Scientists from the University of South Florida in Tampa and Fudan University in Shanghai have found increase in brain volume and improvement on tests of memory and thinking in Chinese seniors who practiced Tai Chi three times a week, reported in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease (June,2012). Members of the classes described the lessons as a positive experience with wide ranging benefits that both energized and relaxed them. They felt it had helped them build better flexibility, balance and strength.
There are four major tai chi family styles- the Chen, Yang, Wu , and Hao styles . The fifth major tai chi style is actually a group of styles known as Combination styles. These combine elements from different tai chi styles and may include movements from other martial arts forms. Each of the tai chi styles executes movements slightly differently than the others.
- Creating Ball of Energy: Rub your hands briskly together. This is the same motion you’d use to warm your hands on a cold day. But this time, add your intention and awareness to the move. This action will bring feeling of qi or life force to your hands. After your hands feel that they’re filled with warmth and qi, and the connection between them is strong, pull them apart gently and slowly. Bring your hands closer together. When you feel the connection between your hands weaken, bring them back slowly together. Don’t let your hands touch. Continue to pull your hands apart and bring them closer together. Repeat this process of slowly moving your hands apart and then back together. Maintain a slow and steady rhythm. Feel the energy in your hands as well as the energy connecting them. See if you notice any changes in these energies as you complete the exercise.
At first, it may be more of a mime routine. Your body may simply go through the motions. With a bit of practice, you’re likely to notice a sensation between your palms. Some feel this as heat while others describe it as the force between two repelling magnets. At the end of this exercise, simply pull your hands slowly apart and let them drop down at your sides. After you’ve mastered the basic energy ball exercise, here’re some variations.
- Rotating the Energy Ball: Keeping your hands a constant distance apart. Slowly move them so one hand is on top and the other is on the bottom. One may move forward while the other moves back toward you, but always maintaining the same distance between the hands. Continue rotating the energy ball.
- 3-Step Movement: Combination of exercise 1 & 2. Keeping the connection between your hands, move them slowly apart and then back toward each other. At the same time, rotate your hands. You can sense pulling and shrinking of the energy ball from different directions.
- Projecting and Receiving Energy: Project energy from your right hand. You may have a sense of throwing the energy ball to your left hand. Catch it with your left hand and then project the energy back to the right. Enjoy the sensation of throwing and catching the energy ball between your hands—or feel your hands projecting and receiving the energy.
These exercises are useful in developing an awareness of energy and skill in working with energy. Because tai chi often involves shifting weight from one leg to the other, it can increase both balance and leg strength in older adults.