Try Tai Chi and Chi Gong to Enhance Balance and Wellness!

Posted 3/31/21

By Nicole DePalma MS LMT A few weeks back, I fell on a patch of ice causing a broken wrist. The break is classifies as a “contusion”, so only a brace was needed to give the wrist some nice …

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Try Tai Chi and Chi Gong to Enhance Balance and Wellness!


By Nicole DePalma MS LMT

A few weeks back, I fell on a patch of ice causing a broken wrist. The break is classifies as a “contusion”, so only a brace was needed to give the wrist some nice support as it heals up. While I was waiting in the ER for my x-ray results to come back, the kind nurse I was working with mentioned to me that ER had seen a lot of injuries due to ice with varying degrees of seriousness. The culprit was mostly due to the weather and the melting of and refreezing of ice.

Sometimes, as much as we’d like to avoid them, falls cam be inevitable when we git that unforeseen patch of ice. But since falls can have a very unfortunate side effect of degrees of injury, it becomes important for all of us to pay more attention to balance and stability of our bodies to help prevent falls or losing our balance as much as possible. Tai hi and Chi Gong can help anyone to obtain a greater sense of balance while strengthening major muscle groups, increasing flexibility, aerobic capacity, and concentration.

Both of these ancient disciplines originated in China, and both can be considered a form of martial art, although that’s only one part of the philosophy and practice of them. “Qi” or “Chi” can mean “life force” or “breath” or “energy”. In Chi Gong’s case, “Quan” or “Gong” means a skill developed through steady practice. Tai Chi Quan also has been termed “shadow boxing” whereas “Quan” means “fist”, again, incorporating the martial art aspect of the practice. With both Tai Chi and Chi Gong, no special equipment is needed. They can be practiced in or outdoors, individually on in a group and the only requirement is wearing comfortable clothing that allows for unrestricted movement.

Tai Chi’s exercises are called “forms”, and flow uninterrupted from start to finish. Chi Gong can have moments of holding a form, and this all depends on the type that’s practiced. Focus of the two of them will always be on the use of breath to enhance movement, focusing of the mind on thetas at hand, and releasing stress from the body so the movement can come from a relaxed, yet stabilized center. Many of the movements are low and wide, where we are most stable and balanced, and direction changes are deliberate, requiring the eyes to focus forward. The spine moves from being erect, to rotation, and side flexion, all with the entire core working to support it. With more practice, students learn how to transition from foot to foot, eventually lifting one leg or the other, which enhances our balance because the core has become so steady that moving the legs becomes easy. The shoulders and arms get a workout too because many of the forms require the arms to be lifted to the front, side, and overhead, building not only strength of these muscle groups, but muscular endurance as well.

When I hopped on the Mayo Clinic’s website to see what they had to say about the benefits of Tai Chi and Chi Gong, here is a brief list of what they’ve found to be the case: Increased flexibility, balance, and agilityIncreased aerobic capacity Increased muscular strength, definition, and endurance Increased energy and stamina Decreased stress and anxiety Improved mood May has also found evidence of: Improved immune system Improved quality of sleep Decrease of joint pain Lowered blood pressure Lowered symptoms of congestive heart failure Lowered risk of falls due to improved core strength and balance Improved overall well-being While on the Mayo’s website, I did find short videos of Tai Chi and Chi Gong instruction. There are also quite a few You-Tube videos of with discipline on-line. Our Dakota County libraries have DVDs of Tai Chi and Chi Gong instruction which can be checked out for a week at no charge. Depending on the COVID guidance, we can look into various studios to learn about their class offerings that may be available at this time.

I hope you may find time to look into either Tai Chi or Chi Gong to see if the may be for you. Either one lends itself to being practiced by most people safely, even if chair bound. I’ll end this article where it began, talking about falls and how they affect us. The doctor who treated my wrist made a point to telling me that 80% of those who fall and break a hip will not be able to return to the lifestyle of movement they enjoyed before the fall. His message is clear: fall prevention is important, and the incorporation of Tai Chi or Chi Gong can greatly help our chances of avoiding falls, or being in a better position to recover more quickly and completely if we experience one. Let’s all try to stay balanced and vertical! Cheers.