CLINICAL AI CHI
Ai Chi has proven to be effective for persons with various diseases, like e.g. multiple sclerosis. Recent research has shown (very) positive effects on fatigue, balance, muscle strength, pain, stiffness, and autonomy. What is Ai Chi and why is this method look so effective?
Ai Chi has been developed by Jun Konno, owner of an aquatic fitness institute in Yokohama, Japan. Jun Konno is also Watsu lecturer and developed Ai Chi as an introduction to Watsu, but around 2000 quickly became popular because of it’s simplicity and effects.
Ai Chi is active and includes 19 continuous slow and broad movements, accomplished without force. Ai Chi focuses on breathing, upper limb movement, trunk stability, lower limb movement, balance and coordinated total body movements.
The basis of support is gradual narrowing and movements are combined with deep breathing at breath rate: about 14 to 16 times per minute.
The 19 movements form a sequence with gradual increasing difficulty. There is no need to perform all movements. Different protocols exist, consisting of a choice of the 19 movements and/or a different amount of repetitions.
Ai Chi has elements of both Qi Gong and Tai Chi Chuan. It is an active relaxation technique in which postural control and breathing are important. Persons stand in shoulder deep water, preferably in the Tai Chi positions with knees slightly flexed. The water (and air) temperature should be not too cool in order to support active relaxation. Mostly, music is used to guide the rhythm of movements and breathing. Rhythm functions as an external stimulus to continue smooth movements and is highly valued by persons with multiple sclerosis.
Movement initiation is also supported by the relative instability because of buoyancy. Breathing changes the buoyancy effect constantly, which means that a person in fact always moves a little bit: basis for the start of an intentional movement.
Ai Chi also includes important elements, necessary for balance (and fall prevention): continuous weight transfer, not using arms to support en also narrow supporting surfaces. The Association IATF in Valens (CH) has developed variations to challenge balance even more, according to research in fall prevention. These variations and the application to patient categories belong to Clinical Ai Chi.