Tai Chi health benefits | Natural Health Blog
Written by: Hiyaguha Cohen
November 30, 2020
Tai Chi has been described as “medication in motion”. Look for styles that focus on your health condition and / or specific diseases, such as: B. Tai Chi for back pain or diabetes. Tai chi helps with balance, immunity, mood, arthritis pain, sleep, immune response, and much more.
About Tai Chi: Styles and Health Benefits
Every year on April 27th, many celebrate World Tai Chi Day, when thousands of participants in over 80 countries around the world hold Tai Chi demonstrations and events. Observers can see elaborate sword shapes and fan dances, as well as the more mundane tai chi shapes that the senior set often enjoys. What may not be so obvious are the myriad of benefits that Tai Chi offers practitioners. An article in the Harvard Health Publication states: “Tai Chi is often described as “meditation in motion” but it can also be described as “medication in motion”. ”
Here are eight things you should know to get the most benefit from tai chi.
Almost everyone can practice tai chi. I’ve heard people say they wouldn’t take a tai chi class because they are not good at memorizing steps. The fact is, you don’t have to be good at memorizing steps. You don’t have to be flexible or graceful. They don’t have to be coordinated or even a certain age. You just have to be willing to be a beginner, learn one move at a time, one sequence at a time, and find a class that is for beginners or those of your fitness level. There are forms of tai chi that are well suited for older people with physical limitations, as well as forms that are suitable for young and sporty people.
Tai chi is not a practice. There are five main styles of tai chi (and numerous variations). The Yang style is the most commonly practiced style in the United States and involves large, graceful, slow, circular movements. The Chen style, the oldest, is much stronger and closer to the martial arts, with lots of jumps, punches and kicks. It is practiced deep on the ground so leg and core strength must be developed, which makes it a fun and challenging style of getting physically fit. In contrast, the Wu, Hao, and Sun styles use higher viewpoints and more compact movements, which makes them perfect for seniors. The sun style is faster and more dance-like than the others, and Wu is more internal like Chi Gung. Also, he has to lean forward or backward, while other styles require an upright posture. There are many shapes within each of these styles. For example, if you are practicing the yang style, you can start with the basic “8 yang form”, which consists of only eight movements, and then move on to the “long yang form” with 108 movements. More advanced yang forms can use weapons such as swords or fans. Which style should you choose? If there are multiple classes available in your area, consider your age and fitness level. For more fit individuals, the Chen style can be a great addition. If you have physical limitations, you will likely do better on one of the other shapes. The Yang style is a great compromise that is suitable for both beginners and advanced learners, depending on the teacher and the form offered.
There are Tai Chi forms that are said to help with certain health conditions. If you have an illness that you think would preclude you from taking tai chi, remember that the Tai Chi for Health Institute has developed forms of tai chi that address specific health issues, and that hundreds of instructors worldwide are certified to teach these classes. You can also take classes online via streaming video. Current offers include tai chi for arthritis, tai chi for fall prevention, tai chi for back pain, tai chi for osteoporosis, tai chi for diabetes, tai chi for energy, and tai chi for rehabilitation. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and numerous other organizations have approved these courses. On the other hand, you don’t need these specialty courses to get help with health problems. Any general tai chi class will help with these problems as long as the form being practiced is gentle enough for your limitations.
Tai Chi benefits are innumerable and profound. We have written in the past about how tai chi relieves arthritis pain, combats depression, and improves heart health. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Tai chi improves balance, reduces falls, and reduces the fear of falling. Several studies have confirmed that those who practice Tai Chi several times a week have significantly fewer falls than those who do other forms of movement. This is because tai chi emphasizes the constant shifting of weight from one leg to the other in order to catch itself when one becomes unbalanced. It also strengthens the core and leg muscles and involves one-legged movements. A study published in JAMA Internal Medicine tracked 670 elderly subjects at high risk of falls. The participants were divided into three groups. One group followed a well-rounded exercise program that included aerobics, strength, flexibility, and balance exercises. Another was just doing stretching exercises. The third group practiced a simple eight-move tai chi routine. All three groups did their exercises in two weekly one-hour sessions. At the end of 24 weeks, the tai chi group had 58 percent fewer falls than the stretching group and 31 percent fewer than the group doing the rounded exercises. These balance improvements can be especially helpful for the elderly and people with Parkinson’s disease.
Tai Chi reduces stress. Numerous studies have shown that tai chi reduces stress. Most recently, Dr. Shin Lin, professor of biochemistry at UC Irvine, measured the physiological effects of tai chi. Dr. Lin attached electrodes to his students while they were doing tai chi to measure their brain waves, heart rate, blood flow, and temperature. His results showed that tai chi produced a significant reduction in the stress response. He explains that the repetitive movements in tai chi create more neurons in the hippocampal area of the brain and that these neurons suppress the stress response, resulting in decreased blood pressure.
Tai Chi improves the immune response. Dr. Shin Lin also studied how tai chi affects immunity. He was following a UCLA clinical study involving 112 adults between the ages of 59 and 81 years. In this study, half of the subjects took tai chi classes for 40 minutes three times a week, and the other half of the subjects took health education classes over the same period of time. After four months, all participants received a shingles vaccine and then their immune responses were measured for the next two months. At the end of the study, those who took tai chi had, on average, twice as many antibodies to shingles as those who only took the health classes. Dr. Shin then divided the subjects into two groups. One got the shingles vaccine and the other group just did tai chi, not a vaccine. After six weeks of tai chi practice, his students had levels of shingles antibodies equivalent to those who were vaccinated.
Tai chi improves sleep. A related benefit of tai chi is improved sleep. A 2016 study of 75 young adults suffering from anxiety had significantly better sleep scores after practicing tai chi twice a week for 10 weeks. A similar 2016 study of seniors with cognitive impairments also found that tai chi had a significant positive impact on sleep quality. Numerous other studies support these results.
These are just a few of the benefits Tai Chi can offer. Like yoga, tai chi feels great. To find a class, contact your local YMCA, senior center, or martial arts studio. You may want to look around to find an instructor and class that is comfortable with you. And make it your goal to take an active part in World Tai Chi Day next April yourself.