The disabled can now practice Tai Chi

May 4, 2012

WHOEVER says the disabled cannot practice Tai Chi have not heard of the the 13 posture Tai Chi program for disabled people. Developed by a team of researchers led by Dr. Zibin Guo of the University of Tennessee Chattanooga, the program transforms the wheelchair from an assistive device to a tool of empowerment and artistic expression.

The 13 Posture Wheelchair Tai Chi brings traditional Chinese martial and healing arts to people with ambulatory impairment. This accomplishment was published in the journal Technology and Innovation – Proceedings of the National Academy of Inventors. 

In 2008, Guo collaborated with the China Disabled People’s Federation and the Beijing Paralympics Committee to introduce the Tai Chi Wheelchair at the 2008 Beijing Olympics/Paralympics Cultural Festival. The innovative program incorporates 13 of the standard 24 Tai Chi movements. For years, Tai Chi has been part of Chinese traditional medicine but has not been practices by those with disabilities.

According to Guo, the exercise routine can be done while seated. The simple, low-impact, upper-body exercise integrates wheelchair motion with the gentle, dynamic flowing movements of Tai Chi. The exercise helps life the spirit and provide practitioners a sense of command of space.

Guo estimates that 83 million people in China are living with disabilities, particularly those that limit mobility. Most of these people also live in rural China where “social and economic development lags behind urban areas,” Guo said.

In the United States, Guo cites a National Health Interview Survey that suggests that about 73% of people in the US with disabilities have no or infrequent physical activity.

Wheelchair Tai Chi movements allow a wide range of lower back and hip movements, said Guo. Also, the movements help promote upper body mobility and internal circulation. Vertical and horizontal circles improve and stimulate the rotation and range of motion for the torso, waist, back, shoulders, arms, and wrists.

“The slow, guided muscle movement has a way of helping to reinforce the muscle patterns that may not have been present before,” said Dr. Glen F. Haban, a neuropsychologist at Siskin Hospital for Rehabilitation in Chattanooga when commenting on early clinical studies related to Wheelchair Tai Chi.

Category: Wellness and Complementary Therapies

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