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Chances are you have heard of Tai Chi, and you may have even seen groups of people making the slow-motion dance-like movements. But many people do not know exactly what Tai Chi is.

Tai Chi, often referred to as “meditation in motion” is an ancient Chinese practice that combines movement, controlled breathing and mind control. Practiced as a graceful form of exercise, it involves a series of movements performed in a slow, focused manner and accompanied by deep breathing. Tai Chi requires time and dedication to learn, but once learned, it can be highly beneficial to both mind and body.

The Journal of Geriatrics Society reports that that tai chi may have beneficial effects on cognitive function in older adults, particularly in those without existing cognitive impairment. The Journal also found that tai chi practiced for 12 to 26 weeks one to three times weekly reduced the incidence of falls by 43 percent. Over time, tai chi has been proven to assist people with balance and precision in their daily movements. Since fall prevention is important to older adults, the practice of tai chi is often suggested by traditional medical professionals as an adjunct therapy (one that accompanies other traditional therapies).

There are many other benefits of tai chi for people of any age. People who experience chronic back pain and cancer-related fatigue have realized benefits when practicing tai chi on a regular basis. Additionally, tai chi aids in stress reduction, strength, flexibility, and weight loss. In some people it can increase oxygen intake and lower blood pressure. Because of the types of movements and the pace at which they occur, tai chi has been shown to improve hand/eye coordination, increase circulation, and can even promote a better night’s sleep. As with any other type of physical exercise program, it is best to consult with your doctor before starting lessons.

Although there are videos available that teach tai chi, it is advisable to learn from a qualified instructor. In Baton Rouge there are many organizations that offer classes for groups. The added advantage of group learning is the socialization that occurs among the participants. A simple computer search will help you find a suitable instructor and/or class in your area. Keep in mind that tai chi is classified under martial arts, so you will often find the classes being taught by organizations that teach other forms of martial arts, such as judo or karate. Tai chi is a much more gentle practice than most of the others.

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