AI CHI AS THE NEW YOGA
When the world looks for a way to find an exercise that gives outer strength, inner strength, and spiritual well-being, we often look east towards Asia. The Indian practice of yoga has become so popular that even non-practitioners know the nomenclature (“Namaste”) and wear the outfits. But yoga is very popular and no longer just among Indians or women looking for a new way to stretch out. Both sexes use it and both women and men say that it makes their body lither and clears their heads. Yoga is very popular, but not the only way for a person to get their mind and body in order. Ai Chi moves are similar to Tai Chi moves and it uses breathing and exercise in the water for the individual. Is Ai Chi a substitute for yoga? Is it the new yoga?
Ai Chi was started in back in the mid-1980s by a Japanese man named Jun Kunno. Kunno was looking for a water-based therapy that could give the benefits of a massage-based therapy without the touching. The key to therapy was to get the practitioner to relax while at the same time working the muscles. Just like Tai Chi and many other Asian exercise programs, Ai Chi focuses on moving continuously. Doing this underwater gives it a relaxing aspect which can make the therapy to people of a wide age range, up to and including the very elderly.
How does Ai Chi compare to Yoga? Both use breathing as one of the keys to the exercise. Both also use movement. This is where the differences really begin. Yoga uses movement to get into position and which the person than holds. This is how yoga gives its full potential to create the positive energy. This energy helps gives the Yoga student his or her spiritual fulfillment. Ai Chi, on the other hand, creates energy and relaxation through continuous movement.
The spiritual side of both yoga and Ai Chi both are both buttressed by their meditative aspects. While one is doing these routines, they are also meditating, clearing the mind of those everyday problems that are adding to the stress in their lives. The goal of each is to walk away at peace with one’s self that will carry on from this session to the next.
What about the long term benefits? Both have proven as treatments for some of the more common and chronic medical conditions. Ai Chi can help lower blood pressure and the symptoms of arthritis. It’s even given Parkinson’s disease sufferers relief. Yoga is also known to help relieve blood pressure, relieve chronic muscle pain, and give relief to those sufferings from depression. It also helps give some pain relief to those suffering from heart disease and cancer. Therefore, in this respect, both Ai Chi and Yoga can give you similar benefits.
Aside from the movements, there is a huge difference. Ai Chi is done in a pool, where the session begins as students stand in water up to their shoulders. Someone who practices Yoga (a yogi) will be seen walking around with a mat to their local ashram or Yoga studio, which could be anywhere. So Ai Chi has some disadvantage in that the user must have the access to a pool. On the other hand, this gives Ai Chi more universal appeal to a larger crowd. Founder Kuonno intended that his new program using the relaxing powers of water to make his therapy work. Anyone who has been in a pool knows how relaxing the water can be, and this goes for people of all ages. Therefore Ai Chi has an appeal for octogenarians who might find the poses of Yoga a bit of stretch.
Benefits of an Ai Chi Regime
As we have stated above, Ai Chi uses the holistic approach to health combining movement, spiritual, and mental. How does it accomplish these benefits? Well, water gives resistance, so as one is moving in it, the action gives the muscles an additional workout. Yet, while one is the water, one is able to position oneself in positions not as easily achieved through yoga.
There are 19 movements to Ai Chi. They are done in progression, starting with the upper torso while the body remains static. When these are completed, the pupil moves to exercises that simulate the land-based Tai Chi, moving the body around. Because one is in the water as these movements progress, balance can be easily maintained. The soothing aspects of being in the water are also an advantage.
So will yogis turn in their mats for a trip to the pool? Both are great ways to improve your life without resorting to traditional medicine or pharmaceuticals. Both use a holistic approach to change the adopter’s outlook on life as well as limber up the body.
The difference may come down to demographics. When someone thinks of yoga, they think of a young woman with a Yoga mat heading to a workout in her yoga pants. On the other hand, any sort of pool exercise is linked to an older bunch in the local pool. Putting aside which one has more health benefits, as long as an exercise is linked to the retirement crowd, the advantage will go to yoga. But stay tuned, utility sometimes wins.
This article was written by Nina Wells from Clearwells. She has over 10 years’ experience in writing health related topics and specializes in the health benefits of saunas and hydrotherapy.