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Tai Chi: Good for whatever ails you

Last Modified: 11/02/2018

In recent years, the ancient practice of Tai Chi has gained popularity as a beneficial activity for body and mind. Starting in 2019, Parkview Huntington Hospital’s Rehab and Wellness Center will be offering Tai Chi as a wellness class. To find out more about it, we talked with exercise specialist Katie Cunningham, who recently became certified in Tai Chi for Rehab, about why she is so excited to be able to bring this activity to Huntington County residents.

What is Tai Chi?

Tai Chi started as a martial art in China thousands of years ago. Although the art may still be associated with powerful, explosive movements, many other styles of Tai Chi have been developed that are much slower and gentler, making it a practice anyone can try! Tai Chi is an overall great exercise for mind and body alike. It focuses on diaphragmatic (think “belly”) breathing and posture with slow, deliberate movements, making it challenging and relaxing all in one.

Many people may want to compare Tai Chi to yoga. While they both focus on breathing, relaxation and flexibility, the biggest difference is that in yoga, a participant holds a pose, whereas in Tai Chi, a participant is in constant motion.

What are the benefits of Tai Chi?

There are many mental and physical benefits to participating in a Tai Chi program! One of the best features of learning this practice is how gentle it is. The exercise is so gentle that it can be done even when recovering from an injury or illness, and it is an exercise that can be practiced throughout a lifetime. The movements can be done standing, sitting or even lying down. Tai Chi can improve balance, mobility, concentration, memory, flexibility and muscle strength. It can decrease pain, increase energy level, and promote relaxation and calmness or inner peace. 

What can be expected in a Tai Chi class?

The big-picture goal of a Tai Chi class is to improve your health, whether physical, mental or both! Participants follow along with an instructor to learn safely many of the different movements. Another goal of the class is to get the participants to a point where they can practice a routine at home, as well as learn techniques that they can use at home if they’re wanting to try something different for stress reduction, or to ease pain related to arthritis, for example. A lot of the movements are done in the lateral direction, compared to forward and backward, which is the way many of us are accustomed to moving. This is where the exercises can help with balance and coordination.

Why were you Interested in becoming certified in Tai Chi?

Tai Chi seems to be growing in popularity, and I can absolutely see why! My favorite aspect of Tai Chi is that it asks us to tune in to our bodies and be more reflective. So many of us live our everyday lives in high gear, or in fast-paced environments, and we try to get as much done in as little time possible. This also tends to be the same for the goals behind most physical activities – how far can we run in a certain amount of time, or how far can we throw, or how many points can we score? Tai Chi challenges us to slow down and be in the moment, and it makes us more aware of the movements our bodies are making. 


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