‘The body is both the arena of psychological defense and the arena of spiritual awakening.’ Bawa Muhaiyaddeen ~ Contemporary Sufi
‘Physical activity can have a big impact on stress and, according to the NHS, people who exercise have a 30% lower risk of depression. Exercise increases the production of the brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters, endorphins. Both gentle and intense exercise can also act as a form of meditation, helping you switch off from your worries. Finally, you’re more likely to get a good night’s sleep if you exercise: another effective way of combatting stress.’
By regular and conscious deep breathing, regular and conscious movement – ok, exercise! – we keep ourselves Fit for Purpose, for Peak Performance and Maximum Enjoyment. First off, there’s your favorite exercise, whatever that might be. Then there’s an ancient Chinese healing art as well as a martial art that offers stress relief, muscle strength, flexibility, balance, aerobic conditioning, bone density, endurance, healing, focus, relaxation, eases depression, sharpens mind, harmony with yourself and your environment, power to defend yourself, and a sense of deep inner peace.
Yes, when Harvard Medical School, Reuters, and even the Wall Street Journal start talking about the benefits of Tai Chi and Qigong, then isn’t it time to sit up and take notice? Or, better, stand up and get going!
Professor Peter Wayne argues that ‘Tai Chi is beneficial to the heart, the lung, the bone, the muscles, the nerves, the immune system, and the mind from various perspectives of Tai Chi fundamentals, Traditional Chinese medicine theory, and Western medicine logics.’ He further cites biomedical studies conducted by prominent research institutes around the world as evidence.
‘There are many Tai Chi styles, and forms. Some are long, and complicated while others are short, and simplified. According to Dr. Wayne, they all can produce great health benefits as long as they include eight active ingredients:
- Awareness, including mindfulness and focused attention. The key is the slow and deliberate movements, and attention to body alignment, sensation, and breathing.
- Intention or Yi in Chinese, including belief and expectation. The visualization or imagery plays an important role in providing therapeutic and physiological effects.
- Structural Integration, including the dynamic form, and function. Enhanced integration within and between multiple structural and physiological systems is essential.
- Active Relaxation. Tai Chi’s flowing motion helps shift the body, and the mind into deep relaxation. It has been described as meditation in motion.
- Strengthening and Flexibility. Tai Chi’s slow body weight shifting, flexed stances, and dynamic stretching can help build strength, stability, and flexibility.
- Natural, and Freer Breathing. Tai Chi breathing helps regulate the nervous system, improves the mood, moves Qi (life energy), and balances Qi.
- Social Support. The interaction with teachers and fellow students is also an important therapeutic factor.
- Embodied Spirituality, including philosophy and ritual. Dr. Wayne thinks that Tai Chi creates a practical framework by practicing living with a holistic, Eastern philosophy that can integrate body, mind, and spirit.
To many, Tai Chi is not simply a healing art or martial art; it is a way to cultivate one’s value system, and to develop a better attitude toward nature, relationship, and everyday life. Dale Napier’s Tai Chi in Your Life provides many examples of how Tai Chi principles can be applied to daily tasks.
Dr. Wayne also taught how to integrate Tai Chi into everyday life in his book. He introduced Tai Chi for Two, how to use Tai Chi in cross-training for the betterment of other sports (i.e. Tennis, Golf, and Skiing), on-the-job Tai Chi as an effective corporate wellness program, enhancing creativity with Tai Chi practice, and lifelong learning of Tai Chi to enrich one’s life. Since Tai Chi serves multi health functions, Dr. Wayne considered Tai Chi a biopsychosocial approach to disease prevention, and illness rehabilitation.’
‘Qi can’t be measured objectively, says Shin Lin, a professor of cell biology at the University of California, Irvine, quoted in the Wall Street Journal. But his studies of Qigong and Tai Chi practitioners have found a boost both in alpha brain waves, suggesting relaxation, and beta waves, indicating strong focus. ‘It has the dual benefit of relaxing you, but also sharpening your mind,’ says Dr. Lin.
And Reuters report: ‘Research studies have found that (Tai Chi) practice increased mineral bone density, boosted endurance, strengthened the lower body, and eased depression.’
Tai Chi comes to us as a gift from the past, a way to create our own tranquility: to keep our cool when all about us might be losing theirs. In the double-helix spirals of the Tai Chi form we reunite the Yang and Yin forces of our creation, to ebb and flow throughout our meridian network, feeding the organs that sustain our life. We open and stimulate the meridians, the energy-flow channels, enabling the bio-electro-magnetic force, Qi or chi, to come on full charge as we do the slow graceful form. Chi Kung, or Qigong, gives your Tai Chi extra power and grounding.