Tai Chi – World’s Best Low Impact Exercise?
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Tai Chi is considered a low impact exercise, but there are many other low impact exercises such as aerobics, and many forms of dancing and walking. So what exactly is the advantage of practicing tai chi over other low impact exercises? What is the difference between normal, low impact exercises and tai chi? Is tai chi that much better?
Tai Chi – The King of Low Impact Exercises
There are a lot of articles about the benefits of tai chi, but in this post I want to consider the main differences of tai chi as compared to other low impact exercises. You have a choice on what you can practice so it is helpful to know how it is working and why you may want to practice tai chi rather than do something like take a walk.
Lets look at how tai chi compares:
Tai Chi Brings You Back Into Your Body
The first thing is that with normal, low impact exercises they’re often still very physical. Most low impact exercises have a tendency to work your muscles. Unlike tai chi they also tend to be done faster. The nature of the movements in tai chi requires the practitioner to operate in slow motion, and slow motion has a tendency to loosen up the body in the way that normal, low impact exercises don’t.
An adjunct to this is, because of the degree of attention and concentration required to do tai chi, you must drop your mind into your body. This is not necessarily the case with other low impact exercises such as walking where you can walk and at the same time daydream and be completely in your head.
Tai chi is a exercise that helps bring you back into your body – something that is needed in our fast paced western world where many people are disconnected from their body.
Tai Chi Gets Your Joints Moving
A second important point is that while you are doing the movements of tai chi, the constant shifting of weight back and forth between the legs, the constant change in the position, and the incredibly wide range of arm movements get every joint in the body to fully articulate. Most low impact, aerobic exercises do not do that. That’s a special focus of tai chi.
Tai Chi Increases Circulation
An important third point is the way in which tai chi movements are done with very even slow motion rhythm. This boosts circulation in a way that goes deep to work with the tiny, blood vessels inside the body that most slow, low impact aerobics will not affect.
Tai Chi Develops Balance
Above and beyond this, doing tai chi has a way of developing balance (both inner and outer) because of the way you shift your weight from your forward leg to your back leg in all sorts of different positions often picking up one foot off the floor. It develops balance better than the vast majority of low impact exercises do.
For athletes, developing better balance and body awareness results in higher performance. On the other spectrum, for seniors and those who are aging, any fall or bone break, beyond the initial pain and medical costs, will seriously decrease the mobility and possibly result in chronic pain and a lower quality of life.
Developing better balance is a big thing that can not be overlooked and tai chi does an excellent job at this.
Tai Chi Principles are Unique
Tai chi simply does not follow the same physical principals that normal, low impact exercises do. Tai chi has its own unique principles that are significantly different from the way the western mind thinks about exercise.
I think it’s the slow motion nature of it, the circular motion of it and the nature of the way that it makes the body move in such a wide variety of positions and postures and articulations of your arms and your legs.
It is a combination of all these things together that make the benefits of tai chi so compelling and useful.
Is Great the Enemy of Your Good?
Lastly one of the statements that I have made is that tai chi has great benefits for people even when it is practiced poorly. After seeing many people do tai chi all I can say is that in general doing it even poorly is better than not doing it.
Now the great thing about tai chi is that just by doing it, no matter how bad or good, you get results. This is an important point because I live in America and there is a great desire here to do things only if you can be great – but this reasoning just does not hold for tai chi. My mantra when I encounter this attitude is “Don’t let the great be the enemy of the good.”
So rather than only do it if you can do it perfectly, just do it and understand you are working toward great. You will not reach greatness after taking a week course for a few months or even by attending an intensive seminar. Realistically it takes years and many hours of regular practice to bring any movement form to its full potential. This is also the carrot or the greatness that makes tai chi so appealing, because there is always another level to climb to and always more ways to deepen your practice.