So you did your stretches upon waking in bed to ward off morning stiffness. Next it’s time for that wonderful cup of coffee. Personally, I enjoy this wake up time with a crossword puzzle and a little light motivational reading.
But when finished, I go to get up and there it is again–the tightness in the hips and lower back just from sitting. Therefore, I’ve added 5 to 10 minutes of Tai Chi moves or Qigong after my coffee to further unlock tightness and get ready for the day.
Both of these practices provide an easy, be-kind-to-yourself form of energizing the mind and body, unlocking the joints and muscles and re-balancing the body. Another added bonus is better balance, and some studies even conclude improved bone density.
What is Tai Chi?
Tai Chi is an ancient Chinese martial art dating as far back as the 1500’s. It has been practiced for its defense benefits through the centuries, but in our case we use it to harness the benefits for health and meditation (more on these below!).
Some describe Tai Chi as meditation in motion. It’s a series of fluid movements done while you breathe deeply and focus on the sensations in your body. Your muscles are relaxed rather than tense and the movements are never forced (unlike other forms of exercise). Instead, you stop before reaching your limit. The joints are not fully extended and thee muscles aren’t over-stretched.
If you’re like me and have trouble sitting still for traditional meditation, doing it while moving with Tai Chi can help quiet your mind while lubricating the joints and warming up the muscles for the day at the same time.
What’s great about Tai Chi is that it’s gentle and low impact. You don’t have to be in great shape to get started. All you have to do is press play on a video like this one and start moving.
Benefits of Tai Chi
The major benefit of Tai Chi its its ability to help you relieve stress. Tai Chi has been shown to be equally effective to other forms of exercise at relieving stress, and since it’s so accessible to all fitness levels, it may even be a superior option. I love that you don’t have to kill yourself working at your maximum exertion to experience the anxiety-releasing benefits of Tai Chi.
Tai Chi also improves your mood. When it’s nice out, I like to go out into the backyard and feel the breeze on my skin and listen to the birds chirping as I move through the motions. Talk about a natural mood booster! Practicing deep breathing is a surefire way to slow your racing mind and get those feel-good endorphins flowing.
Do you toss and turn at night? Tai Chi can help you get a better night’s sleep. One study found that people who did Tai Chi saw significant improvements in the quality of their sleep (in addition to lower levels of anxiety) compared to the group that did not do Tai Chi.
If you’ve ever taken an unexpected tumble like I have, you know how problems with your balance can sneak up on you. Doing Tai Chi can significantly reduce your likelihood of a fall. This is so important because falls are one of the top causes of injury in our age group.
Finally, experts say Tai Chi can improve cognition, especially in older adults who are experiencing cognitive impairment. Some even swear by it as a means for living longer. A remarkable study of Chinese men found that those who practiced Tai Chi were less likely to die over a five-year period than their counterparts who did not exercise at all. It’s a true testament to the power of exercise to literally save lives!
So pick a quiet spot, carve out five to ten minutes and try this video. If you incorporate these Tai Chi exercises for seniors into your morning routine, just like brushing your teeth, it will become a habit over time that will make a major difference in how you feel.
Give it a try… and here’s to FEELING GOOD!
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