Age-net take a look at Tai Chi and discovers that it could be the perfect low impact excersise for you. Read on to find our more…
With all the stresses in life and an exhaustive list of fitness options, and group classes you have to choose from, it can be difficult to find something that’s right for you.If you’ve slackened off a bit on the exercise side of things, and don’t feel you’re healthy enough to be attending aerobics classes, or exerting yourself with a Zumba dance class, then you’re probably looking for something a bit more relaxing and something that won’t put stress on your joints, leaving you with aches and pains after each workout.
Not a good place to be!
Tai Chi is one of those exercises that does not exert you. It is gentle on the joints, suited to people of all ages and does not leave you feeling exhausted after a workout.
Instead, it will help you feel relaxed, rejuvenated and helps stave off the effects of stress. Something we all have too much of and it is the breathing exercises in the routines that help lower your stress levels.
What exactly Tai Chi is
Tai Chi originates from ancient Chinese martial arts. If you have visited China, or saw something in a movie where there were groups of people in parks, exercising in a sort of slow moving karate like routine; this is Tai Chi.
Similar to how yoga originated in ancient India to become more popular in the US, reaching the UK and spreading throughout Europe… Tai Chi comes from China and has been used for thousands of years as part of a healthy lifestyle.
The origins of the exercise routine were developed for martial arts purposes, but with wider health benefits to offer than just self-defence, it is more appealing to a wider audience, regardless of age, fitness level, or some existing health concerns. That said, if you do suffer from any health condition, you are best to speak to your GP first, before you take up Tai Chi, as there are some health conditions that could rule this exercise out for you.
There are different styles of Tai Chi, but the one you want will be either Wu, or Yang. Not Chen Tai Chi as that is more intense.
In Wu and Yang Tai Chi, all the movements are done slowly, with a focus on gentle breathing throughout the exercise. The routines revolve around moving your body slowly into different positions, with the majority being done in a slight squat, keeping your back straight throughout.
Health conditions that could stop you trying Tai Chi
- Chronic back pain or a previous slipped disc
If you have any of the above conditions, or suffer from any other health concern, contact your doctor and find out if you would be suited to this, and if there’s any precautions you should take to prevent injury.
The health benefits of Tai Chi
Reduced stress levels
This is the primary benefit to practicing Tai Chi. The slow moving motions, combined with the power of deep breathing exercises relaxes your mind and body. It helps you develop a more positive mindset, putting up a kind of mental barrier and helps when you find yourself in stressful situations.
Stress is good for nobody!
In relationships, it causes severe problems, and for your body – too much stress will raise your blood pressure, strain your heart, and increase your risk of a stroke or a heart attack.
This is why exercise needs everyone’s attention and since Tai Chi is easy to practice, there’s nobody excluded. The stretches can be adapted.
Lower your blood pressure
High blood pressure is also referred to as hypertension and it is definitely not good for your heart. When you suffer from high blood pressure, your blood vessels struggle to supply essential oxygen and nutrients through your blood to keep your heart and vital organs healthy.
The movements in Tai Chi help to improve the elasticity of your blood vessels, contributing to functioning more effectively at delivering oxygen and nutrients throughout your body.
Improve blood flow
With the above mentioned about lowering your blood pressure, it goes without saying that blood flow increases too. If you often feel your hands and feet are cold to the touch, you can change that by practicing Tai Chi.
Strengthen your immune system
The lymph system is what your body uses to transport fluids throughout your body. Immune system cells are what you need to prevent you coming down with chest infections, colds, flu, and other winter ailments.
Because the exercises focus on slow moving poses, with your back straight and holding positions, you can easily improve your balance.
A better night’s sleep
To get a good nights’ rest, you need to feel rested, and for that to happen, it helps to have mental clarity. The reduced stress levels, along with the relaxing nature of the routines, and the breathing, all contribute to you getting a better nights’ sleep. Much deeper than you may be used to, and you will awake in the morning feeling fresh and ready to challenge a new day head on.
The different styles of Tai Chi
This is the best style to begin Tai Chi practice, and it is the most widely available type taught in classes. It is the traditional style of the exercise with the motions done slowly, incorporating deep breathing to relax your mind and body.
The slow movements are done in a sequence, with one pose flowing smoothly into the next. A relaxing way to exercise, elegantly performed, and beautiful to watch.
The Chen style of Tai Chi is for those inclined to do athletically challenging workouts. This style uses explosive movements, and is done at a much faster pace than Yang.
It is practiced more for martial arts training, or as part of a self-defence class. Chen style Tai Chi is not suited to the inexperienced, or anyone with joint pain of any sort.
Wu style Tai Chi is the perfect fit for those who experience joint pain. It can also help with back pain, due to the slow and deliberate movements involving deep stretches to relieve the tension in the back, shoulders, and neck.
The main difference between Wu and Yang Tai Chi is that the Wu style has less emphasis on the lower legs.
Books, DVD, or Attend a Local Tai Chi Class?
When starting anything new, you are sure to find an assortment of guides explaining everything you need to do to do the exercises correctly.
You will find a range of books, and DVDs you could use to get started with Tai Chi, but you are best to find a local instructor.
Before you attend the class to practice, try to find out if you can arrange a visit with the instructor, so you can get a feel for their style, and persona, as well as quiz them about the motions involved in their classes.
You can also take that opportunity to explain any concerns you have, such as back pain, and find out from them what their opinion is, and whether or not they can tailor a workout routine suited to your needs.
While there are different styles of Tai Chi, it is also possible to mix styles around, tailoring a routine unique to each person’s needs.
You will often find these are separate classes, taught in groups of people with similar health concerns, who are also suited to the adapted style of Tai Chi.