Flowing, graceful movements. Relaxed breathing. Lowered blood pressure. Elevated mood. Relief from depression. A sense of peace. These have all been used to describe the process and benefits of Tai Chi, an ancient form of martial art from China. This is a popular activity at many of our managed senior living communities at The Goodman Group.
“The Tai Chi program we have is awesome,” says Ann Padovani, Director of Life Enrichment at Westchester Gardens Health & Rehabilitation in Clearwater, Florida. “Our leader is especially good working with the residents. It’s very popular. We have anywhere from 25-30 residents participating in the program.”
Is It Difficult to Learn?
“It’s really easy to pick up,” Ann says. “There are about 19 movements, and there is a name for each movement. It’s relaxing. If you’re not even doing the program, if you’re just observing it, it’s peaceful and relaxing.”
What Is Tai Chi?
“Tai Chi is about balance, movement, and re-oxygenating the blood cells,” according to certified Tai Chi instructor Krisula Gause, the class leader at Westchester Gardens Health & Rehabilitation. “It’s all about mind, body, and spirit,” she says.
Like Ann, Krisula points out that Tai Chi helps with balance and especially keeping the joints supple. “With the motions, you’re moving all your joints. You know that saying ‘If you don’t use it, you lose it,’ the more movement, the better, ” she says.
What are the Benefits?
In addition to relaxation, Ann says Tai Chi provides many physical benefits. “Tai Chi builds strength, especially in the lower body — leg strength” That, of course, helps with balance and preventing falls.
“It also helps to relieve pain,” Ann notes. “It’s good for residents who may be experiencing pulmonary issues. It helps their breathing and helps decrease blood pressure.” That’s a lot of benefit from something that’s also relaxing and easy to learn!
Is Tai Chi Adaptable?
If Tai Chi is so good for the joints and leg strength, we wondered if it could be adapted to someone who was, say, in a wheelchair. Krisula gave us a resounding, “Yes!” She says, “What do you need to move? Your fingers? Wrist? Feet? If you can’t bring your arms all the way above your head, then bring them to chest level. We do a lot of modifications.”
Krisula added, “The first couple of things I tell someone when I start a new class is that if something hurts, don’t do it. If you’re tired, just sit back, relax, breath. We don’t need to do hard, complicated movements to see great effects.”
How Often Should Someone Do Tai Chi?
Ideally three to four times a week, according to Krisula. “But anything is great,” she adds, “It’s not a miracle, it’s a process. The more you do, the better you get.”