On Mondays I teach an exercise class at a senior day care center. The exercises are mostly performed in a chair due to the fact that most of the students are either using a walker or in a wheelchair.
Because so many of them are not able to stand on their own, at first I had them perform Qigong and Tai Chi exercises that involve the upper body. Over time it occurred to me that we were omitting one of the main benefits of Tai Chi.
The benefit of Tai Chi to the legs is one of the reasons why it is good for balance. So I modified my class, and I had the students place one foot further out in front of them and one right near their chair so that their legs were separated. Then had them reach her arms out in front of them and then pull them back as they press the foot into the floor. Just incorporating this simple movement allowed them to begin to integrate the upper body movement I had already taught them.
It’s by no means strenuous, but it is allowing them to use muscles that haven’t been used because of their situation. Also, by doing this they can feel the connection of placing their foot into the floor and feeling that energy transfer up the leg and into the core and upper-body.
I repeat this on each leg and come back to it two or three times during the time working out. I then explain to them how to integrate these movements into their every day life. When they get out of their chairs or out of bed, whenever they’re getting up from a seated position, I ask them to always press their feet into the floor and not just lean forward and shove their upper body up with momentum. At first they looked puzzled but as I instructed them and demonstrated thru the movement, I began to see the lights come on in their eyes.
Sometimes, for all of us, it is the adding of a series of little things over time which really make a difference. Too often people try to do too much all at once, hurt themselves and get discouraged. Which is a shame, because, as they say, use it or lose it. When people, no matter what age, give up any form of exercise, that is a shame.
I fervently hope the people in my class hear my voice in their head as they get out of bed. I hope they keep the connection and use what I have taught them that later at home.