Stuck in a programming rut? Bring a little Eastern flair to your pool patrons: Consider Ai Chi.
Perhaps surprisingly, Ai Chi owes its origins to the sea.
Japanese Olympic swim coach Jun Konno was inspired with his ideas for Ai Chi while watching slow-motion films of sea snakes. But it wasn’t until he learned another aquatic technique, Watsu (Water Shiatsu), that he was able to fuse his new ideas about “snaking” with ancient ideas about yoga.
He created Ai Chi to enable individuals to perform work similar to Watsu without the intimacy inherent in Watsu. Konno wanted to bring a technique to his people that would be immediately familiar and accepted by the Japanese.
In many ways, Ai Chi is similar to T’ai Chi and yogic breathing techniques. The instructor stands on the pool deck. Class members stand in chest-deep water and are instructed to perform a slow, rhythmic combination of therapeutic movements and deep breathing. (For examples, click here.)
It is not necessary to purchase any special equipment for this fitness program. Ai Chi is about balance, flexibility and breath — not special resistance paddles or boots.
For your pool to successfully offer Ai Chi, you’ll need at least 25 square feet per participant. Each person needs chest-deep water, typically 12-18 inches lower than his/her height, which may make larger group classes difficult in pools with sloped bottoms. Pools with plenty of 31/2-foot to 41/2-foot depth areas are excellent for Ai Chi classes.
The pool must be warm enough to prevent shivering because Ai Chi moves are not vigorous enough to warm participants. Water temperatures between 88 degrees and 92 degrees Fahrenheit work best.
Ai Chi group classes are usually taught by an instructor on deck, so a quiet environment is necessary to allow the participants to hear. Pools with loud ventilation systems should invest in a microphone system for the instructor. Competing elements, such as family swims, make for a poor Ai Chi experience.
There is no one path to becoming an Ai Chi instructor, though most people begin teaching it because they took a course, studied a book or watched a video. Many therapists also have co-opted Ai Chi into their one-on-one aquatic therapy sessions.
Would-be instructors need not worry about teaching requirements, for there are none at this time. And you can use the name Ai Chi without any trademark problems — as long as you’re actually doing Ai Chi.