Tai Chi For Physical Therapy. For anyone that’s worked in a restaurant you know that it’s a beating for your body. You’re on your feet all day carrying heavy and lopsided trays, stooping over cash registers, and twisting to reach that last plate. Not very often does this job allow you the time to actively think about how you are moving your body–if you’re properly lifting with your legs and not your back, if your knees are overextending, if you’re standing with good posture.
For years that’s what happened to me: I worked in very fast-paced restaurants and my body got shredded. I didn’t think about anything except the task at hand. I focused on being the best at my job and my knees fell to the wayside.
They got so swollen that it hurt to walk and my movement became limited. Then came the cracking and popping sounds when I bent my knees. The last straw was when I couldn’t go up or down stairs without significant pain. I sought out physical therapy, but I got bored with the routines and repetitiveness; it didn’t stick. The exercises went from being a physical challenge to being a mental chore.
Tai Chi For Physical Therapy
That was when I decided to try out Tai Chi. At first it was incredibly frustrating. Already my knees hurt and shook when I stood still, and the opening exercises of Tai Chi usually include some form of standing meditation for up to 20 minutes. I could barely balance on one leg, yet in the beginning moves of the Tai Chi form I had to balance on one leg multiple times.
I stayed with it, just once maybe twice a week for an hour at a time. Slowly but surely my knees and entire body felt better. I could walk without wearing a knee brace. Stairs weren’t an issue anymore. Even though my knees still shook during some of the opening exercises, it was nothing compared to when I first started. Balancing on one leg became easy, it’s something that I could do without thought, without effort. I was more confident in how I moved because I paid attention to how my muscles moved, how heavy my step was, and how my weight shifted.
The Many Benefits of the Practice
For a year I practiced Tai Chi, and I felt these benefits. However, even with practicing Tai Chi weekly, my knees have recently become swollen and sensitive again. This time the culprit wasn’t my job, it was my bike. Cycling has been a relatively new exercise for me that apparently my knees weren’t ready for. My recent knee issues remind me that a strong and healthy body takes time, practice, and motivation.
Tai Chi was able to help my knees recover from years of overextending and patellar tracking issues. I know if I continue practicing, my knees will recover again from the strenuousness of cycling. That’s the incredible thing about Tai Chi: if you give it enough of your time and energy, you’ll learn postures that can help you over and over again.
Tai Chi isn’t a stagnate practice because neither your body nor your mind is stagnate. There is always something new to learn and something to improve upon while practicing Tai Chi, and there is always something to lean back on when old injuries flare up. Tai Chi stuck with me because it provides something additional to physical therapy: a focus on energy flow and a full-body awareness.