Tai chi first originated in China over 700 years ago. While there are many different forms of the exercise today, most focus on slow, gentle movements and deep breathing. The postures are ever changing, always keeping the person in a fluid movement. Because of its gentleness, tai chi is a great exercise for people with health issues, limited mobility, joint or muscle pain, or those suffering from depression, stress or anxiety. According to the Mayo Clinic, benefits of tai chi can include:
- Decreased stress, anxiety and depression
- Improved mood
- Improved aerobic capacity
- Increased energy and stamina
- Improved flexibility, balance and agility
- Improved muscle strength and definition
Many seniors love doing tai chi because of how easy it works around certain limitations. For example, those with joint pain can focus on slower, less impactful movements, while those struggling with balance can focus on increasing their balance. Tai chi is also readily available. Many senior and health centers give free tai chi classes for seniors, and many videos on tai chi are easily accessible online.
Yoga predates tai chi by thousands of years, originating in India around the fifth century BCE. Both exercises share similar benefits. Like tai chi, yoga focuses on flexibility and strength, working the entire body while having a low impact on joints. Yoga has many different variations, from slower movements and poses to faster, more complex routines. Finding the right type of yoga all depends on your personal needs. Some good types of yoga to start out with are:
Hatha, which focuses on simple and slower movements. This type is perfect for beginners and those who are looking for a calmer workout with meditative practices.
Vinyasa, which has a faster pace with frequent changes in poses. Vinyasa is better for those with more flexibility and need for cardio.
Iyengar uses props like blocks, blankets and straps to help align the body into poses. The poses are held for longer periods of time, and is especially great for those recovering from injuries.
Yin Yoga is focused on slower movements that help restore elasticity in the body. It’s great for those who want to relax both their minds and bodies. Avoid if you suffer from any connective tissue disorders.
There are many more types of yoga, most of which can be altered for different needs and health conditions. Yoga can be done at home or in a class. While both have their benefits, doing yoga under the supervision of a trained professional is safer, especially with more complex or intermediate yoga poses, since yoga instructors can correct any imperfections in the poses. When doing yoga, the most important thing is to be safe. You should never feel any pain while in a position. If you do, release the position slowly so not to hurt yourself any further.