Sifu's Training Insights

Tai Chi As Therapy
Tai Chi Class

Many are now aware that the ancient Chinese art of Tai Chi is a wonderful health exercise, especially beneficial in reducing stress and increasing relaxation.

Tai Chi students will point out how they have become more calm and centered sing simple and easy breathing techniques, meditation, and gentle stretching and toning exercises.

These benefits and more, such as increased circulation, improved flexibility, increased energy, strength and stamina, better coordination, balance, concentration, focus and even improved memory, are the usual outcomes of correct and appropriate instruction. Still, many are unaware of how effective Tai Chi can be as a form of rehabilitation or therapy.

Since Tai Chi has existed for hundreds of years, this art has certainly undergone the test of time and has been shown to provide these many benefits safely.

One of the priorities of rehabilitation or therapy is to return the individual to full normal function, if possible. If it is not possible to do so, then the goal is to attain the highest level of function that is possible, within certain limits (i.e., individuals personal goals, etc.).

The qualified Tai Chi instructor will carefully evaluate the potential of the student, taking into consideration any special needs or circumstances (such as age, physical conditioning, illness, surgery, etc.). The instructor will then help the student to gradually and safely reach their potential. This will require constant monitoring and adjustment of the instruction based upon the student's response to the exercises. Certainly, this can best be accomplished through individualized instruction rather than in a large group class, as Tai Chi is frequently taught.

A major error that may occur is the belief of many Tai Chi instructors that teaching Tai Chi in a traditional approach is the only way to share this art. These instructors will incorrectly attempt to have any student perform the Tai Chi movements in an exact manner and without any modification. This is not only ignorant, but dangerous for many people.

Although most Tai Chi instructors will not necessarily have an extensive background in anatomy, physiology, kinesiology or therapeutic exercise, if the instructor has a solid foundation in Tai Chi principles gained through study with a qualified teacher and then graduation from a formal teaching apprenticeship program, the instructor will be able to teach Tai Chi effectively to a diverse population while adjusting the teaching as necessary. Of course, any additional training in health related fields is preferable when dealing with individuals who have special needs.

Tai Chi itself teaches the "correct" or "natural" way of using the body.

This implies proper alignment, muscle tone and appropriate use of strength and flexibility to perform each movement without creating superfluous or even dangerous stresses at the joints or otherwise straining the body. Therefore, without actually knowing specific conditions, a Tai Chi instructor will note any area that requires attention and respond to the students feedback regarding their feelings during the performance of the Tai Chi movements.

Proper alignment and quality of movement during the execution of Tai Chi, within the capabilities of the student, will assist in correcting many existing problems, prevent possible exacerbation of a condition or allow the student to maximize his potential.

An additional advantage in using Tai Chi to assist in rehabilitation or therapy is the possible increase in patient compliance that may occur.

Therapists are well aware of the difficulty in having their patients continue their exercises on their own. A major cause of this problem is the patient's perception of exercise as:
              a) Uncomfortable
              b) Difficult to perform or remember
              c) Boring
              d) Time consuming

Tai Chi movements are beautiful, graceful, relaxing and fun. Patients enjoy doing these movements and actually look forward to performing them on a regular basis. Therefore, compliance is usually very high leading to excellent results in rehabilitation. Enjoy Tai Chi as a recreational activity or as rehabilitation or therapy. Either way, you'll experience wonderful development on many levels.

Please Note:
This article is not meant to imply that anyone should substitute Tai Chi exercises for any traditional course of physical therapy. Discuss Tai Chi as an alternative with your doctor or physical therapist before beginning a Tai Chi program.