Body & Soul

Ai Chi: An Innovative Breathing and Movement Technique Developed By Jun Konno

Walter Raymond

This Japanese therapy can help you improve your blood flow, relieves stress, and find the right posture. It is similar to Tai Chi but underwater.

Opening the heart is much more than a comforting proverbial phrase. The pressure we feel in our chest when we suffer an emotional trauma is caused by the tension of the muscles around the heart. Ai Chi is a graceful aquatic exercise that combines Eastern and Western philosophies and focuses in that particular area of the body, to open the heart chakra and renovate the flow of restorative energy including mental, physical, and spiritual energies.

Ai Chi comprises a succession of movements and fast and slow breathing techniques similar to those found in Tai Chi, with the significant difference that is Ai Chi is practiced in water. The gentle exercises are performed standing with the body submerged up to the shoulders. The goal is to unlock the energy of the heart center stimulating the nervous system. Movement is slow and continuous, with attention to body alignment, and accompanied with deep diaphragmatic breathing and a calm meditative state of mind. Mental focus is on flowing movement, proper body alignment, and coordinated breathing, and can also involve attention to philosophical or aesthetic concepts.

Ai Chi: An Innovative Breathing and Movement Technique Developed By Jun Konno
Ai chi: Movement and breathing technique developed by Jun Konno.

With the practice of this technique, we can reach a state of relaxation similar to the one you obtain with deep meditation. Ai Chi was developed by Professor Jun Konno of the Aquadynamics Institute in Yokohama, Japan, using elements of hydrokinetic therapy (or physiotherapy) and Chi Kung or Qigong.

Performing gentle, circular and broad movements of the arms, legs, and torso, with full awareness of the body and mind, promotes a state of internal and external balance. Ai Chi improves blood circulation, releases tension, corrects posture and provides, ultimately, a sense of active relaxation. The harmony of mind and body obtained can stimulate reflection and self-contemplation, leading to the proper attitude to counteract the adverse effects of stress and other intense emotional states.

It is important to do the exercises with the body half submerged in water. Moving in an aquatic environment stimulates a new body-mind-environment relationship. The immersion lessens the effect of the force of gravity, reducing the impact of the exercises on the joints.

Ai Chi: An Innovative Breathing and Movement Technique Developed By Jun Konno
Ai chi: water stimulates blood circulation and oxygenation of the body.
Ai Chi: An Innovative Breathing and Movement Technique Developed By Jun Konno
Ai Chi Postures

It also forces the body to learn to move in a different way. The immersion breathing exercises improve the capacity of the muscles involved in breathing, thus increasing the ability to ventilate or changing the air. The soft water pressure on the body stimulates blood circulation and oxygenation providing a comprehensive health benefit.

Those who practice Ai Chi can expect to increase oxygen and caloric consumption through correct form and positioning in the water, as well as a minimization of anxiety, fatigue, and even depression. Other uses include physical rehabilitation and it can be practiced in group classes, one-on-one sessions or individually without an instructor.

Practicing Ai Chi involves learning to let go. We’ll learn how to release tension around the heart, allowing feelings to flow. The exercise improves flexibility, body movement, and overall body posture, opening the heart and increasing perception and body self-awareness. The system is the perfect relaxation technique for highly stressed and over-challenged individuals and ideal for creating an improved range of motion and mobility.  ■

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