The Ai Chi Advantage
Ai Chi is a relatively new form of aquatic exercise being used in many aquatic settings here in the United States. Ai Chi is a flowing, yet powerful, relaxation progression combining deep breathing with slow broad movements of the arms, legs and torso. The Ai Chi technique was created by Japan’s most respected authority on aquatics, Juno Konno. In the physical therapy setting Ai Chi is being used for pain management, pre-natal care, post-mastectomy treatment, stroke rehabilitation, back pain, orthopedic problems, arthritis and fibromyalgia.
The benefits of Ai Chi include increased range of motion in all joints and overall improved mobility, increased metabolism and blood circulation and improved circulation of energy which helps to release blocks along acupoint meridians. Deep breathing massages the internal organs, especially the liver which helps rid the body of toxins. Ai Chi calms the mind which aides in decreasing stress, anger, depression, anxiety, insomnia and fatigue. It has also been shown to reduce confusion in the elderly and increase mental alertness. The slow controlled movements of Ai Chi help stimulate the patient’s kinesthetic sense, or their perception of how their body moves.
The primary goal of Ai Chi is deep relaxation, achieved through repetition in the proper aquatic environment. In the pool the patient should be in a neck level depth with the shoulders submerged. The ideal water temperature should be 88-96 degrees, allowing the patient to relax more easily. If the water is to cold this cannot be attained. Movement must to be to the point of tension, never pain. The 2 hour pain rule should always be followed- if your pain remains increased 2 hours following the Ai Chi session, exercise intensity should be decreased. As with any exercise program, you should first consult with your physician. If applicable, Ai Chi can be a very beneficial and relaxing form of treatment.
Written by Sally Flanagan, PTA
Published May 2011