Health Benefits of Tai Chi
Calmly energize your mind & body
The concept of calm energy may be difficult for some to grasp. It may seem counter-intuitive in our fast paced over-caffinated society, but regular Tai Chi practice can gently calm the mind while at the same time building up its store of internal energy. It can cause many physical effects such as warmth, increased metabolism and cirulation and profuse sweating. This comes from the intense training in mental focus, the act of harnessing one's mind and using its energy to stay in the moment and be 'present' in the body's actions as it moves slowly through the postures of the Tai Chi form.
Tai Chi gives the mind a framework under which to operate, and like during meditation, it is able to build strong pathways that connect the mind and body together, making each much stronger than they would be on their own. This bond allows for a harmonious flow of energy and ease of a mostly effortless motion. Like meditation again, Tai Chi is partly about trying not to try, letting the feeling of the move dominate your motions and using the unconscious body as a system for feedback.
This calm energy that you harness through ritual practice is one of the most vital health benefits of Tai Chi as it can then be applied to other daily tasks or endeavors, allowing you to perform at your best from the standpoint of peace.
Lower Your Blood Pressure
Tai chi can have many physiological effects on the body. One of the most pronounced of these can be lower blood pressure.
A 2005 Mayo Clinic article explains that "a stress response, or “fight or flight” reaction involves our pituitary gland releasing adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), which sets a domino effect that signals other glands to produce additional hormones, such as adrenal glands which flood the blood stream with stress hormones, such as “cortisol” and “adrenaline.”
When ordinary life’s daily frustrations trigger this effect over and over again, the results can be damaging to the mind and body. Many of us experience this domino effect of triggers and hormones daily, which is why about 1/3 of Americans, or over 90 million Americans, suffer from high blood pressure."
In short, we are over stressed and we pass this feeling on to our unconscious body functions that don't know any better. The effect becomes that we are fatigued, hypertensive, and age prematurely. Regular practice of Tai Chi or Chi Kung can help to reduce these effects, and keep the body balanced, healthy, and strong.
Feel More Flexible
Flexibility improves the range of motion in our joints and muscles, making us more functional. Being flexible keeps our entire body healthy and allows us to be more active and healthy in the long run.
Pain is always a limiting factor. Pain in our knees, our hips, our shoulders, hold us back from doing all the things we might want to do. Old injuries or repetitive strain can often limit our range of motion and keep us restricted to much less than our full potential. The more flexible we become with our bodies, the more possibilities we unlock.
Flexibility allows us to reach farther, bend lower, and even twist more in order to achieve certain fitness goals. In a broader perspective, this allows us to do more of what we set out to do and achieve more of our life goals. Then we can become fully developed human beings, not just couch potatoes.
Gently Increase Strength & Balance
Strength of Bodily Organs and Glands
Many exercises emphasize primarily strengthening muscles and the cardiovascular system. T’ai Chi emphasizes strengthening not just the heart and lungs but strengthening and balancing the functions of all of the organs and glands. T’ai Chi also strengthens the immune system. T’ai Chi practice helps to release unneeded muscular tension, which cuts off circulation of blood, lymph, and ch’i. This release allows the organs to have needed movement and lowers blood pressure. T’ai Chi practice promotes flow of ch’i by releasing blockages from habitual muscular fixations (acupuncture w/o the needles). Read a biological interpretation of ch’i. Note that recently published studies have confirmed that those who do T’ai Chi have improved blood pressure and are much less susceptible to falls and their resulting injuries.
In doing T’ai-Chi movement, one relaxes muscular contraction completely. The full weight of the body stretches the leg muscles to their limit, thereby strengthening them. This way of strengthening is opposite to that of most other kinds of exercise, which utilize contraction of muscles (as in weight lifting or bicycling). In doing T’ai Chi, the leg muscles become slender with increased range of motion, whereas in other leg-strengthening exercises, the muscles become bunched and less flexible. It is common for T’ai-Chi practitioners to continue practicing into their eighties and nineties, but those who do sports or weightlifting usually do not. And because T’ai Chi provides endless fascination and possibilities for growth, it is more apt to be practiced life-long.
Maintaining strong legs into old age is of paramount importance. Observe how many elderly people lack the leg strength to walk without a cane or are unable to easily rise from a chair.
Chuck says it there better than I ever could. Tai Chi uses a combination of repetitive and low-strain exercises to build strength in the muscles, the joints, the cardiovascular system, and the body's internal organs. All of this put together gives you better balance and coordination and helps the body to work with perfect harmony in everything that it does. Better breathing, a stronger mind, healthy organs all help the body to maintain the optimal levels of human performance.
