Tai chi is an ancient martial art which paradoxically promotes inner calm with a signature of deep breathing and fluidity of motion. Tai chi has been translated as "the grand ultimate fist", "supreme boxing" and "the root of all motion".
The Oriental belief that life is based on qi (pronounced "chee") is integral to tai chi. Qi is considered to be the energy that moves through us and when our qi is flowing freely, we live in health and balance.
Tai chi is gentle enough that even the frail, the ill, the injured and the convalescent can do it. And if they continue on, health benefits often follow.
Gerry Steinberg of Windsor, Ontario fell and broke his back 23 years ago. When his brother told him about a tai chi class at the local Senior Centre, Steinberg stopped by and met Master Henry Lee.
As Steinberg began to learn tai chi, things began to change. "Very soon I no longer needed a cane to walk, I learned the whole set very quickly. My pain decreased daily. I felt very peaceful and calm. I discovered that this was moving meditation -- something I had always practiced while sitting, could now be applied in motion."
Steinberg occasionally filled in for Master Henry Lee and eventually was teaching every Tuesday. Steinberg filled in for another teacher at the Leamington's Half Century Club and still teaches this class. He also teaches for Parks and Recreation at Oakwood in Windsor.
Steinberg said, "Most of my 90-year-old students report they still feel flexible and healthy while being very sharp in their minds. They are still able to accomplish what they need to, but at a slower pace. Most students feel the calming effect of the practice and the healing aspects apply to any number of ailments. One by one, they just feel better every day. The practice gives back whatever they put into it."
Students of tai chi with osteoarthritis may experience a reduction in stiffness and pain, steadier balance and greater mobility. As a weight-bearing exercise, tai chi can improve bone mineral density and reduce bone loss.
Sleep may improve and depression may lift. Hearts and cardiovascular systems may be strengthened. Hypertension may decrease.