Tai Chi anyone?

I've just been following the thread from the post by Kitty49, and spotted a reply from piglette about Tai Chi. Coincidentally I've been wondering about how suitable this would be for a PMR sufferer and was about to post on the subject.

I know Tai Chi is said to strengthen the body, particularly muscles, but I've also heard from friends who have tried it that it's a powerful form of exercise. Is there much danger of over-taxing the muscles? Obviously, I'd be starting at a beginners' course. Have any of you had experience of this type of exercise? I'd be very grateful for your views - especially as there's a course starting in my area this evening!

29 Replies

  • I did try a class some years ago but it was not suitable for me - there were lots of standing on one leg, heel turns and lunges and squats movements. At the time I could only stand on one leg if I had something to hang on to, let alone the other movements involved.

  • A good instructor would have helped you find a way to perform the movements to your capability. My instructor is quite elderly himself, although having practised for many years, and he is very aware of our limitations, in fact discouraging us from being too enthusiastic with, for example, the deep knee lunges - those, he says, are for the experts, the Chinese people who have been doing Tai Chi since childhood!

  • That sounds very challenging! Did you by some chance find yourself in an advanced group by mistake?! My balance isn't brilliant, and I've heard tai chi can be helpful with that - but not if you have to be well-balanced to begin with. Will think on...

  • I've been attending Tai Chi classes for a little over a year, plus practicing (not enough!) at home. It's very gentle. In fact it's practiced all over the world and is recommended for elderly people to do. It improves one's sense of balance, which reduces chances of falling and breaking a bone, and is also supposed to help one's overall health. You will want to learn the 24 form short version. If you can go to classes so much the better but there are brilliant demonstrations on the internet through YouTube. It is based on martial arts but unlike in martial arts there's no rapid or forceful movement. It's controlling muscles through very slow motion which helps strengthen them.

  • Thanks for this info HeronNS, and your reply to polkadotcom. I think I will ring the organiser and check out what would be expected. Would really like to give it a try.

  • It is essential that the instructor of ANY class is aware of and willing to adjust for the class's limitations.

    Your comment about balance just reminded me - some ladies in the NE support group went to Nordic walking classes arranged by Age Concern (or similar). They had balance problems beforehand but one lady who had needed a zimmer frame was able to improve her balance so much over 6 months she no longer needed it. Others also found their balance improved so they were able to walk without walking sticks/canes after a short time. The advantage of Nordic walking is the poles - many elderly people here where I live use walking poles when out and about. Having one in each hand does help balance a lot. And don't make you look quit do old and decrepit as my mother used to say!

  • Thanks PMRpro. I do occasionally practise Nordic walking and in fact have an indoor exerciser that I've steered clear of since my PMR diagnosis, for fear of overdoing things. My balance was considerably affected about 5 years ago when I fractured a couple of bones in one foot, and I've never fully recovered despite physio exercises. Probably though the truth is I didn't practised enough!

    I know you are absolutely right - things have to be tried out to see how helpful they can be, and as always the challenge is in pacing and knowing my limitations. Perhaps I tend to be a bit over cautious.

  • Try the exerciser - but just for say 3 mins the first time. If that is OK, increase by 1min at a time, on alternate days perhaps. Being over-cautious isn't bad as long as it doesn't stop you at least trying. Then use the caution to limit the time you spend on an activity - making sure you stop well before it is going to hurt at first. Then see how you feel the next day.

    It's like tapering your dose - it isn't slow if it works!

  • You have reminded me PMRPro, about balance (or lack of it) during the short period I had with PMR prior to diagnosis.

    Whilst struggling, in agony, to gain some relief in a (hot) shower, I tried manfully to raise my arms to wash what's left of my hair - lost my balance and slid down the tiled walls, taking the shower doors off its hinges and ending up half-in and half-out of the shower. With the hot water still coming down on me and with no way of moving, it was a good five minutes before I could summon the strength to escape......!

    I have been extremely careful to maintain balance ever since and only recently taken to my bike again - on quiet roads!

  • It was strange - my skiing didn't seem compromised and there is a lot of balance involved there! But kerbs jumped out in front of me!!!!

  • Hi HeronNS,

    Since when are we calling ourselves elderly, I thought we were all young at heart!!!

    Sorry I couldn't resist!!! It seems it is all I have left.....my humour. I am like a country song. I have lost my eyesight, my youth, my hair, my good looks, my health, being in great shape lol. Oh but I forgot I still have my dog, although she is rather disloyal and prefers my grandchildren, and I have pretty nails and toes. Got to work what you got!!!!

  • Sounds very workable.

    Thanks Heron NS.

  • I believe Celtic used to do Tai chi - may still do for all I know - and was very enthusiastic. Like everything, you only know by trying. In the days of PMR without pred, I did Pilates and that helped a lot - I did an aquaaerobics class in a warm pool first and was then able to move a lot better to do the Pilates. Once I got started, my mobility improved a lot during the class. The first few minutes were always interesting though!

  • Oh, yes, I do so recommend Tai Chi. It slowly got me to unwedge my painful arms from my sides and, along with Nordic walking classes, improved my balance that had been knocked for six, probably a lot to do with being bedbound for several months during my undiagnosed days.

