any existing injuries or health issues. Those with balance problems may want to begin with more basic balance exercises to build confidence. You can modify forms as needed by practicing while seated or staying close to a wall in case you need to brace yourself.
Ready to give it a try? Try these simple moves to explore tai chi for beginners:
- Touch the Sky: While seated, place your hands in your lap and turn your palms towards the sky. Breathe deeply. As you inhale, raise your hands in front of you to chest level, then continue to raise them to the sky. As you exhale, return your hands to your lap.
- Shooting the Bow: Stand with your feet at shoulder-width. Relax your arms at your sides. Bend your knees, then allow your back to round slightly, looking ahead. Make fists with your hands, then breathe deeply. As you inhale, face left and extend your left hand directly in front of you. Pull your right fist back slightly, as if you are shooting an arrow. Exhale and release, then repeat the motion on the other side.
- Golden Lion Shakes Its Mane: While seated, breathe deeply and lean forward until you can feel your back stretch. Twist your left shoulder forward, being careful not to strain your lower back. Inhale and exhale as you alternate shoulders forward.
No matter what your fitness level is, you can benefit from adding tai chi to your everyday routine. Improve your balance, strengthen your immune system, and enjoy the benefits of mindful movement!
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