8 tai chi steps for stronger bones
The gentle, fluid movements of tai chi can go a long way to keep the big O (osteoporosis) at bay.
The next time you see people practising tai chi in your neighbourhood, don’t be too quick to dismiss it as an activity exclusive to senior citizens.
This slow-mo exercise and Chinese martial art form can actually work up a sweat with its weight-shifting, stretching and balancing movements that improve flexibility and balance.
What’s more, it helps to actually strengthen muscles, protect joints and maintain bone mineral density (BMD). This is important since low BMD is associated with osteoporosis.
With World Osteoporosis Day on Oct 20, Shape gets Jennifer Chung, master trainer with Tai Chi for Health Taichi SJY LLP to work out this eight-step sequence to help you build stronger bones. She has one last tip to offer, “The slower you go, the tougher and more effective the workout will be.”
COMMENCING FORM Stand upright and then step left so feet are shoulder-width apart. Keep knees limber. STEP 2 OPEN AND CLOSE WITH EVERY STEP
Do this now and after Step 3 to 7. Bring both hands to front of chest, palms facing each other [A]. Breathe in as you pull palms further apart and breathe out as you bring them closer together.
WAVING HANDS IN THE CLOUDS Turn torso slightly right, bring left hand to front of chest (palm facing outwards) and right palm to hip level [A]. Step with left foot and turn torso left, shifting weight to left foot [B]. Step with right foot, switch hand positions and turn torso right, shifting weight to right foot [C]. Repeat [B] and [C] twice.
BRUSH KNEE Shift weight to left foot and turn right foot to face right, lifting toes slightly off ground [A]. Shift weight to right foot and lift left heel slightly off ground. As you do this, stretch right hand outwards and bring left hand to right elbow [B]. Step with left foot, starting at left heel [C]. Shift weight forward as you bring left hand downwards and push right palm forward [D]. Repeat on other side. Do two sets.
LEFT AND RIGHT HEEL KICK Shift weight to right foot. Bring hands to chest level (palms facing outwards), lift left knee and flex toes [A]. Kick and straighten left leg as you push palms outwards [B]. Bring left foot down and repeat on other side.
REPULSE MONKEY Bend knees slightly and position hands in front of chest as if you’re holding a ball with left hand on top. Push left palm forward and pull right hand slightly back, palm facing upwards [A]. Turn torso right, lift right hand and turn palms to face each other [B]. Bring right hand to ear and pull back left hand slightly (palm facing upwards) [C]. Shift weight to right foot and step out slightly with left foot [D]. Shift weight to left foot, keeping body upright.
At the same time, gently push right palm forward and bring left hand back [E]. Lift right heel and adjust foot so toes face forward. Repeat on other side. Do two sets.
WAVING HANDS IN THE CLOUDS Repeat Step 3 but on the reverse sides.
CLOSING FORM Stretch hands forward and then gently lower them. Close feet. Stand upright and relax.
SEQUENCE OF STEPS: 1-2/3-2/4-2/5-2/6-2/7-2/8
2A Step 2 helps you relax and strengthens your lungs.
5B Avoid locking joints while doing tai chi. The movements are meant to increase the flow of qi or energy in your body.