Millions of people in the United States now practice tai chi, and studies have shown this ancient Chinese martial art can have a number of health benefits.
“Tai chi is a series of gentle, flowing movements,” explains Don Fiore, a tai chi and qigong instructor. “It helps energize the body’s natural healing ability.”
Don has been teaching tai chi for 22 years, and he combines it with what many call the “Chinese yoga” qigong. Today, he primarily focuses on adults age 50 and older by offering classes and a series of DVDs for at-home use.
“It’s helping people in so many ways, it’s amazing,” Don says. Specifically, he says he’s seen clients with high blood pressure, arthritic pain, digestive problems, stress, anxiety, depression and more, all benefit from regular tai chi practice.
“Tai chi is a form of meditation in motion,” Don explains. “It goes slowly, and you’re working all the joints in a nice, gentle way. It’s not like some aerobics, which can be pounding and hard on joints. Tai chi and qigong improve muscle and joint flexibility. The other thing I’ve found is that it enhances clarity and peace of mind.”
Don also works with the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center. “I do about four classes a week for people with Parkinson’s disease,” he says. “Scientific studies have shown that tai chi improves the mobility of people with Parkinson’s, and it improves their shaking too.”
Don has produced a free eight-minute “Easy Tai Chi” video available on YouTube. Although tai chi was originally a martial art, Don has removed any kicking or punching from his videos and focuses on the free-flowing movements that he finds especially beneficial. Any exercise program should be cleared with your doctor, and treatment of medical conditions should be done in consultation with your doctor.
“I would love for people to do tai chi two to three times a week,” Don says, adding that once a week is a good start as well.
“I do it every day, and I’m very thankful for my health.”