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Tai Chi is an ancient and amazing mind-body exercise and energy building practice. The sequence of single postures and movements linked together can take between 30 and 40 minutes to perform masterfully…
Fortunately, you don’t have to do an entire Tai Chi session … doing only portions of the Tai Chi form also bear excellent healthful fruit.
In today’s video article, my friend and China Tai Chi Champion, Elena Maza Borkland, will show you the art’s simple stepping method, which is the foundation of the entire form and system. Don’t be fooled, these slow steps require balance, precise posture shifts, patience and grace. In the end, their practice improves balance, improves bone density, helps prevent falls and hip fractures in the elderly, develops lower body strength and stability.
How to step Tai Chi style
Begin with proper posture and feeling, and being barefoot or wearing flat sole shoes is a must.
- Stand with feet shoulders-width apart and arms relaxed by their sides. Stand up straight, as if your head is suspended from above by a string. This will make you feel light.
- Bend your knees slightly as if sitting.
- Turn your right foot out diagonally to your right, your torso also turning in the same direction. Move your weight forward and onto your right foot, which is now the front foot.
- Once weight is there, keep your body erect and move your rear (left) leg forward, placing the left foot flat on the floor. Shift your weight onto the forward left leg while turning your torso to face foreword.
- Now shift your weight back onto the rear right leg and turn your left foot diagonally to the left. When the foot is planted flat, move your weight forward onto it and then move your right foot forward.
Repeat, slowly, for several steps forward and then backwards as Elena describes and shows in the video. You can do as many steps and for as many minutes as you like. The more you do the stronger the health and fitness benefits.
Health benefits of Tai Chi
Although these simple Tai Chi steps seem easy they are rather difficult to master and their health and fitness benefits are amazing. To begin, because the essence of the stepping is to shift your full weight onto each leg, repeatedly, it helps improve your bone mineral density. Load bearing exercise, like Tai Chi stepping, can improve your bone health, prevent osteoporosis, and improve leg strength and balance to help prevent risk of fall and fracture in later age.
While there are hundreds of studies on the health and fitness benefits of Tai Chi, quite a few are summarized on the Harvard Health website, which I will pull some snippets from to serve as highlights here.
- “People who did tai chi improved more than 30% in lower-body strength and 25% in arm strength — almost as much as those who participated in resistance training, and more than those assigned to brisk walking.”
- “Tai chi also improves muscle strength and flexibility, which makes it easier to recover from a stumble.”
- “An hour of tai chi twice a week for 12 weeks reduced pain and improved mood and physical functioning more than standard stretching exercises in people with severe knee osteoarthritis.”
- “A review of six controlled studies by Dr. Wayne and other Harvard researchers indicates that tai chi may be a safe and effective way to maintain bone density in postmenopausal women.”
- “A year of tai chi significantly boosted exercise capacity, lowered blood pressure, and improved levels of cholesterol, triglycerides, insulin, and C-reactive protein in people at high risk for heart disease.”
- “Tai chi lowered blood pressure — with improvements ranging from 3 to 32 mm Hg in systolic pressure and from 2 to 18 mm Hg in diastolic pressure.”
- “16 weeks of tai chi improved the quality and duration of sleep significantly more than standard sleep education.”