Tai Chi for Health
Modernised tai chi
Dr Paul Lam's Tai Chi for Health programmes use modernised tai chi, with an emphasis on safety, accessibility and effectiveness.
The perception of tai chi is of slow, gentle and calming exercises, good for improving balance. Performing movements slowly requires control and correct posture, and it takes time to develop the muscle strength, flexibility and focus to do this. Mindfulness, calmness and improved physical well-being are side effects.
However, as a Chinese martial art, dating back some 500 years, there is also a good deal more to tai chi. As the name suggests, movements are derived from combat – although they are highly stylised in most instances – originally performed by very fit, highly agile and robust practitioners. The health benefits of tai chi only came to the fore at the beginning of the 20th Century. Today, many tai chi clubs and organisations still focus mainly on the martial aspects and applications, where health and safety are not considered priorities.
This is a key area where Dr Lam's Tai Chi for Health programmes are different. A retired GP, who began practising tai chi as therapy for his own arthritis which began in his teens, Paul Lam has become a world-renown expert in the field of tai chi for health. He has personal knowledge of the punishing training required to become a gold medal winner and judge in tai chi competitions. However, he also wanted to share the health benefits of tai chi he had experienced through regular - more gentle - practice, with as many people as possible, and realised that a dfferent approach was needed. Working with a team of medical and tai chi experts, he has created a series of tai chi programmes, relevant to the changing demands of life in the 21st century, that are accessible for almost anyone.
SAFETY: Movement choice. There are five main tai chi styles, a large number of sequences, and a wide range of movements, from the very martial punching and stamping of Chen Style – which could pose a risk to the joints – to the contemplative Qigong movements of Sun Style, that have an almost magical ability to enhance health and well-being. It made sense for Dr Lam to select movements that would help improve balance and increase strength and flexibility, while minimising the risk of injury. All Tai Chi for Health sequences have been put together with this intent.
ACCESSIBILITY: Inclusive teaching methods. Facilitating learning and adhearance is also a priority. Not only have the movements been selected to be low risk, training for Tai Chi for Health instructors gives them the tools to help their students gain as much as possible from the health benefits of practising tai chi. This includes an emphasis on tai chi principles, rather than perfection, which enable the essence of tai chi to be carried over to everyday activities. Home practice of Dr Lam's Tai Chi for Health programmes is supported with excellent instructional DVDs, charts and books.
EFFECTIVENESS: Evidence-based. As a medical doctor, Dr Lam realised that evidence showing his programmes to be effective according to measurable health criteria was essential. His Tai Chi for Health programmes have been used in numerous studies, providing evidence which includes better balance, mobility, and physical function, as well as a reduction in falls and improvement in general wellbeing.
There are an increasing number of Tai Chi for Health instructors in the UK, many of them physiotherapists. A list of instructors nationwide can be found on the Tai Chi for Health Institute website and How to train to be a Tai Chi for Health Instructor.