    If you can find a class and teacher who has a special interest in Qi Gong all the better. This will involve low impact movement to flex the muscles and relax the body. Also, the teacher should be made aware that you have PMR and your limitations. It is not designed to be competitive, you just do what you can do, especially in the early days. In fact, at my first few classes I had to sit down from time to time. But I felt it was nothing short of a miracle the day that I finally could lift my arms above my head for the first time without pain! The class I attended was run in our local community centre for the over-50s, and the teacher focused on Qi Gong and Yin and Yang teaching. Breathing exercises were also involved, and I never failed to feel a boost in my energy levels when I got home after each class. I have tried a couple of other Tai Chi classes from time to time, but found them much too strenuous - it all depends on the teacher. Good luck!

  • Many thanks Celtic. I'm going to ring the instructor - his website mentions Qigong, so it sounds hopeful.

    Will let you all know how I get on - as always, thanks for your helpful advice.

  • Excellent! My instructor has started doing some qi gong as well - I think our class is getting a bit quicker at learning and so there is now time to introduce it. I took a certain form of qi gong years ago, but the instructor kept telling me to bend my knees a bit more, and in the end I had bad knee trouble and gave it up, never to return. When a physiotherapist checked me out she said I didn't seem to be able to straighten my knees enough! So as PMRpro and Celtic said, a lot depends on the instructor!


  • Hi

    I did it many years ago and still practice when I can

    It is a martial art however I did not enjoy it when started using it for self defence

    Its very relaxing I used to go home on a Sat and sleep for hours

    Most classes will let people go at their own pace and you can sit out for a while if you need to .

    As far a balance goes once you have learnt to ground yourself and centre your core nothing or no one will budge you .

    Go along speak to instructor and have fun .

    I joined the hotel staff each morning when in China and did the form with them .


  • I used to do a lot of Tai Chi but sadly have lost our instructor....it can be geared to any level, even sitting in a chair if needs be....go for it!

  • Many thanks for all the helpful replies, I really appreciate it. I just knew lots of you knowledgeable people would be able to point me in the right direction! I have arranged to go along to a session next Tuesday - really looking forward to it!

  • I hope you enjoy it. I remember posting when I first started that if there was a word for "all thumbs" which referred to the whole body (two left feet?) that would be me. But I've pretty much mastered the basics now and it is indeed a lifetime's project because one continues to improve forever! Now when practising at home I no longer watch sections of a four hour instructional YouTube video but instead three or four masters of the 24 form in sequence, following along. I still use the "posterior view" as it is easier for a directionally challenged person to follow. :D

  • I would highly recommend tai chi. Apart from helping build balance it gently works on all the body systems. As you gain experience you will realise it's not about the muscles. You don't use muscle. You exercise your bones and this weight bearing aspect is why it's so beneficial for osteoporosis. The muscles are relaxed and gently stretched. I have been practicing for over 16 years. When I developed PMR I resisted steroids for 6 months. All my tendons particularly on the left side had tightened up. On pred I was able to practice my tai chi again and with time and practice loosen out that tightness. Tai Chi helped me build up my stamina again. Really good for the mind too as its so relaxing. I practice Taoist Tai Chi. There are classes all over the world. It's all about working at your own level of health and fitness. Hope this helps

  • I'm so happy to hear about the benefit for bones as that's something that really troubles me with the pred. As it happens, I'm due to go for a dexascan next Monday, so that I'm armed with better info when it comes to resisting (or maybe not) the dreaded alendronic acid - anything I can do to strengthen bone health in more natural ways is great news. Many thanks.

  • Hi, I began qigong classes three months ago, after a diagnosis of PMR last April. The instructor is aware of my limitations and I use a chair to aid bablance when necessary, the important thing is to do only what you are comfortable with. I find the class very relaxing , and always feel better after it. We also do a relaxation session at the end of class which I then domyself at home. Prior to my diagnosis I did two exercise classes a week , aquarobics, walking ten miles on average with the Ramblers. This has all been curtailed but the quigong, combined with gentle exercise in the pool and building up my walking gradually makes me feel I am doing something!

    Good luck with the class, am sure you will enjoy !

  • Thanks Crumb1 - I know exactly what you mean about how good it can feel that you are achieving SOMETHING - in fact, ANYTHING some days! I'm hoping I'll be able to take to it, and it will add a bit more structure to my week. Sometimes I really need motivating!

  • Thanks for reminding me about Qigong, I tried it on holiday once and loved it. I couldn't find anyone around here who practiced it at the time but will look again.

  • I find T'ai chi extremely helpful , by the end of the hour I have much better movement and energy. It is extremely gentle and should not over tax you. I certainly recommend you try it,

  • I think the tutor is key! Was very keen to try it after a session on holiday which I really enjoyed. But the 4 of us that tried it with a local, experienced tutor failed to keep it up. I am sure it is very good for balance & a calming exercise. So, thank goodness for Pilates which I adore, again we have a fabulous, caring tutor and a small class so she is able to pick up on any physical ailments etc.

    Give it a go!

  • I learned Tai Chi from a DVD. There's nothing too strenuous in it. It's Tai Chi for beginners by William Chen. I really like it.

  • Many thanks - will check it out. I'm going along for my first session today, so I guess it will hinge on how well I feel I can fit into the classes with this particular instructor. It would be good to be able to practise independently as well, there could well be days when I feel the effort to get out to the class is too much!

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