Chair Tai Chi for All Abilities

The Benefits of Chair Tai Chi for All Ages

I first experienced tai chi in a chair when a fellow student had broken her ankle and needed to modify her training. We were with a group practicing a long form so we placed some chairs at the back, took a seat and followed along with the forms. First, we were more focused on arm and spine movements. As we were getting the hang of it, sometimes we would lean forward or to the corners to more closely mimic the movement of our classmates. We then started including leg movements by stepping to the corner or raising our leg for the kicks.

We felt like penguins!

We discovered we were using our “sit bones” as our feet. Shifting our weight and allowing for movement. What we thought would feel rudimentary, turned out to be very satisfying with wonderful spinal movement and body awareness.  As I teach classes now. I often make use of chairs for any level of ability. For a beginner learning the basic choreography, focusing on just the arm movement can be less confusing than trying to put everything together all at once. It also helps people learn a sense of the structure then apply that while “sitting” into a horse stance.

Chair Tai Chi for Seniors

The entire class time does not need to be completed while seated. For anyone able to stand, even for short periods of time, it’s good to work on leg strengthening and balance. Standing behind the chair can provide support and stability during the exercises. I often start by teaching beginners the Yang 8 Form and this can easily be managed in a chair. For individual with neck or shoulders issues, it’s also good to take a break from arm movements. Taking this time to focus on breathing more deeply, visualizing a movement in coordination with the breath, eye exercises and self massage are all beneficial.

The Benefits of Chair Tai Chi for All Ages 2

Chair Tai Chi in the Work Place

Some of the warm ups used within tai chi classes can easily be adapted to the chair. Starting with good, upright posture and sitting on the edge of a firm seat begin turning at the base of the spine. Continue working your way up each vertebrae elongating as you go until you are looking behind you as far as comfortably possible. The last step is to use your eyes to look in the direction of the turn. Then release the eyes, the neck, the upper, middle then lower back. Repeat with turning toward the other direction.

Keep Joint mobility in mind as well. No formal training is needed to give your body the opportunity to move in a natural way. Start with your hands. Wiggle, clench and stretch your fingers, then rotate your wrists, elbow, then shoulders. Gently roll your neck. Next think about your hips, lifting and moving each leg. Rub your knees with your hands. Rotate your ankles both ways then wiggle your toes. All of this can be done while in a chair.

There are many benefits of chair tai chi for all abilities. To learn how to go more deeply with these simple exercises, learning tai chi forms or the baduanjin will bring even greater circulation and mobility. The baduanjin is a highly effective series of movements for joint mobility, flexibility, strength and balance. Watch for a classes on this starting in March, 2018.

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To our health & wellbeing!
Wendy Williams

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