Tai Chi Chuan, also known simply as Tai Chi, is a relaxing and meditative form of movement that can focus energy and provide a feeling of calm. By teaching the intricate relationship of opposites through physical motion, Tai Chi’s exploration of “yin” and “yang” can help provide both physical and mental balance.
One of the greatest benefits that Tai Chi students often achieve is the ability to effectively monitor external and internal feedback provided by their bodies and minds. While adults often turn to Tai Chi to cope with the stressors of work and family life, this ancient Chinese discipline is an activity you can share with children of all ages and abilities to help them cope with the mounting pressures of school and peer pressure. Here are a few ways that Tai Chi can benefit families with young children, “tweeners” and teens alike.
Improved concentration: A study at the University of Miami’s Touch Research Institute demonstrated that 10 sessions of Tai Chi helped adolescents with ADHD. Teens showed improved behavior, decreased hyperactivity and less daydreaming.
Improved Balance: In 2008, U.S. News and World Report published the article “For Better Balance, Pilates and Tai Chi Beat Out Yoga.” According to quotes from the University of California’s Fall Prevention Center for Excellence, Tai Chi is more effective at improving coordination and motor control while walking, which is when most falls tend to occur.
Lung Function Benefits: A Taiwanese study published in the 200 Journal of Microbiology, Immunology, and Infection revealed that asthmatic children who studied Tai Chi had improved pulmonary function.
Tai Chi Provides Insight: When children practice some forms of martial art like karate and judo they sometimes lose sight of their goals in their quest to win competitions or race each other to the next level or belt color. In contrast, Tai Chi is a noncompetitive activity where kids can move at their own pace without having to compete or constantly strive to attain belts or rankings.
A Tai Chi Style for Everyone: Families new to Tai Chi often don’t realize that there are several styles of Tai Chi. Some focus on fast-paced, high-energy movements while others are more slow and meditative. Do some research to figure out which one might be most suitable for your family or better yet, mix and match several forms for variety and benefits diversity.
No Fancy Equipment Necessary: While competitive sports have many benefits, one of the biggest drawbacks is the cost of equipment. If you are tired of running out to the sporting goods store to load up on baseball equipment, soccer uniforms or an expensive set of children’s golf clubs, consider Tai Chi as an inexpensive yet healthful activity that can be practiced as a group or alone.
Tai Chi Attunes Kids to Nature: Tai Chi has over 100 positions that are often named and based on movements displayed by animals, with a few being imaginary. When practicing Tai Chi, children are asked to envision moving like the animal that the position is named after. “Elephant drinks water,” “Bird stretches neck,” and “Dragon plays in the clouds” all work to develop flexibility. The “Tiger charges” and the “Lion sleeps” movements improve muscle tone while the “White crane flies” works on enhancing balance.
Tai Chi is Family-Friendly: If you’re struggling to recall a time when you all did something together, perhaps taking some Tai Chi classes and practicing as a family would be a great opportunity to reconnect.
The World is Your Tai Chi Studio: One of the greatest joys of Tai Chi is that you can practice it almost anywhere. Whether you are looking to visit a local park, have a lengthy layover at the airport or want to spend time at home minus the distractions of video games, television and computers, Tai Chi can transport you and your children to a peaceful, more centered place.
While many Tai Chi books and DVDs are readily available, consider initially working with an instructor who can provide guidance to both you and your children. Set aside some time for instruction and practice regularly so that you and your children can enjoy the many benefits of this ancient form of “meditation in motion.”
About the Author
Jennifer Sullivan is an avid follower of Eastern disciplines and also recommends martial arts and boxing for older teens for self-defense and self discipline. She is also a content contributor for Boxfituk, an online retailer of <a Boxfituk boxing gloves and other boxing equipment.*Photo by Ben Burkland and Carolyn Cook*