What is Ai Chi?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Ai Chi programs can help seniors build strength and reduce pain during everyday activities.
Ai Chi programs can help seniors build strength and reduce pain during everyday activities.

Ai Chi is a form of aquatic exercise which is designed to strengthen and tone the body while also promoting relaxation and a healthy mind-body relationship. This technique was developed in Japan in 1990s, and it is practiced all over the world; in North America in particular, Ai Chi is very popular. In order to practice Ai Chi, all that's really required is a pool. People who are interested in exploring Ai Chi may want to check with a local aquatic center to see if classes are offered.

During an Ai Chi session, there will be a focus on breathing deeply and a person being mindful as they breathe.
During an Ai Chi session, there will be a focus on breathing deeply and a person being mindful as they breathe.

Several exercise modalities are incorporated in Ai Chi. The first is Tai Chi, a movement discipline associated with Traditional Chinese Medicine. In Tai Chi, practitioners move through a series of prescribed poses which encourage flexibility, contemplation, and good health. Tai Chi is widely practiced in many Asian communities, and it is suitable for people of all ages and physical conditions because of its gentleness.

An Ai Chi session may incorporate poses that mimic those used in yoga.
An Ai Chi session may incorporate poses that mimic those used in yoga.

Ai Chi is also inspired by Watsu, a form of massage therapy which is conducted in a warmed pool. Jun Konno, the developer of Ai Chi, claims that he was struck with the idea when seeing Watsu sessions in a pool. Watsu is a very gentle, flowing style of massage which uses water as a tool to reduce strain on the body during the massage session, allowing clients to bend more deeply. Many Watsu sessions encourage mindful contemplation and trust as the therapist and client move together through a series of exercises. Shiatsu and Qi Gong are also integrated into Ai Chi.

In an Ai Chi session, a single practitioner leads the class through a series of exercises in warm, shoulder-depth water. There are 16 poses in a full Ai Chi session which are designed to work various parts of the body. Throughout the session, a focus on breathing is heavily encouraged, with students breathing deeply and being mindful as they breathe.

Ai Chi has some clear benefits. Aquatic exercise is often recommended for people with limited mobility, because of the buoyancy; people can move more easily and comfortably in the water with stiff joints and injuries than they can on dry land. The poses are similar to those used in yoga and Tai Chi, and when performed on a regular basis, they certainly contribute to muscle tone. Mental health can also be benefited with regular Ai Chi sessions, and Ai Chi can help to reduce stress.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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    • Ai Chi programs can help seniors build strength and reduce pain during everyday activities.
      Ai Chi programs can help seniors build strength and reduce pain during everyday activities.
    • During an Ai Chi session, there will be a focus on breathing deeply and a person being mindful as they breathe.
      During an Ai Chi session, there will be a focus on breathing deeply and a person being mindful as they breathe.
    • An Ai Chi session may incorporate poses that mimic those used in yoga.
      An Ai Chi session may incorporate poses that mimic those used in yoga.