All about Tai Chi

What is Tai Chi?

Tai Chi is a series of individual dance-like movements that flow smoothly from one to another in a sequence. When it is performed, Tai Chi synthesizes elements of movement, mind and breath, making it a mind-directed moving exercise. With Tai Chi practice, the body becomes stronger and more supple. The mind becomes calmer and better able to deal with adversity. Breathing deepens and there is an increased feeling of well-being.

Origins of Tai Chi

Tai Chi has its origin in the martial arts. It combines combative elements (pushing, pulling, attacking, and yielding) with powerful healing qualities using one’s vital energy or Qi (pronounced chee. Postures best suited for combat were created from these observations. This may explain why many Tai Chi forms include animals in their names, for example, Embracing Peacock’s Tail and White Crane Spreads its Wings.

Health Benefits

Studies have shown that Tai Chi helps us maintain and improve our health. It has been shown to help people who are recovering from strokes, those with Parkinson’s disease, fibromyalgia and arthritis. It is often included in cardiac and surgical rehabilitation programs.

One of the primary benefits to older adults is consistent practice can help reduce the risk of falling. One in three people age 65 plus falls each year and 20 to 30 percent of people who fall suffer moderate to severe injuries such as bruises, hip fractures and head traumas. When you perform Tai Chi, you respond to gentle demands on your posture’s stability. Over time, this improves strength, postural control and balance.

Movement Basics

All Tai Chi movements are based on three fundamentals – relaxation, concentration and smooth, deep breathing. Movements include weight-bearing and non-weight-bearing stances, correct body alignment and posture and multiple coordinated movements executed in a continuous, circular and flowing manner. The performance of the forms is closely synchronized with natural breathing.

Practice Guidelines

Doctor’s Approval – Be sure you have your doctor’s ok.

Warm Up Exercises – Always begin with warm-ups to loosen the muscles and open the joints. You can simply walk in place and gently stretch arms and legs.

Practice Daily – Try to practice five days a week for 10 to 20 minutes.

Breathing – Deep breathing is an integral part of Tai Chi. In the early stages of learning, however, just breathe gently and naturally.

Cool Down – Take time to stand quietly for a few minutes before going on with your day.

Classes in SaddleBrooke at HOA 1 Fitness Center

Beginning: Sunday 10:00 to 11:00 a.m.

Intermediate: Saturday 12:30 to 1:30 p.m.

Advanced: Saturdays 11:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

To register, contact Carol or Ken Emerson at 825-9206; $10 per class.

Your instructors Carol and Ken Emerson have been teaching Tai Chi in SaddleBrooke for nine years and have been studying martial arts for over 30 years. They are members of the Ching Yi Kung Fu Association, which traces its lineage back to Yang, Cheng-Fu and Yang, Lu-Chan – the founders of the Yang School of Tai Chi.