Low-impact and gentle, yet tai chi packs a powerful punch…
MONDAY 11:00 – 12:00 – SEE DATES + BOOK HERE
With it’s slow, smooth moves, suitable for any age and ability, it would be easy to overlook tai chi as a serious contender on the fitness circuit.
Yet tai chi is a holistic workout for the entire body and mind, with more benefits than modern medicine can shake a stick at.
Reducing blood pressure, lowering heart rate, improving balance and flexibility are just the tip of the iceberg.
For this powerful, life-enhancing tool helps to bring calm, patience and free the minds of those who practice the Chinese martial art.
What is tai chi?
Combining deep breathing and relaxation with flowing movements, tai chi is often described as ‘meditation in motion’.
‘It’s a slow-moving, graceful, dance-like form of movement,’ explains Madge Duncan-Sutherland, who has been teaching for 18 years.
‘When you first start, you find that it calls upon muscles, energy, balance and control which simply aren’t there. Practising it gradually builds up these powers in your body and in your mind, creating a wholeness that you never realised you lacked.’
Who can do tai chi?
Young or old, healthy or living with a chronic condition, this form of exercise is gentle and easy to learn.
‘I’ve taught children in single figures, to octogenarians, people in wheelchairs to those dealing with cancer,’ says Madge.
‘In tai chi, the muscles are made to move and stretch very slowly. It’s against causing pain – we never force anything.’
Which explains why, for example, the NHS uses it as a means of rehabilitation for cardiac patients.
Despite its ease – or perhaps because of it – the positive impact tai chi has on the body, mind and soul, is quite astounding.
What are the health benefits?
Studies into the beneficial effects of tai chi all tend to come to the same conclusion. It works! And on so many levels – even if they don’t always know why.
‘In the last 10 years, UK hospitals are getting on board with tai chi and seeing results far beyond expectations,’ says Madge.
For your body, tai chi…
- Instills good health and fitness
- Improves posture, balance and general mobility
- Reduces blood pressure and lowers heart rate
- Increases muscle strength in the legs
- Reduces risk of falling in older adults
- Improves cognition in older adults
- Improves quality of life and helps with the symptoms of stroke, arthritis, osteoporosis, Parkinson’s disease, COPD, fibromyalgia and more
‘It is no coincidence that most major cancer units provide tai chi classes to help patients both in recovery from surgery and remission,’ Madge adds.
‘It helps them feel positive, less afraid and find balance within themselves.’
In older people, the effects of tai chi can be especially life-changing as a means of fall prevention, reportedly cutting the risk by a staggering 47 per cent.
As well as improving balance, it strengthens the muscles which lift the foot, while teaching you to place your heal down first – known as the heel strike – and feel the ground with your whole foot.
The coordination and focus required for the form (the sequence of movements which make up tai chi) are key factors in improving memory and thinking skills and is shown to be beneficial to dementia patients too.
For your mind, tai chi…
- Restores a sense of balance, calm and patience in a frantic, fast-paced world
- Reduces stress and anxiety
- Improves your mood and alleviates the symptoms of depression
- Improves self-confidence and control
- Helps you sleep better
While most martial arts are about using force and expending energy or ‘chi’, tai chi is all about gathering ‘chi’ into yourself.
‘I see it all the time. People arrive at a class feeling jaded, they haven’t slept and by the end of the class, they are bouncing!’ says Madge. ‘It replenishes their energy.
And if that isn’t enough, tai chi is good for the soul too.
‘It’s important to have fun,’ says Madge. ‘That’s what I try to do in my classes. I’ll ask the students to do a movement as if they are a certain animal and they’ll fall about laughing.
‘It’s about confidence building, not competition. Ultimately, it’s about making people feel good about themselves.’
Does your workout do all that for you?
Try a Tai Chi class at LiveWell!
MONDAY 11:00 – 12:00 – SEE DATES + BOOK HERE
No prior knowledge or equipment is necessary. Just wear loose, comfortable clothing and bring a water bottle.
To become a LiveWell member for FREE, get in touch.