All Tai Chi is good for health, but some conditions make it difficult to follow the traditional way. Because Tai Chi was originally a complex martial art, its training method was very strict and physically demanding. Nowadays the practice is recognised for its health benefits. With the change of focus, the art can serve people with health conditions better when it is modified for the purpose. Tai chi movements are fluid and graceful, although they can be difficult to learn. Well-modified forms for health benefits are safer and easier to learn.
The Tai Chi for Health Institute (TCHI) was founded in 2010 by Dr Paul Lam and many of his colleagues with the purpose of empowering people to improve their health and wellness through programs which have adapted Tai Chi to benefit or accommodate certain health conditions. The programs combine knowledge of medicine, sport and Tai Chi – with the help of medical experts in each field. TCHI trains and supports instructors in these methods and Shirley is proud to be one of Dr Lam’s instructors.
Among the Tai Chi for Health programmes we offer are:
Tai Chi for Arthritis/Balance and Falls Prevention
For people with or without arthritis, this is a good way to start your journey to better health. Although especially effective for arthritis, it is a great start for beginner to improve health and wellness. This simple set of Sun Style forms delivers many health benefits. It is easy, enjoyable and safe for people with arthritis to learn. Medical studies have shown the program to relieve pain for people with arthritis and improve their quality of lives. It is also proven to be effective in preventing falls, which is why health departments around the world have utilized it for this purpose.
Medical authorities agree that suitable exercise for people with arthritis should incorporate components that can improve muscular strength, flexibility, and fitness. Increased muscular strength supports and protects joints, which will reduce pain. Flexibility exercises also help to reduce pain and stiffness, thus improving mobility. Stamina or fitness is important for overall health and proper function of your heart, lungs and muscles. Tai Chi for Arthritis helps people to improve all these and more. It improves balance both mentally and physically, significantly reducing the risk of falls. Additional benefits include improving relaxation, vitality, posture, and immunity.
Tai Chi for Diabetes
The Tai Chi for Diabetes program is based on Sun and Yang style tai chi. Besides the fundamental 11 movement tai chi, it contains an advanced 9 movement set, warm-up, wind down, and Qigong breathing exercises. The program is easy to learn and has been designed to help prevent and improve the control of diabetes. It helps minimise the risk of complications of diabetes by improving heart/lung function, muscular strength, flexibility, balance, and stress reduction.
Diet and exercise are the cornerstone of diabetes management. People with diabetes who exercise regularly have better control over their blood glucose levels and fewer complications such as heart disease and stroke. Gentle exercise has been shown by studies to prevent diabetes in 60 percent of cases. Therefore, since tai chi is a gentle exercise, we can conclude that it’s effective in preventing and improving the control of diabetes. Stress is another factor that stands in the way of controlling diabetes. Since tai chi encourages mental relaxation and reduces stress, it follows that the practice can help improve the control of diabetes.
Other major problems of diabetes are the associating complications such as heart disease, visual impairment, and stroke. Tai chi focuses on building strength, balance and flexibility through slow, fluid movements combined with mental imagery and deep breathing. Scientific studies have shown this to have beneficial effects on cardio-respiratory fitness, muscular strength, balance, peripheral circulation, reduced tension, and anxiety. In turn, this minimises the complications of diabetes.
Diabetes is knows to cause peripheral neuropathy. Because the nerves in the feet are damaged, stability in walking is affected. Tai chi has proved to be effective in helping balance and mobility.
According to traditional Chinese medicine, diabetes is a deficiency of moisture and essence (yin) of the lung, spleen and kidney meridians . Enhancing qi in the appropriate meridians will therefore improve diabetes.
For people with or without diabetes, Tai Chi for Diabetes is a good way to start your journey to better health. It is an enjoyable and safe set of forms which delivers many health benefits.
Tai Chi for Osteoporosis
Suitable exercise is an important part of the treatment for people with osteoporosis. By slowing down bone loss, improving balance, reducing falls, and improving quality of life, this specially designed tai chi program has advantages in terms of safety and efficacy.
Studies have shown that tai chi can slow down the loss of bone mineral density approximately three fold, and that that people who practice tai chi regularly have higher bone mineral density and better flexibility, muscle strength and balance. Tai is also knows to reduce the risk of falls, which is especially important for people with osteoporosis who are more likely to sustain a fracture. People with osteoporosis often also have arthritis or loss of function. Studies have shown that tai chi relieves pain from arthritis and the ability to do daily activities, as well as improving balance.
People with chronic conditions are also likely to be mentally stressed and depressed. Tai Chi has been shown to improve the mind, help people feel more relaxed and improve mental strength so they can cope better with chronic diseases.
It is important to understand that Tai Chi is a very different exercise from what we commonly expect in the western world. We are used to exercise being fast and strong whereas tai chi emphasises the balance of nature so hardness and softness are balanced. Tai chi works through internal strengthening, which means that the internal organs, deep or core muscles and the mind are strengthened. Therefore physical exertion is minimised so that there is less risk of injury. In tai chi you are required to move slowly, to be aware of your body and use your mind to control your movements. Tai chi works on the ancient Chinese understanding of nature in that a movement usually travels in a curve or takes a circular path instead of a straight line as we are used to.
Getting accustomed to the speed, the control, the mind components and moving circular rather than straight, may take a little time. But we find that once participants get over that feeling, they begin to enjoy their tai chi.