In the ancient land of sages, meditation, and Yoga, we don’t need to look further for inspiration to live a healthier and happier life. Today, the world has become a global village, and the whole world has embraced Yoga. We Indians also are increasingly looking at alternative life practices to help our overall well-being. Whether Kung-Fu, Karate, Zumba, or Tai Chi, professional classes abound across our country. However, the point always is to know what is good for us or works for us. Doing something because it is a fad is not helpful, be it diet or exercise! Tai Chi is slowly becoming popular in India, and not without reason. Let us explore what Tai Chi is all about.
Understanding Tai Chi
Tai Chi is a series of gentle physical exercises and stretches that anyone can do comfortably. So, it suits most seniors as it is not physically exhausting. It is sometimes considered “meditation in motion” because it connects the body and mind through gentle moments.
It is the art of embracing the mind, body, and spirit. It is a serene and calming activity, especially beneficial for the elderly as you can do it anywhere – lying in bed, sitting on a chair, etc. One noteworthy point is that it can help prevent falls in the elderly, as this graceful form of exercise constantly keeps our bodies in motion. It helps reduce the fear of falling in our minds through regular and gentle motion exercises.
Tai Chi is an ancient Chinese Martial tradition that has now evolved into a gentle swaying motion of various body parts. It is comparable to a calm day on a tropical beach with the wind swaying the branches of the coconut trees in gentle motion or like the gentle lap and fall of the wave during the low tide. You can even compare it to the gentle rustle and flow of the meandering river that you must have seen somewhere. The calm feeling that such things evoke in us is what Tai chi does too. The rhythm of the exercise is a constant flow of one movement into another without a pause. Thus, it keeps the body in constant motion.
How to go about it?
The Tai Chi warm-up exercises focus mostly on six areas, namely the neck, shoulder, spine, waist, knees, and ankle. You can do them either sitting or standing. Practising them regularly will enhance your flexibility and tone up your muscles. However, every individual is different. So, respect and listen to your own body and never push yourself beyond your capacity and limit.
Some points to remember before you commence:
- Be comfortable with yourself, your clothes, and your movements.
- Do not continue if you feel uncomfortable in any way.
- Perform all movements slowly, smoothly, and continuously.
- Make sure your practising environment is safe and clutter-free and has good lighting.
- Hydrate yourself well, especially if it is a warm day.
- Like all exercises, if you are doing it for a long time, do incorporate warming up and cooling down exercises.
It helps alleviate stress and anxiety and brings about inner peace and a feeling of serenity. For the elderly, it is relatively safe, as it does not put too much stress on the muscle and joints. As a low-impact exercise, it is highly beneficial for those who do not like to exercise and is safe. It is inexpensive as it requires no trainer, training, or equipment. You can do it indoors or outdoors, solo or in a group. There are a lot of YouTube videos available for anyone interested in doing Tai Chi – beginners, for different parts of the body movement, lying in bed, seated or standing, for seniors, intermediate and advanced.
Since it focuses on gentle movements, it helps the elderly with their balance, control, and flexibility. Since these three things help seniors to be mobile and maintain their independence, Tai Chi is highly beneficial. There are tremendous physical benefits for the elderly, especially those who do not otherwise perform any exercises. For many seniors, it provides some much-needed aerobic activity. Since it builds better muscle strength, it also improves energy and stamina. It leads to better sleep since it improves mood through reduced stress and anxiety.
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The benefits of Tai Chi will be evident when you do it regularly. You will notice that you are calmer and healthier than before. It is non-competitive, and one can engage a qualified Tai Chi instructor to get one started and get into the routine if required. So, what are you waiting for – start doing Tai Chi for half an hour daily.