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As I write this medical answer, I myself am in a short-term nursing facility. Two months ago we had major flooding. I had to wade through flood waters that had sewage in them, and apparently I had a teeny, tiny break in the skin of my foot, as small as a pinprick, at the bottom of my big toe.

I nearly died, twice, of a big toe infection. I couldn't even put on my own clothes for a couple of weeks. The bacteria ate a hole through my skin all the way to the bone, and I my leg was black, blue, purple, and red almost to the hip. Amputation is still totally not out of the question, eight weeks into the infection. However, even when I had IV's in my wrist, I have been doing a modified tai chi routine. Chances are you can, too.

You don't have to do tai chi "perfectly" to benefit from it.

I learned tai chi from an American tai chi master named Helen Gold. She was wonderfully patient. No matter how clumsy I was, she did not discourage me from continuing to try. The fact is, the ability to stand on one foot comes in handy in lots of situations, especially when you have a septic wound to the bone on the bottom of your big toe. Even doing tai chi "badly" can be helpful as long as you are trying to do the forms as well as you can. Why is that?

"Mindful movement" is a better way to understand how tai chi helps.

The important aspect of tai chi is not to look like your instructor. The important thing is to make purposeful movements. If you can't bend or stretch or stand on one of your legs, you just make different purposeful movements. The point is to inhibit movements that might otherwise come "naturally." It's natural to fall when you are standing on one foot. When you practice tai chi, you train your brain to keep you upright even when you are standing on one foot. It's natural to lean to one side or another while you are making circular motions with your hands. When you practice tai chik, you make a practice of controlling your posture even when gravity pulls against you.

The practice of paying attention to the movements of your body is what gives you higher-order motion control. If you practice tai chi regularly, the ability simply to decide "I'm not going to fall" is not the only benefit, however.

Practicing tai chi is a practical way to overcome ADD and ADHD. It may help you deal with Parkinson's. Because you have to pay attention when you do tai chi, you make a habit of being mindful that carries over into other aspects of your life. The question is, how do you do tai chi "the wrong way" well enough to get benefits?

My suggestion is "tai chi in a chair." It's simple enough for almost anyone, and it's something you can do when you have mobility issues or you are too weak to stand.

Here's a routine. Let's start with something almost everyone who is alive is doing, breathing.

Balloon breathing. Sit with your back firm against the back of the chair. Legs should be shoulder-width apart. Feet should be flat against the floor. Hold your head lightly on your neck as if it were suspended by a thread from the ceiling.

Hold your hands over your abdomen so you can feel your muscles move as you are breathing. Now breathe calmly, paying attention to the motion of your muscles.

You can do this exercise, right? Even something as simple as this mindful exercise helps you focus your attention and stay calmer in stressful situations. Now let's try something ever so slightly more challenging.

The Tai Chi Butterfly

Still seated in your chair, hold your hands out, arms straight, in front of your body. Now join your palms together and push your arms out as far as they will go while you take a breath in. Relax your arms, bringing them back to your body as you exhale, pushing air out as you tighten your diaphragm and abdominal muscles.

Most of us can do this one, too.

Chances are you get the idea of just how many exercises are possible within tai chi. Almost everyone can do at least one, and any tai chi exercise helps you with balance and attention. You can find dozens of tai chi exercises on YouTube and in books by Cynthia W. Quarta.

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