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Benefits of Tai Chi and Qi Gong for Older Adults.

Many claims have been made for a range of activities that older adults can practice, we are very fortunate that Harvard Medical School have reviewed* the hundreds of studies conducted to determine the efficacy of Tai Chi and Qi Gong and the results of their review now shows what Tai Chi masters have known for centuries: regular practice leads to more vigour and flexibility, better balance and mobility, and a sense of well-being. Research from Harvard Medical School also supports the long-standing claims that Tai Chi also has a beneficial impact on the health of the; heart, bones, nerves and muscles, immune system, and the mind.

*The Harvard Medical School Guide to a Healthy Body, Strong Heart & Sharp Mind Peter M. Wayne, PhD, with Mark L, Fuerst

At the most obvious, physical level, Tai Chi and Qi Gong is an exercise that aims to strengthen, stretch, balance, coordinate and integrate the whole body. At a more subtle level, Tai Chi integrates body and mind. Body movements are coordinated with rhythmic, conscious breathing and multiple cognitive and emotional components. At perhaps an even more subtle level, Tai Chi sensitizes and integrates us with our social and physical environment.

What is Tai Chi and Qi Gong?

Perhaps a lightbulb joke can help explain what Tai Chi and Qi Gong are? How many Tai Chi teachers does it take to change a lightbulb? Answer: 100. One to change the bulb and the other 99 to say, “We do not do it that way in our style of Tai Chi.” The diversity and richness of Tai Chi and Qi Gong derives from; being made up of multiple components, including many physical, cognitive, and psychosocial ingredients, because Tai Chi’s long history is embedded within an ever-changing social and cultural background, many Tai Chi styles have developed that emphasize slightly different characteristics, Tai Chi is a mind-body exercise rooted in multiple Asian traditions, including martial arts, traditional Chinese medicine, and philosophy. Tai Chi and Qi Gong  training integrates slow, intentional movements with breathing and cognitive skills (for example, mindfulness and imagery). It aims to strengthen, relax, and integrate the physical body and mind, enhance the natural flow of Qi, and improve health and personal development.

How We Can Help?

My wife and I had been practicing Tai Chi for around seven years without thinking about becoming Instructors, then we moved to Sheffield – to be closer to Grandchildren. We couldn’t find a group which practiced the Style we enjoyed, (Yang), so decided to form our own group in Sheffield U3A and become teachers by default. We had both taken grading exams in the Yang Style and because we are members of the Yang Family International Association have access to the Students Handbook and Instructors Guide – both of which proved to be very useful. We also attend seminars with our former Instructor and the Yang Family Masters 3 or 4 times a year.
 
A friend who we helped start a group in another part of Sheffield took a different and simpler route. He had been a student of Tai Chi for around five years and decided he would like to offer Tai Chi within the U3A. He maintains contact with his previous Instructor so both practices and teaches and this seems to be a very pragmatic approach and fits the U3A ethos very well.
 
If you are interested in forming a Tai Chi or Qi Gong Group we can help with a very handy check list that covers all the questions you might have.
Keep practicing with a more experienced Instructor, this will improve your Form and give you confidence in your teaching.

Check out the Tai Chi Union of Great Britain website. We are members and find the resources and magazine useful.
Keep in touch with us – don’t hesitate to email any questions of any type – especially information on how to find teachers if you don’t wish to be the teacher.