Do you want to start to exercise, but you don’t know what to do? Are you looking for a different type of workout? Exercise does not need to be strenuous and high impact to reap its beneficial effects -- though, many people from western cultures think so.
Tai Chi, also known as shadow boxing, is a form of meditation in motion and it enhances flexibility, balance, stamina and strength -- all major components to staying fit.
Yang or sun style of Tai Chi is an ideal, safe and gentle introductory form of exercise for all aspects of health care since the practitioner can introduce more depth to each practice as they progress by gaining body awareness. In Tai Chi, the practitioner's concentration, breathing and body movements are closely connected.
While the practitioner is able to concentrate on breathing, they can then start to relax, and then consciously integrate the flow of the body’s movements derived from their own internal energy -- that intrinsic force also promotes correct body postures. A correct posture improves ones own life energy, which embraces all functions of the body and is essential for health, vitality and pain reduction.
For example, during a simple movement called "opening and closing hands," the hands are positioned at the neck with the fingers pointing up and the palms of the hands facing each other about head width apart. The palms of the hands then open from about a distance of head width apart to shoulder width apart. This simple movement, if executed slowly, with a minded conscious effort, guided by the breath, helps retract the scapulae and bring the shoulder blades back and down thus improving ones posture, strengthening back muscles and expanding the chest area.
Balance is also greatly improved in Tai Chi. The practitioner is in tune with the weight transference, thus, improving mobility, coordination and stability -- this helps prevent falls, especially in older adults. As balance improves, it is easier to focus on body alignment from the ground up. As the body aligns itself, it creates a better flow of internal energy.
Flexibility is achieved as you consciously and gently mobilize your joints safely through their range of motion. Joints become relaxed and loosened without letting the muscles get floppy. Imagining a rubber band between the tail bone to the crown of the head helps expand the space between the vertebrae. As balance and posture improve, it’s easier to also bend your knees and stretch the hips while keeping an erected torso.
Keeping the knees bent throughout the flow of movements helps develop a great amount of strength in the lower body. By engaging the core muscles, one can
maintain a tall upright and aligned torso, which develops strength in the upper
body, back and chest muscles.
The key to Tai Chi is maintaining focus on movements and a slow flow like water down a river, which allows you to gain body awareness and improve on all areas of fitness. Body awareness will make you a more efficient exerciser or athlete and help you improve your Tai Chi practice, and your ability and fluidity with daily living activities while calming your mind.
Fabiana teaches sun style Tai Chi on Mondays and a gentle tone and stretch class on Thursdays at 11 a.m. at the Bellmore Memorial Library. You may also contact her at Fabianasemail@gmail.com.