Ai Chi Yoga Stretch

Sunday, January 10 2021

Recent events have been stressful and unsettling. Submerge into the pool and click on the 15-Minute Ai Chi Yoga video for some much needed stress relief and soothing stretching.  The combination of gentle Ai Chi movement, yoga postures and deep breathing is a wellness prescription for much needed tension release. 

Poolfit has recently been producing 15-minute videos with an emphasis on flexibility and core training.  These short videos are meant to be combined with other full-length pool workouts on those days when you want either extra stretching or extra core training.  The 15-Minute Water Exercise Stretch and 15-Minute Wall Cool Down & Stretch both focused on flexibility training.  As discussed in recent blogs, flexibility is an essential component of fitness well-being.  In this Ai Chi Yoga video, deep breathing plays a central role in the Ai Chi movement and yoga postures.

What is Ai Chi?
Based on elements of Qigong and Tai Chi, Ai Chi is specifically designed for the water and is characterized by slow movement that is coordinated with deep breathing.  Developed in 1993 by Jun Konno in Yokohama, Japan, Ai Chi was initially intended for more specific therapeutic applications, but eventually became more mainstream within the aquatic fitness industry.  Ai Chi consists of 19 movements or katas, performed with deep breathing in a flowing series.

Deep Breathing
The practice of Ai Chi and the benefits derived are wholly dependent on coordinating the movements with deep breathing techniques.  The breathing comes naturally in Ai Chi because it is synced with the position of the palms and the movement of the arms.  Inhalation is performed with palms up, exhalation with palms down.  Inhalation is performed as the arms are lifted up or outwards, exhalation occurs as the arms are extended down or inward.  Deep breathing is a relaxation technique of its own but combining it with gentle movement enhances tension release.  Aside from stress relief, there are many other health benefits attributed to deep breathing, such as reducing pain and inflammation and improving blood flow, immunity, energy, posture and more according to this web article, Advantages of Breathing Exercises.

Adapting Ai Chi for Chilly Pools
The 15-Minute Ai Chi Yoga video takes a liberal approach to traditional Ai Chi practice by adapting the movement to a cooler pool.   Ai Chi is typically taught in a toasty therapy pool with very slow movement.  However, many people do not have the luxury of exercising in a warm therapy pool.  Over the years, the only way I have been able to incorporate Ai Chi into my water fitness classes is by speeding up the movement so that my students don’t get cold in a lap pool.  In the video, I was in rather warm water and was able to keep the movements fairly slow, but they are still much faster than traditional Ai Chi.  If you are doing this stretch routine in a chilly pool, feel free to perform the Ai Chi movements at a more vigorous clip.  Additionally, the Ai Chi movements are meant to be performed with the body submerged to the water’s surface.  This will also help promote thermal warmth if the air temperature is chilly. Also important to note, the Ai Chi movements were not done in the same flow as a traditional practice.  This was done to better match the flow of Ai Chi movement with yoga poses.  WATCH Mark explain some instructional tips for Ai Chi Yoga, which may also be beneficial if you are following along with this video.

Yoga Stretching
The yoga poses in this routine are designed to serve as static stretching.  The poses are adapted for water and for enhancing flexibility in specific muscle groups.  For example, in a Warrior I pose, the heel is lowered to the pool floor on the rear leg to provide a calf stretch.  The Warrior III pose is used to stretch hip flexors, Half Moon to stretch inner thigh, Eye of the Needle for outer thigh, and so on.

Adapting Yoga Pose for Older Populations
The yoga poses for static stretching were only held for 15 seconds each.  Why?  As mentioned above, many people will be exercising to this in a cooler pool and most instructors will be attempting to teach this in a chilly lap pool. Holding on to static stretches for too long in a cooler pool can cause chilling.  No one likes to get cold.  Therefore, the rhythmic movement of Ai Chi is performed for a longer amount of time compared to the static yoga stretches.  This helps provide thermal warmth and dynamic stretching.  If you are lucky enough to instruct or exercise along with this in a warm therapy pool, consider adjusting the timing and holding the static yoga poses longer for enhanced flexibility. 

Flexibility is important, but so is relaxation.  Stress can cause a host of physical and emotional maladies.  Ai Chi Yoga allows you to submerge into tranquility and flexibility.  EXHALE and enjoy. 

Author: Mark Grevelding is the founder of Fitmotivation. He is also a training specialist and consultant with the Aquatic Exercise Association’s (AEA). Mark has been active in the fitness industry for 22 years as a group fitness instructor, personal trainer, international presenter and a continuing education provider for AEA, AFAA & ACE.