HEALTH & FITNESS - Tai chi offers potential relief for arthritis sufferers

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The practice of tai chi has been around for hundreds of years. Recently there have been many feature articles in magazines as well as medical journals, showing the benefits of tai chi for health, balance, fall prevention and relaxation.

There are many different forms or styles of tai chi just as there are many styles of Yoga. Each style may offer something different to a wide variety of people. It is up to the individual to explore all the options and choose the teacher and the class that is most beneficial and helpful to that person.

In 1997, Dr. Paul Lam, a family physician and tai chi expert, worked with a team of tai chi and medical specialists to create the Tai Chi for Arthritis program. The special features of this unique program are that it is easy to learn, enjoyable, and provides many health benefits in a relatively short period of time.

Medical studies have shown that practicing this program reduces pain significantly, prevents falls for the elderly, and improves many aspects of health.

For these reasons, arthritis foundations around the world have supported the program; in particular the Arthritis Foundation of America which after collaborating with Lam to produce a 12-lesson Tai Chi for Arthritis instructional DVD, promotes the program throughout the U.S. as the Arthritis Foundation Tai Chi Program.

Tai Chi for Arthritis is based on Sun style tai chi. This style was chosen because of its healing component, its unique Qigong (an exercise which improves relaxation and vital energy), and its ability to improve mobility and balance.

The program contains a carefully constructed set of warming-up and cooling-down exercises, Qigong breathing exercises, a basic core six movements, an advanced extension six movements and adaptations of the movements for older adults.

Also incorporated into the program is a safe and effective teaching system.

Most people can learn the basic Tai Chi for Arthritis movements in 8 to 12 one-hour lessons, with regular practice in between the lessons. The entire program has much depth, allowing one to continue to improve, reach a higher level of tai chi, and enjoy greater health benefits for many years. Additionally, the Tai Chi for Arthritis form has a unique ability to pique learners' interests, thereby increasing adherence to the program.

Sandi Wicher is a senior instructor in the Tai Chi for Health programs at Many Waters Wellness Center. She is also certified to teach Qigong, Sun and Yang styles of tai chi. She can be reached at sandi99362@gmail.com or through www.manywaterswellnesscenter.com.

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