Tai Chi is a gentle Chinese martial art that has spread to the West as a relaxing form of exercise. Tai Chi combines deep breathing techniques with slow, fluid movements. It is often described as a combination between yoga in motion and meditation. Tai Chi offers a workout for both mind and body while building strength, flexibility, concentration, and balance. It contains no jerking or straining movements, making it an ideal and popular exercise for pregnant women.
Exercise is helpful in relieving stress and maintaining fitness during pregnancy. However, strenuous exercises are not recommend for the expectant mother. Walking, swimming, and yoga are common pregnancy exercises, but Tai Chi is quickly gaining ground as a relaxing, versatile fitness activity.
Tai Chi revolves around the idea of “chi”, a life energy that flows through the body. Chi is a central concept in the teachings of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Tai Chi aims to improve the circulation of the chi, thus improving health, attitude, and vitality.
Western Tai Chi consists of a series of long, slow movements that flow, one into the next. Many of these movements are based on naturally occurring motion, such as the actions of animals or birds. All of Tai Chi is performed in a graceful, deliberate manner.
Tai Chi offers numerous benefits. Studies have shown the exercise to improve digestion and memory and focus concentration. There is also evidence that Tai Chi increases circulation, improves heart health, decreases blood pressure, eases tension, and fights depression. It has furthermore proven to reduce back pain, which is an especially valuable benefit to women carrying extra weight during pregnancy.
Tai Chi may also help develop skills that come in handy during labor. Most Tai Chi classes teach meditation, which allows focus to be deliberately directed away from stimuli. This directed focus may help to mediate the pain and stress of labor. Tai Chi also teaches deep breathing techniques that are used throughout each movement. These breathing techniques are similar to those taught in Lemaze classes and may be beneficial during childbirth.
Numerous other characteristics of Tai Chi make it a wonderful exercise program for pregnant women. It is easy to learn and suitable for individuals of all sizes and fitness levels. It does not require any special or expensive equipment. Therefore, learning Tai Chi does not add stress or worry to an already complicated time in a woman’s life. The mental benefits and relaxation provided by this exercise will, in fact, help to reduce stress during pregnancy.
The long, slow, circular movements involved in Tai Chi increase core strength, which may assist in labor. Increased leg and arm strength help to carry a baby before and after birth. All of these strength benefits are provided without straining the body.
Tai Chi can be performed alone at home or in a group setting. Numerous instructional dvds and books are available to women who prefer to exercise in the comfort of their homes. Classes that teach Tai Chi are also available in most areas. In fact, classes specifically designed for pregnant women who wish to learn Tai Chi are not uncommon. Any method of learning Tai Chi will provide benefits, but a group setting provides the unique opportunity to learn a Tai Chi exercise called the “push-hands exercise.”
The “push-hands exercise” consists of two people channeling destructive energy away from themselves through interaction with each other. This exercise also teaches the participants to develop sensitivity to others’ chi. Through this interaction, the participants are meant to dissipate negative energy and build deeply and fundamentally understanding relationships.
Overall, Tai Chi is an ideal exercise for pregnant women. The health and fitness benefits provided help throughout pregnancy, labor, and motherhood. The mental benefits, including stress relief, help to maintain psychological health and happiness. It is an excellent option for any pregnant woman searching for an exercise routine, even if she has never exercised before.