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Kendal at Home Blog

How to Use Tai Chi to Improve Balance Plus 3 Poses to Try

Posted by Kendal at Home on January 23, 2019 at 7:30 AM

After 71-year-old Duane Partain fell in his garden, he stopped spending time among his plants, fearful he’d fall again. Duane, like most older adults who experience falls, thought taking time away from his usual activities would reduce his risk of falling. However, the opposite is true. The lack of physical activity that comes from not doing your usual activities often results in declines in balance and strength, making you more likely to fall. tai chi poses

While most people who want to avoid falls, try to make their home safer, they often overlook their own bodies, which can develop balance impairments or become weak. Picking up throw rugs and installing grab bars are great places to start, notes physical therapist Lori Schrodt, but working on your balance and strength can give you the extra tools you need to avoid falls.

“If you don’t have a balance impairment, you can catch yourself when you trip over a rug,” explains Schrodt.

If you have a fear of falling, want to increase your strength and balance or simply want to try a new activity, consider tai chi.

How Tai Chi Helps Reduce Falls

Tai chi is a centuries old practice that involves certain postures and gentle movements combined with breathing and mental focus. The movements can be adapted and done while standing or sitting. The National Institutes of Health says tai chi might be more effective than other forms of exercise in reducing falling and the fear of falling. In fact, a clinical trial found found those people with Parkinson’s disease who practiced tai chi had improved balance and stability over those who did resistance training or stretching.

Partian credits tai chi with helping him ease his fear of falling and making him stronger. Because, he says, tai chi helps him be more aware of his body.

“The fall doesn’t catch you unawares. It doesn’t just come out of the blue. You can tell what is going on, and you can be proactive to stop it,” he explained.

3 Tai Chi Poses to Try

Touch the Sky

This is a simple exercise great for beginners.

  • To start, sit up straight in a chair
  • Then, place your hands on your lap with the palms facing up and your fingertips pointing toward each other
  • Inhale slowly and deeply and raise your hands to your chest
  • Turn your palms out and lift your hands above your head, keeping your elbows relaxed and slightly bent
  • Exhale slowly, relax your arms and lower them to your sides
  • Return your hands to the starting position and repeat 10 times

Hand Exercises

These movements promote flexibility in your shoulders, fingers, and arms.

  • Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart
  • Raise your arms out in front of you, parallel to the floor
  • Make sure your shoulders, wrists and elbows are aligned
  • Flex your hands to stretch, rotate your wrists to the left and then to the right

Windmill Exercise

This exercise opens your spine and promotes flexibility

  • Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart
  • Relax your shoulders and let your arms hang loosely by your sides
  • Inhale and raise your arms above your head
  • Stretch toward the ceiling and arch your back slightly
  • Exhale and slowly bend toward the floor and move your hands down the center of your body
  • Bend forward at your hips and let your arms hang loosely in front of you
  • Inhale and return to your standing starting position

Tai Chi Classes Near You

Before beginning an exercise program, always check with your doctor. If you’re interested in trying tai chi, take a look at these classes in northern, central and southern Ohio.

Northern Ohio classes

Central Ohio classes

Southern Ohio classes

Remaining Active Older Adults 

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