February 10th, 2017 Dr. Eric St. Pierre

Tai Chi for Health

The practice of Tai Chi, and particularly the Tai Chi form, can offer many benefits for both body and mind.  The slower pace encourages the practitioner to be deliberate and precise in their movement, gently and slowly building muscle strength and control.  Whether one is looking to add a healthy practice to their routine, or actively looking to regain normal function after injury, Tai Chi is something that just about anybody can do.  

Tai Chi Chuan translates as “grand ultimate fist,” and is an effective martial art.  This aspect of the practice is not attractive to every practitioner, but there are plenty of places offering a softer, modified approach that focuses primarily on the form, breathing exercises, and methods for achieving mental and bodily relaxation.  The practice of the form will gently work just about every part of your body through both small and large movements, varied stances, and rotational transitions.  One goal of the form is to find a sense of physical relaxation in the midst of movement.  Whether caused by stress or lack of awareness, the tension we hold in our bodies can lead to physical discomfort in many forms. Through mental awareness and consistent practice, one may hopefully achieve the ability to relax their bodies throughout their day, and therefore find a reduction in pain and discomfort.

Initially, the most challenging aspect of the practice is learning and memorizing the proper movements of the form.  This intensely focuses the mind and is a good practice of concentration.  Students may find this period to be the most challenging, but the rewards of consistent practice are very rewarding.  Eventually, you don’t need to think your way through the movements, but let your body lead through muscle memory.  This is the point at which the form can become a form of meditative exercise.

Some martial arts schools offer classes in Tai Chi, as do many local recreation centers. You may even be able to find a casual group that meets at your local park!  If you are concerned about the activity as it relates to any injury or pain you may have, you are encouraged to ask questions of the instructor and be forthcoming about your limitations so that you find a class that is suitable for you.  While it is recommended that you work with an experienced individual in a class setting, not everyone has the ability to do so.  As a secondary option, Gaiam has put out a few good videos on Tai Chi.

Dana Reynolds: ESP Scheduling/Front Desk, 4th Degree Black Belt- Kung Fu Master