Why Tai Chi Is So Great for Seniors (and Young People Too)
Peter and I have been practicing Tai Chi for several months now. Long enough for me to know for certain that the benefits I’m experiencing are from doing it and not some kind of hippie placebo effect. Also, long enough for Peter to stop complaining that I was turning him “granola” and simply accept the fact that he likes doing it.
I remember seeing Tai Chi for the first time on public television in the 80’s when they used to play workout videos first thing in the morning on half the stations available in my area. Even then, the practitioners wore outfits that were a decade out of style (maybe they were fashionable at the time of the filming), and the routines were accompanied by stereotypically Asian relaxation music. Not really the best first impression, and it tainted my opinion of Tai Chi for a long time.
It wasn’t until my usual yoga instructor took a two-week vacation last spring and gave everyone in her class the opportunity to try Tai Chi with her instructor/friend while she was gone that I dragged myself (kicking and screaming) to have a look. I wasn’t expecting to like it. I was more than a little skeptical. But I was determined not to lose the routine I’d so carefully created to make yoga a natural part of my life.
Still, if I was going to go through it, I was bringing Peter with me.
As it turns out, Tai Chi isn’t too different from yoga as an overall concept. The instructor patiently took us through some of the basics of the practice. For instance, instead of “poses” (or “asanas”), Tai Chi calls them “forms.” Once we had an idea of what it would all be about, we moved on to the first form.
It was called the Wuji (Wu Chi?) stance, which I would say is similar to the Tadasana mountain pose in yoga, only with the feet farther apart and an overall softer positioning of the body.
Tai Chi was actually much more challenging than I had expected. From what I’d seen, it looked like a cross among yoga, martial arts and dance poses, but in a simple-looking, swishy way. Once I started doing it, I realized that there was a great deal more care and form involved. It was lovely. Moreover, I didn’t feel sore afterward from the consistent focused movement throughout the class. That surprised me as I was expecting to have stiff muscles at least that evening and the next day.
I’ve kept up with yoga, but Peter and I have both continued with Tai Chi ever since, too. Research has shown that it is wonderful for overall wellness in both mental and physical health. I enjoy how challenging it is and its mindfulness component helps me to keep my stresses well within my ability to cope. Since practicing it, Peter and I have both noticed improvements in our energy levels and flexibility.
Our instructor also pointed out that it’s great for muscle strength and heart health – something we can all enjoy at any age.