Tai Chi is an ancient practice that originated in China thousands of years ago. It started with its roots in the martial arts and has been called “meditation in motion” by many. Tai chi consists of gentle, yet powerful movements in a sequence to harmonize the mind, body and soul. According to historians, masters of Tai Chi can utilize the smallest amount of internal energy and subtle movements to defend themselves against attackers. Some spectators say that they’ve seen masters able to throw their attacker effortlessly to the ground without seeing how it was done.
It's become a very popular practice worldwide and the research has shown that practicing Tai Chi reduces blood pressure, improves body awareness and image, enhances balance and spatial awareness, increases muscle strength and flexibility, decreases pain and much more.
There is a small amount of research focusing specifically on the effects of Tai Chi and Multiple Sclerosis (MS) with a lot of variation, meaning there is not much conclusive evidence just yet. All the studies have small sample sizes, measure different physical and mental components and different forms of Tai Chi. Some of the benefits mentioned in these studies include improved flexibility, gait mechanics and leg stability and less pain.
So, if there is little research, then why bring it up in blog for moms with Multiple Sclerosis (MS)? From clinical experience, reports from moms with MS and discussions with other medical providers, Tai Chi is a low impact, but effective exercise for those experiencing neurologic symptoms. Many moms have reported many of the benefits listed above and also improved sleep and increased energy. Another observation that moms with MS have made is getting to know their bodies on a deeper level and knowing when to push a bit more and when it’s time to recover, which is critical in MS. Tai Chi is also amazing for boosting neuroplasticity given the sequencing, executing and timing of movements. It's important to be aware of your body mechanics and alter movement patterns, especially if you are feeling off balance or pregnant.
When integrating Tai Chi into your routine, make sure to obtain clearance from your medical provider, create a safe space to practice and find a teacher that is well-versed in the principles of Tai Chi and has a deep understanding of MS. There are also several adapted Tai Chi programs to choose from. Many toddlers and kids enjoy doing it alongside their parents too making it a win-win for everyone.
There are different forms of Tai Chi to pick from and try them out to see which best fits you.
If you have more questions or need help getting started on your routine, reach out to Dr. Irina Fedulow Plante for a wellness consultation. Irina has been practicing tai chi for years!