Strengthen your Immune System
One of the best ways that you can help the lymphatic system is to get enough exercise. The Consumer Health Organization of Canada also suggests that lack of exercise is one of the major reasons why the lymphatic system does not operate at prime efficiency. (Remember, the lymphatic system doesn't have its own pump and needs muscle action to work.) And when the lymphatic system is not operating at full efficiency, the immune system is compromised.
Tai Chi is one way of getting exercise and getting the system moving again in order to increase wellness. In fact, Harvard Wayne, Assistant Professor Medicine at Harvard Medical School, suggests that Tai Chi is beneficial for the aging, who can boost their immunity by performing this kind of a workout. According to Harvard Women’s Health Watch, you can boost your immunity by starting Tai Chi before you contract a disease.
Exercise is the key, once again. You have to work hard and move well in order to pump the lymphatic system enough to see physiological benefits. Tai Chi is comprehensive exercise system that many people can practice well into old age and keep their systems healthy and vital. Chi Kung can often help to prime this pump effectively, getting the body ready to flush out any unwanted waste.
Decreased Stress and Anxiety
Ever been stuck in traffic, yelling like mad at the cars stopped in front of you? This is what I think of when I think of stress. The tension that we feel inside our heads and making our blood boil over is born from the feeling that we need to be somewhere. And we need to be there now. While that may be true in certain cases, it is usually not as important as we think it is. This is one of the greatest lessons of Tai Chi, in my opinion. Teaching you to slow down.
Kicks are easy to do quickly. Steps are easy to take quickly. After all, what is walking but continuously falling forward? What's hard is learning to slow down. To take the move and study all of its many parts, your strengths and weaknesses, the motion and the weight, and where the power is generated from. To learn why we need to slow down.
There's another benefit too. Moving slowly is calming, the same way taking long breaths is calming. It forces our minds to slow down and gives our wandering nervous energy very little to cling to. In proper Tai Chi practice, this unused energy of the mind winds down and spreads out across the whole of our movement. It reduces our mental vibrations down to the same state that meditation brings about, creating peace and harmony in the mind.
It's not that you no longer care, or even care less. But that caring seems to bother you less, and the more you practice, the more you are able to retreat into that state and leave your worries behind.
Increased Aerobic Capacity
When you exercise, your muscles use oxygen. Your muscles burn the oxygen and produce carbon dioxide, which in turn expands your arteries so they can pump more blood to your organs. Aerobic respiration in all your body cells is another part of the oxygen-carbon dioxide cycle. This generates the energy that allows a healthy person to keep exercising for an hour or two. Your style of breathing also affects aerobic capacity. According to Normal Breathing, nose breathing is the most efficient method for improving respiratory function in the long term, although it may feel more difficult than mouth breathing at first.
Breathing is key to life. It's the beginning and end of every motion we make in this life. It was the first thing you did when you were born, and it's the last thing you will do before you die. Is there any activity in life that is as important as breathing? I don't think so.
Learning to breathe well is a key component of Tai Chi practice. You breathe with the movements. You learn better posture which allows you to breathe more deeply. You learn greater focus, which allows you to utilize the 3 Chambers of your breath and take more oxygen with each step. The focus, the posture, the movement and the breath all come together to give you more life and energy the more you practice. This process can greatly be increased through regular Chi Kung practice and meditation as well. Both have pronounced effects on the mind's ability to focus and on controlling the internal components of breathing.
Breathe better, move better, be better. Simple as that.
Increased Energy and Stamina
Stamina is an often overlooked piece of the fitness puzzle. But is it not important to be able to last for as long as possible while exercising? Isn't this how you would reap the most benefit from your hard work?
If a car's gas tank is on empty, then it won't go anywhere. All of its slick design, mechanical power and electronic gagetry don't mean anything if it can't travel. Stamina is your gas tank as a human. How hard can you work and for how long? It's not surprising to hear that in terms of fitness, a bigger tank takes your further.
How do you increase your stamina? By moving. A lot. With weights, or against resistance, or just really slowly. Tai Chi and Chi Kung offer several methods to help improve your stamina and thereby increase your potential as a human being.
That's what this is all about folks, becoming fully developed.
Increased Flexibility, Balance and Agility
With regular and consistent practice in Tai Chi and Chi Kung techniques, everything I have mentioned above works together in a briliant synergy to create strong, agile humans who are flexible, balanced, healthy, calm and fluid. They tend to promote peace and wellness and feel like they have unlocked the doors to the universe.
I, for one, agree with them.
Come do Tai Chi with us:
Michael Sandham has been doing Tai Chi and related internal martial arts for over a decade. He loves to go real slow.
Shaolin Martial Arts, LLC
2009 Ranch Rd 620 N Ste 740
Austin, TX 78734