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Tai Chi for Stroke Patients: Is This Gentle Exercise Helpful for Recovery?

practicing tai chi for stroke recovery

The benefits tai chi for stroke recovery might push you to try this seemingly-strange form of gentle exercise.

Not only can it help improve balance after stroke, but is also reduces stress. And we can all use less stress, right?

What Is Tai Chi?

Tai chi is a low-impact, slow-motion exercise that involves a soft flow through a series of motions named after animal actions.

While animal actions may sound fierce or intense (or maybe even strange), tai chi tones them down and recreates the movements at a slow, fluid pace.

According to Harvard Health,

“Tai chi is often described as ‘meditation in motion,’ but it might as well be called ‘medication in motion.’

There is growing evidence that this mind-body practice, which originated in China as a martial art, has value in treating or preventing many health problems.

Other sources explain that tai chi is great for reducing stress, improving balance, and promoting inner peace.

Sounds promising for everyone, including stroke survivors, right? Absolutely!

Benefits of Tai Chi for Stroke Recovery

Because tai chi focuses on slow, controlled, repetitive movements, it’s an effective form of rehabilitation exercise for stroke patients.

Furthermore, tai chi seems to help dynamic movement more than traditional exercise programs, which mostly works on static or standing balance.

The benefits of tai chi for stroke patients may come from the unique combination of slow, controlled movements coupled with relaxation.

In one study on tai chi for stroke recovery, patients who didn’t participated in tai chi sustained 5 times more falls than those who did.

So, if you want to prevent falls after stroke, tai chi could be your golden ticket.

Tai Chi Exercises for Stroke Patients

woman and man doing tai chi for stroke patients

©iStock.com/photodjo

Are you interested in trying this form of physical therapy for stroke patients?

Here are our favorite tai chi exercises from Barbara, OTA.

1. Warm-Up Flow

Start in a standing position with your legs hip width apart and knees slightly bent.

Then, with your arms shoulder width apart, palms down, and hands 3-6 inches apart, float your hands up and down in front of your body.

As you do this, visualize yourself moving a ball of energy up and down with your hands.

2. Snake in the Grass

Then, visualize yourself carrying that big ball of energy (about the size of a large medicine ball) right in front of your torso.

Then, while using your arms to carry that ball of energy, pivot your torso to move the ball around in front of you in the shape of an infinity sign (a sideways figure 8).

As you move the imaginary ball to your right, pivot your torso to the right as well. Then repeat on the left side. Keep in mind that this exercise involves your core and entire body, not just your arms.

Move slowly and intentionally as you swirl this energy around the front-side of your body.

3. Rising Sun

While smoothly transitioning from the exercise above, take that ball of energy and bring it up in front of your face.

Move this energy in an arc from side to side, like a rising and setting sun.

This posture will be used as a transition movement for other exercises.

4. Scooping Water

Use your right arm to scoop a big armful of water into your chest. Make a big, slow, circular motion as you scoop the water.

Then, bring that water up to your face and around over to your right side, and then bring it down, letting the water fall to the floor.

This movement should feel like one big circular movement for your right arm.

Repeat on your left side, and then perform 4 repetitions of this Scooping Water movement on each side.

5. Beautiful Bird

Now, imagine that there’s a ball of energy on your right shoulder. Pivot your torso and slightly turn to your right as you use your left arm to roll the ball down your shoulder and down your arm.

Then, while you’re still facing your right side, shift your weight into your left leg (remember the 66/33 Rule) and bring your hands out to your sides. Keep your arms bent at 90 degrees and keep your upper arm in towards you sides. This posture should resemble a bird in motion.

Then shift forward into your right side to complete the movement. Then, transition to your left side while performing a Rising Sun on your way. Remember to move slowly and fluidly.

Keep your breath in mind as you perform this movement. Inhale as you shift back and spread your wings, and exhale as you shift forward.

The most important focus during this exercises (and all others) are ease, fluidity, and softness in the body.

Free Tai Chi for Stroke Recovery Videos

We hope these tai chi exercises help restore a sense of ease and balance in your body and mind.

For more exercises, download our free PDF below!

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See how Susan is recovering from post-stroke paralysis

“I had a stroke five years ago causing paralysis on my left side which remains today.

I recently began using FitMi.

At first it was difficult for me to be successful with a few of the exercises but the more I use it, the better my scores become.

I have recently had some movement in my left arm that I did not have before.

I don’t know if I can directly relate this to the use of the FitMi but I am not having occupational therapy so I conclude that it must be benefiting me.

The therapy modality motivates me to use it daily and challenges me to compete against my earlier scores.

I heartily recommend it!-Susan, stroke survivor

FitMi is our best-selling home therapy tool because it helps patients of all ability levels.

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