Tai Chi is an internal martial art that is practiced for its health benefits as well as its defense training. The movements utilized in tai chi are flowing, graceful, and slow, not entirely unlike water. For the elderly, tai chi is both a safe and healthy way to alleviate arthritis pain while gaining flexibility, strength, and balance. The internal martial art has quickly been recognized and regarded as one of the several alternative techniques that heal pain and might even allow practitioners to lower their levels of medication.
Tai chi is said to have been developed in medieval China to help replenish the health of monks in bad physical shape from not enough exercise and too much meditation. Chi is the Chinese word for energy, and in the arts of healing tai chi is utilized to encourage the flow of chi throughout the body, the same way that blood flows through the body.
“The movements of tai chi keep the body fresh and allow the person to find a freer range of motion in the joints, greater flexibility, better balance,” says Cate Morrill, a certified tai chi instructor. Tai chi is also known as “moving meditation” as it is relaxing and because the focus is on creating inner stillness, quieting thoughts, draining tension the body, and movement. When a person is concentrating on breathing and on the fluid movements, they are no longer focused on the worries of the world.
Movements of Tai Chi include “Wind Rolls With Lotus Leaves,” “White Crane Spreads Wings,” and “Brush Dust Against the Wind.” Although their names may be a bit extravagant, the actual applications are rather simple. People with arthritis in their knees usually don’t bend their knees when whey move their legs, therefore the way they walk is more of a stumbling motion than anything else.
The drifting movement “Wave Hands Like Clouds” is centered on the hands. As the hands flow, the body is in slow, constant movement; the hips lead the full-body motion. One leg stretches as the other bends before the motion switches to the opposite side of the body. The arms roll at the shoulder join to strengthen those muscles, which in turn encourages the arms to fully extend.
In 1997 a study was published that discovered that seniors who attended 15 tai chi classes and practiced twice a day for 15 minutes had greatly reduced their chances of falling. Since that study was released, numerous other studies have noted the physical benefits of tai chi.
Seniors that participated in a six-month study said that overall they had a better quality of life in regards to mental health, perceptions of health, independence, and pain. Another study reported that senior citizens who attended a 12-week tai chi class were able to move around better and reported less pain in their legs.
A review of four studies on tai chi discovered that the martial art does not appear to greatly lessen the severity of rheumatoid arthritis or reduce pain. However, it does greatly improve a person’s range of motion in the joints of the ankles and legs. Those who received the best benefit reported participating more in their tai chi courses and enjoying them more when compared with people who were only enrolled in a traditional exercise program.
Tai chi is an excellent way to improve mind, body, and soul. Not only can it help with arthritis, it also helps focus and bring peace to the mind.