Taichi Benefits

Keeping fit the Tai Chi way…

Numerous independent scientific studies, both in the West and in China and Japan, have proved beyond any shadow of a doubt the enormous benefits that tai chi and its related disciplines of chi kung (additional breathing techniques) can bring in terms of good health, recovery from illness and the strengthening of the immune system. Of course, we all know that exercise helps us to keep fit and therefore to stay well. This is because exercise helps to maintain the heart and lungs and so improve the circulation. Tai chi however, goes far beyond this, since it enhances the health and performance of all the organs and systems of the body. Tai chi works on a deep emotional level as well. It puts us in touch with our body’s needs, strengthening the mind, calming the emotions and releasing considerable personal creativity in the process. It helps us to cope with stress and to find solutions to problems more easily.

Tai Chi is not like most other exercise systems where you are urged to run around endlessly, getting hot and irritable. Rather, it is about looking after your entire being, at all levels – physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. Regular practice is effective in promoting, restoring and maintaining the body’s natural vitality and well- being.

The emphasis on calm, regular breathing, along with practicing out in the open air whenever possible, means that the circulatory system is greatly assisted. The extensive use of leg muscles stimulate the return flow of blood to the heart and lungs- while the relaxed focus of muscles in the upper body promote an efficient supply of blood to all the major organs, to the brain and to the joints.

A continuation of around eight minutes of form in a fairly low stance increases the heart rate gradually to a level consistent with the demands of moderate fitness training – which in turn, helps to reduce blood pressure.

Heel stances and heel kicks stimulate calf muscles assisting circulation – and movements which include spreading of the arms {i.e. like wings}, gently stretch and open the heart channel. Constant movement of the ankle joints throughout the form stimulate important points on the acu-channels of the Spleen, Liver and Kidneys. While the wrist and forearm movements stimulate the Heart and Pericardium channels. All of which add to the efficiency of the circulation and the strength of blood vessels themselves.

The constant emphasis of tai chi turning from the centre and rotating the waist is enormously helpful for maintaining the health of the digestive system and the bowels. This together with the efficient descending of the diaphragm during breathing inwards gently massages the intestines, liver and the kidneys and promotes a healthy blood supply to all the abdominal organs.

Breathing

Tai Chi has enormous benefits for the lungs. The continued expansion and contraction of the form massage and stimulate the lungs, helping them to take in life giving oxygen and to eliminate waste gases from the blood stream. With a good supply of oxygen, all the organs and systems of the body are able to function well. Oxygen helps us to maintain a suitable body weight as well, since it is essential for the burning of calories.

Lymph

The lymph is a much neglected and little understood substance. It is an internal cleansing system, which helps us to fight off disease and rid the body of toxins and waste products. Lymph nodes are constantly at work keeping us well – the lymph fluid does not have a pump, like the blood has the heart, to move it around the body – it relies purely on physical movement instead, through exercise and so on. The gentle expansive movements of Tai Chi therefore are ideal in this respect – because most of the major lymph glands are situated in the chest, throat, armpits, groin, elbows and knees – and Tai Chi expressly targets these areas in many of the movements found in the form.

Nerves, sensations and thoughts

Tai Chi benefits the parasympathetic intelligence of the body by helping us to relax and cope with stress, anxiety and insomnia. The parasympathetic works opposite to the sympathetic intelligence (which mainly prepares the body for action, increasing heartbeat suspending digestive processes and carrying out many other functions of which we are not consciously aware). The parasympathetic prepares the body for rest so that it can recover from vigorous activity.  Tai Chi also works on the entire central nervous system through movements which stimulate and increase flexibility in the spinal cord. The characteristically erect spine in Tai Chi encourages the free flow of cerebrospinal fluid, helping to relieve pressure in the inter-vertebral discs and spinal nerves. What about conscious thought itself? Tai Chi itself relaxes the mind. As you achieve certain equanimity and detachment with the movements, the mind begins to function in a more relaxed mode The interesting thing is that during this relaxed state, there is a measurable increase in the formation of connective tissues between the brain cells, thereby enhancing our mental faculties at a very deep level. The learning of the form not only improves our physical and mental coordination, it also provides us with what scientists call an ‘enriched environment’ – in other words a stimulating activity to challenge our intelligence. And the repeated chemical boost we get within the brain itself from the process of problem solving also enhances the growth of connective issue in the brain. Bones A strong skeletal system is dependent on a good blood supply to the joints and on a healthy bone marrow which, in turn, helps manufacture the precious white blood cells that fight viruses and bacterial infection. The chi that is created through tai chi is thought to somehow permeate the marrow, building up great resilience and strength over a period of time. The relaxed rotation and flexing movements of the hands in tai chi, helps with stiffness which is apparent in arthritis and rheumatism and also in illnesses such as carpal tunnel syndrome, brought about by continual keyboard operating.

Muscles

Tai chi won’t give you big muscles but will tone them up wonderfully – good muscle tone depends upon exercise and on an efficient blood supply both of which tai chi gives. The ligaments and tendons that connect the muscles to the bones are strengthened with regular practice, particularly those of the legs and abdominal region, all of which increase flexibility and ability to resist and cope with injury or strain. The gluteus maximus and other muscles of the behind are in constant use during the form. The backside gradually becomes firmer, as do also the thighs and calves after several months of practice. The constant turning of the body helps to trim the waistline.

Glands

It is known that the glands of the body –especially the thymus – thrive in a happy individual, but they function poorly in those who are depressed. So probably then tai chi’s greatest contribution in terms of maintaining a healthy immune system is in the calming and positive attitude developed by those who practice the form regularly.

Urinary and reproductive systems

Tai chi promotes the basic kidney chi of the body, which in turn helps the efficiency of all the reproductive organs helping maintain sexual vitality and fertility. The increased mobility and blood supply to the lower abdomen naturally also has a positive effect on the urinary system. Crescent kicks and all twisting movements are excellent for strengthening the internal muscles of the urinary and reproductive systems and for clearing congestion – recurring infections in the urinary system is often the result of congestion and stagnation of energy.

Every time we feel the passion of our visions and dreams, we awaken the creative spirit within us, and express the beauty and power of our true selves in the world…
Eleanor Roosevelt