"The movements of t'ai chi are gentle, graceful, mystical -- and, for elderly people, a very safe way to relieve arthritis pain and gain balance, strength, and flexibility. T'ai chi is one of many alternative therapies that can provide relief from pain, possibly letting you cut back on pain medications.
Chi (pronounced chee) is the Chinese word for energy. In the healing arts, t'ai chi is used to promote the movement of energy through the body -- similar to blood being pumped through the body, explains Cate Morrill, a certified t'ai chi instructor in Atlanta. Morrill spends much of her time in teaching classes for seniors, many of whom are unfamiliar with this practice. "But after five, 10, 15 minutes of t'ai chi, they report having pain relief," she tells WebMD.
Virtually all major health organizations - including the Arthritis Foundation -- recommend t'ai chi as an activity for seniors because it provides balance of body and mind.
"The movements of t'ai chi keep the body fresh and allow the person to find a freer range of motion in the joints, greater flexibility, better balance," Morrill explains.
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"T'ai chi has given 80-year-old Marianne Padgett a strong, steady stride and something more.
A car crash in June 2003 left her with injuries that forced her to give up work as a therapist and other activities she loved. Because of lingering balance problems, some days she wouldn't get out of bed for fear she'd slip and fall.
About a year ago, Padgett, who lives in Atlanta, started to take t'ai chi, a Chinese martial arts form, which had been modified to help seniors improve their balance. She found that the gentle exercise helped steady her movements.
Cate Morrill, an instructor at Rising Phoenix T'ai Chi, a t'ai chi studio in Atlanta, says she has worked with older people who can't stand without holding onto a chair for support. After three months in class, they often can go through the basic t'ai chi routine with fluid, strong and steady movements.
The Chinese think that t'ai chi, when practiced regularly, helps the mind as well as the body. Padgett says the practice has helped clear away the brain fog that made it hard for her to balance her checkbook after the 2003 car accident.
But best of all, Padgett says, t'ai chi has given her, if not a swagger, at least a better way of walking firmly through the world: "I have my confidence back."
NOTE - MaryAnn Padgett is a student at Rising Phoenix T'ai Chi
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Atlanta Journal Constitution
..."Cate Morrill, a t'ai chi instructor in Atlanta, says nearly half her students attend classes because they have arthritis or joint pain. Morrill is the director of Rising Phoenix T'ai Chi studio, and she also teaches physical therapy doctoral candidates at Emory University how to use t'ai chi in their physical therapy practice.
“We move them slowly and smoothly,” she said. “This pumps and creates synovial fluid. It lubricates the joints like oil lubricates a car.”
Lahowitch attends Morrill’s class on Thursday evenings and practices every day at home. Lahowitch said that before she became involved in the art of tai chi she tried yoga and physical therapy, but neither helped as much. She said she enjoys t'ai chi because it focuses on the pain in her knees and it manifests the “chi,” or life energy, in her body.
“I’ve seen an incredible change. … I didn’t expect it,” she said. “I might even run a marathon.”
Other Press and Media by Cate Morrill
WABC TV, New York City Good Morning Show, NY April 2004, Live interview and demonstration of Parkinson’s exercises in conjunction with the annual Parkinson’s Unity Walk.
WebMD Living with Lupus Video, Interview, use of T'ai Chi by those living with Lupus
CNN Health Minute, T’ai Chi for Stress Relief
Omaha World Herald April 16, 2007 “T’ai Chi Helps Older Midlanders Ward off Falls”
Disc Golf World Sports Magazine, Summer 2006 “ T’ai Chi for Disc Golfers” Article to assist the athletes with focus, stretching and strengthening, movement understanding.
Omaha, NE, Nightly News June 2005, Demonstration and information on T'ai Chi and Seniors
24 City Television News “Media Tour” June 2004, live and video interviews regarding the Novartis Stepkit and T'ai Chi and Parkinson’s Patients Exercise Video, Miami, FL
WXIA TV, Channel 11 News, Atlanta GA November 4, 2003 Marc Pickard Health Report on Alternative Treatments, Interview and video presentation regarding T'ai Chi and Parkinson’s Patients.
GPTV Television Special on Alternative Medical Treatments October 31 and November 2, 2003 GPTV interview and video presentation T’ai Chi and Parkinson’s Patients, with Emory University