Whether your flexbility has lessened due to age or you need a low-impact regimen while you work on weight loss, tai chi provides a safe, effective form of exercise that doesn't tax your joints. The gentle series of positions can increase strength and balance, and help as you find peace of mind through relaxing, meditative movements.
Tai Chi Basics
Tai chi isn't the type of workout that will get your heart pumping and mind racing; rather, tai chi encompasses three key tenets: movement; breathing; and meditation, or state of mind. The movements in tai chi are flowing and graceful, accompanied by proper breathing techniques. Combined with the meditative state of mind during practice, tai chi is meant to affect the "qi," or life force of the body, which is supposed to be vital to good health.
Known as the wu chi, wuji or high horse stance, the beginning position starts by placing your body in a relaxed stance with legs parallel, situated slightly wider than the shoulders and knees slightly bent. Keep your center of gravity directly down the middle of your body, and hold your back straight. To move into the low horse stance, position your legs slightly wide and sink your body lower. For another simple move, position your feet shoulder width apart and then slowly "pour" your weight to your right side. Hold, and then "pour" your weight back to the center. Repeat on the left side.
Simple Upper-Body Moves
Relax your neck with the aptly named neck relaxer move. Sit in a chair with your feet flat on the floor and your back straight. Slowly drop your chin to your chest, then rotate your head so your right ear rests on your right shoulder. Return your head to the center, then drop it back down to your chest and move your left ear to your left shoulder. Focus on your breathing as you repeat this cycle several times. Loosen your arms with arm circles. Stay seated in the chair and raise your arms out in front of you. Bend your elbows slightly and keep your wrists and fingers relaxed. Circle your forearms outward six times, then circle your arms and shoulders outward six times. Repeat the process, circling inward this time.
Because of the gentle, low-impact nature of tai chi, there's generally no contraindications for the exercise. However, if a particular movement hurts a problem area, modify it with the aid of a trained tai chi instructor, or eliminate it from the routine. When practicing tai chi, follow proper precautions such as using a warm-up before, a cool-down after and stretching throughout.
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