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In the Spotlight

Tai Chi: Meditation in Motion

By Jaime Nasuti

veteran practicing tai chiTai Chi, practiced by over 80 million people worldwide, is not just a physical workout; it is therapy, a preventative measure and a remedy for almost every ailment, including arthritis. It is designed to exercise body, mind and spirit. As you move through Tai Chi postures, you are gently working muscles, focusing concentration, and improving the flow of "qi" (sounds like "chee"). The ancient Chinese believe "qi" to be the vital life energy that sustains health and calms the mind. In Chinese medicine, it is believed that disease is due to blocks or imbalances in the flow of "qi."

Maurice Foster, veteran of the US Marine Corps, has been practicing Tai Chi for about 16 years now. He says it helps him with memory, relieves stress, and helps develop coordination and motor skills.

Tai Chi is not intimidating. With its' slow, synchronized movements, Tai Chi is easy to learn and to perform. Classes are taught in a variety of styles. You need to find the class that is right for you, one you can do easily, without making hard or forceful movements and without stressing your joints or muscles. The sequences can be done slowly, or with more speed and energy.

Before you begin any exercise program, be sure to ask your doctor's advice about specific movements to avoid.

  • Warm up before class and cool down afterward. Tai chi may not seem strenuous, but it does work joints and muscles.

  • Modify the movements if necessary. For example, many tai chi postures are done with bent knees. If you have knee involvement, you may need to adapt those movements to be safe and comfortable.

  • Be cautious when you have a flare or sore joint. Many experts say you can still exercise, but carefully. Check with your doctor if you aren't sure, and stop if it makes you hurt more or if you feel pain two hours after the class.

  • Never push or exert yourself.

  • Practice daily. The practice can take as few as five minutes or can last as long as an hour per session.

Just 20 minutes a day can dramatically improve your balance, strengthen your legs and lower body, increase your flexibility, help with arthritis pain, and aid in the recovery of injuries.