Millions of people practice Tai Chi Chuan everyday in China, but what are they doing? They believe that Tai Chi Chuan allows the life force or ‘Qi’ (a life-energy inside the body) to flow throughout the body without interruption. To most of us in the Western World it looks like fitness exercises.
Tai Chi is actually part exercise, part martial art and part spiritual practice. It consists of deep breathing and controlled movements that flow into one long graceful gesture. The movements are preformed slowly and a lightly with much concentration and inner stillness. Since many experts recommend slow, gentle exercises for those with arthritis, tai chi may be just what the doctor ordered. As an added bonus, the Chinese believe that tai chi can cure illness and strengthen and improve the function of all body systems.
Tai Chi is affordable-classes cost up to $12 per session, requires no special equipment and can be done anywhere, although it is considered desirable to practice outside at sunset or sunrise so you can absorb the qi of the earth.
Videos are available but most experts recommend you start by taking classes with a qualified teacher. Once the basics are learned you can practice at home.
Classes usually last about an hour. Beginning with warm up exercises and meditation to quiet the mind, it moves on to the movements. The teacher will demonstrate the poses and the class follows. The long form of tai chi has more than 100 movements, the short form has 24 movements. The movements can be done slowly or with speed, but always gentle and graceful.
Take care to choose a teacher that has experience with those with arthritis. Make sure he is aware of any physical limitations you may have. You might start your search with a health or fitness center, senior center, or ask your physical therapist. And as always, check with your doctor before starting any type of exercise program.
Tai Chi Productions
The Arthritis Foundation’s Guide to Alternative Therapy