Think of it as exercise in slow motion. Tai chi will slow you down and force you to think about how you balance your body.
"Part of it is the balance to stand on one foot and stand on the other foot, or stand on the other foot and use that whole leg muscle," said tai chi student Mary Duffey.
She credits tai chi for helping build muscles in her legs and recovering from a pulled tendon that happened doing other kinds of exercise.
"I could feel it in my arm and it hurt, and now it's better," said Duffey. "I still have twinges but it's much much better."
Tai chi is sometimes called "meditation in motion" because it helps connect the mind and body through gentle movement.
"It's more physical than they believe," said Karin Platt, who teaches tai chi at Lakeview Knolls Park in Maple Grove. "You are walking, you're thinking of your balance. They're isometric. So you're moving all kinds of muscles. You have hundreds of stabilizer muscles in your body. By moving in tai chi you're getting to move them and learn where they are."
For beginners, it's like learning to walk all over again. It can also especially help older adults.
"Falling in older adults is really a huge issue," said Dr. Abigail Holley with Hennepin County Medical Center. "The things we obviously worry about is broken bones broken hips and things like that, but the consequences of that are things like loss of independence and the ability to live on your own anymore which is something a lot of older people really fear."
But don't let the slowness of the movements fool you. Do it for any length of time and you will begin to feel it.
"American exercise is fast," said Platt. "Can you do 50 sit-ups. Can you do 40 jumping jacks or something like that. This isn't about that. This is about doing one fluid motion and notice how you're weight is shifting."
Mike Johnson, reporting
Tuesday, August 07, 2012