Wheelchair Tai Chi Chuan was introduced in China in 2005 and has continued to increase in popularity as a holistic way to enhance physical activity, mental stimulation and social involvement. From philosophical origins nearly 4,000 years old, to the modern day, Tai Chi Chuan has become one of the most effective and widely practiced mind and body exercise models in the world.
To make this popular, effective and graceful form of mind and body exercise available to people with a disability, Dr. Zibin Guo, a medical anthropologist at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and highly regarded Tai Chi master, developed the 13 Postures of Wheelchair Tai Chi Chuan to commemorate the thirteenth assembly of the Paralympics Games.
Since its debut and promotion by China Disabled Person's Federation and The Center for China Paralympics Sports, the 13 postures been practiced by tens of thousands of people throughout China. The practice has spread to the United States, as well, where research has shown the potential for Tai Chi Chuan to improve a person's functional status, energy and wellbeing.
Movements in Tai Chi Chuan are dynamically and symmetrically constructed, according to the characteristics and needs of people with physical disability.
With deep abdominal breathing, these gentle, circular, slow body motions move uninterruptedly, creating a powerful and unified flow of energy that sustains physical health and cultivates a tranquil and powerful mind.
For his contribution, The Tennessee Higher Education Commission recently named Guo a faculty recipient of the state Love Award, recognizing his commitment to community service. He says Tai Chi is one of the simplest ways for people who use wheelchairs to improve their physical and mental health.
Demonstrating Tai Chi Chuan's growing interest and holistic value, Guo was invited by the Beijing 2008 Olympic Committee and the All China Federation for People with Disabilities to conduct a wheelchair demonstration for the International Paralympics Committee one day before the opening ceremony of the 2008 Paralympics in Beijing.
According to Gao, Tai Chi Chuan not only gives wheelchair user a sense of uplifting and empowerment, it also provides spectators with tremendous inspiration – the wheelchair is no longer seen as a sign of disability, but as a tool for creating beauty and power.
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