Tai Chi: Bring Harmony Into Your Life With The Many Benefits Of This Graceful Martial Art Form
Originally published at lmt-lss.com on October 26, 2015.
Tai chi, also called Tai chi chuan translates to “supreme ultimate fist” which is a Taoist concept referring to the co-substantial union of yin and yang, a state of mutual existence and dynamic equilibrium of all things.
Tai chi is an ancient Chinese internal martial art which involves a series of movements performed in a slow, focused manner, accompanied by deep breathing. The founder of Tai Chi is believed to be Zhang Sanfeng. Tai chi, also called Tai chi chuan translates to “supreme ultimate fist” which is a Taoist concept referring to the co-substantial union of yin and yang, a state of mutual existence and dynamic equilibrium of all things.
The philosophy of Tai chi revolves around the Chinese concept of ‘qi’, an energy force that flows through the body. Through Tai chi, this energy is unblocked and encouraged to have proper flow by balancing the yin and yang, opposing elements which are thought to make up the universe.
Tai chi is a noncompetitive, self-paced system of gentle physical exercise. Each posture flows into the next without pause, ensuring that your body is in constant motion. It is described often as ‘meditation in motion’, but it might as well be called ‘medication in motion’ for the innumerable benefits it provides for the body and mind. Tai chi “can improve both physical and psycho-social health,” said
According to Dr. Chenchen Wang, director of the Center for Complementary and Integrative Medicine at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, “Tai chi can improve both physical and psycho-social health.”
So, here’s a list of benefits one can expect from the regular practice of Tai chi.
Improved Muscle Strength and Better Balance
Two studies sponsored by the National Institute on Aging found that Tai chi exercises cut the fear of falling and risk of falls among older people. Two small sports medicine studies suggest that Tai chi may improve sensitivity to nerve signals in ankles and knees, which might prevent falls. People suffering from Parkinson’s disease can regain stability by practicing Tai chi.
A UCLA study of Tai chi claims of sleep benefits. Two-thirds of the people practicing Tai chi had major improvements in sleep quality and the benefits were similar to those gained through drugs or cognitive behavioral therapy.
Reduced Pain and Stiffness
People with osteoarthritis assigned to a Tai chi group study of 3-month duration reported less joint pain and stiffness when compared to other patients in the control group. Also, people suffering Fibromyalgia (FM), a condition with muscular or musculoskeletal pain with stiffness and localized tenderness at specific points on the body are said to have responded well to this martial art form. A study of 39 subjects with FM who practiced Tai chi twice every week for six weeks (one-hour classes), found that the FM symptoms and health-related quality of life improved.
Improves Mental Health
Tai Chi helps thicken the brain’s cortex, which means it may help protect practitioners from depression, Alzheimer’s and dementia, conditions associated with the thinning of the cortex. Researchers at Harvard Medical School and the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center revealed that patients with chronic heart failure experienced a better quality of life and mood if they regularly practiced Tai Chi.
Improved Immune System Function
Researchers found that Tai chi prompted an immune response to the varicella zoster virus, commonly causing chickenpox in children, teens and young adults and herpes zoster (shingles) in adults similar to that prompted by the varicella vaccine. When combined with the vaccine, Tai chi helped create even greater levels of immunity.
The mind-body connection is one that deserves special attention, as it has been reported that breathing coordinated with body movement and eye-hand coordination promotes calmness.
Women who practiced Tai chi as part of the 2006 Stanford study noticed significant increase in upper and lower body flexibility as well as strength.
The best part of this martial art form is that you can do it anywhere, anytime and at your own pace. Although Tai chi is generally safe, women who are pregnant or people with joint problems, back pain, fractures, severe osteoporosis or hernia should consult their health care provider before trying Tai chi. Modification or avoidance of certain postures may be recommended. All in all, Tai Chi is a great way to restore the balance of the body and mind to the best form.