By Dr. Jane Katz
No matter your age, fitness level or athletic ability, water offers a fabulous exercise opportunity to help you get and/or stay healthy and fit. Water also offers a meditative quality, making it an ideal holistic program of mind, body and spirit. In this second part of our series, let’s talk about Aqua Tai Chi, also known as Ai Chi. Remember to check with your doctor before starting any workout routine. Start exercising with a warm-up session and finish with a cool-down. As you become more physically fit, you can increase your workout intensity with the F.I.T. principle: Frequency, Intensity and Time.
The Chinese believe that life force. or chi, flows through all of us. Daily stressors unbalance the flow of chi through our bodies. Tai chi allows the body to open up, the muscles to relax, the tissues to expand, and the joints to open and connect so that chi can flow more freely through the body, helping you to feel more energized and relaxed.
Tai chi consists of slow, soft, relaxed movements, or “forms.” One form flows into the next without pause. All forms have both a yin and yang quality. The yin aspects are those that contract, sink or move inward, while the yang expand, rise or move outward. Yin will always turn into yang and vice versa; this is how the forms “breathe.” Inhalation occurs during the yin stages, exhalation during the yang.
Many tai chi exercises can be performed in water, including the tai chi forward and backward walks (stretches and strengthens ankles; strengthens legs); tai chi opening (strengthens and stretches entire body); roll the ball (strengthens arms, wrists and shoulders); hands like clouds (strengthens arms, wrists and shoulders); and yin yang (strengthens shoulders, forearms and wrists).
You can practice exercises in any depth water; shoulder-depth is ideal. Exercises consist of continuous, breath-coordinated movements. Move smoothly, without pauses or accelerations, slowly, and gently, focusing on moving with the water.
Stretches shoulder, forearms, and wrists, strengthens arms and shoulders and helps with repetitive stress injuries from keyboard tasks
STARTING POSITION: Stand with hands in prayer position in front of chest.
- Keeping hands together, rotate hands 90° so that right palm faces body and left palm faces away from body.
- As you exhale, straighten arms by pushing right palm away from body with left palm.
- As you inhale, push left palm back toward body with right palm.
- Rotate hands 180° so that left palm faces body and right palm faces away from body.
- As you exhale, straighten arms by pushing left palm away from body with right palm.
- As you inhale, push right palm back toward body with left palm.
- Repeat 5-7 times.
Dr. Jane Katz is a pioneer in fitness and aquatics. She holds a doctorate in gerontology and was a consultant to the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. She is an educator, author of several books and a professor of health and physical education at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. More information on the exercises mentioned in this article can be found in Dr. Katz’s books, “Your Water Workout” and “Swimming for Total Fitness,” available on her website www.drjanekatz.com.