If you are looking for an exercise that is physically gentle, and will help you become mentally centered, then you might want to consider Tai Chi. Tai Chi is an ancient Chinese tradition that was originally developed as a form of martial arts. Today it is practiced by millions who enjoy the slow, fluid movements, as well as the intense focus, and deep breathing. Its popularity grows as it is especially beneficial to the overweight, arthritic, and is a gentle exercise for everyone.
There are many styles of Tai Chi but these are the 5 main styles taught today:
•Chen style is characterized by alternating fast/slow motion and bursts of power.
•Yang style has many variations and is the most popular and widely practiced style in the world today. In this style the vigorous release of power has been removed and is now a steady, slow movement suitable for most people
•Wu style has distinctive hand form training and emphasizes parallel footwork. It is the 2nd most popular style in the world.
•Wu (Hao) style is a unique style that includes small subtle movements; it is highly focused on balance, feelings, and the development of internal energy.
•The Sun style is well known for its smooth, fluid movements which leave out the more advanced vigorous crouching and leaping. The gentle postures are especially suited for the elderly and those suffering with general body aches and joint pain.
Tai Chi has many health benefits such as:
•One of the most well known benefits is it reduces stress and anxiety. It has been called meditation in motion.
•It helps build a solid level of flexibility and balance.
•Tai Chi is low impact and does not stress the muscles or joints.
•Tai Chi has been known to increase aerobic capacity; increase energy; and increase muscle strength and toning.
•There is evidence that Tai Chi may be helpful with sleep disorders; improve the immune system; and lower cholesterol and blood pressure.
•It is known to reduce joint pain and improve your overall sense of well-being.
•Practicing Tai Chi can help reduce the strain of repetitive motion.
•Tai Chi is a good form of exercise for the overweight. The low impact of the Sun Style is excellent for those with knee and hip limitations. As your body builds a strong base and the mind becomes calm, it is easier to deal with the causes of overeating. Tai chi can change your perspective and help you make healthier food choices.
•Scientists at the Oregon Research Institute in Eugene, Oregon report that Tai Chi offers great benefits to older persons who are healthy but not active on a daily basis. It was shown that Tai Chi practiced regularly helped reduce falls among healthy seniors.
•Any one form of exercise alone, is usually not enough to meet general exercise requirements. However, Tai Chi combined with a walking program is a very good workout. If you are more active you can combine Tai Chi with a more vigorous cardio activity and provide more of a challenge.
•Some classes teach Tai Chi in a chair.
How to get started:
•The movements in Tai Chi are fluid and flow from one to the next. It is not easy to isolate these movements in books. However, there are some good books out there, just do your research before buying.
•Buy a DVD. Once again, do your research to make sure it is a style suitable for your capabilities. Determine if it is a quality workout with a respectable, trained instructor.
•The best way to start is to attend classes. Classes are often held at community centers, senior centers, YMCA’s, as well as health and fitness facilities.
•There are no special guidelines or licensing procedures for Tai Chi teachers so it is very important that you do your research. Be sure to ask for recommendations and don’t be afraid to talk to the instructor about his or her training and experience.
Bill Douglas, Tai Chi teacher, and founder of the World Tai Chi & Qigong Day; also author of “Stalking the Yang Lu-Chan: Finding Your Tai Chi Body”, tells us that “In fact almost anyone can do it (Tai Chi) even those with conditions that may exclude them from other forms of exercise. Seniors, the overweight, and the arthritic can all participate.”
Douglas states “Tai Chi demonstrates how inextricably interwoven the mental and physical body is. Your mood, your emotional states, and your physical states are all beginning to improve at the same time.”
Always check with a medical professional before starting this or any new exercise program. Be healthy, be happy.
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