The Health Benefits of Learning Tai Chi
Each and every one of us can benefit from learning Tai Chi. This ancient Chinese art has been described as “meditation in motion” and is known to prevent and treat many health problems, as documented by several studies.
Tai chi is a practice that focuses on movements originating from the torso. Why is this important, and how do we lose this capability as we get older? Here is some insight, as presented by Synerchi Publishing:
An early Tai Chi master once wrote that the ultimate purpose of learning Tai Chi was to live forever in the spring season of your life. Tai Chi is not just for longevity, but also for robustness, even at an old age. The health benefits of Classical Tai Chi may be viewed from several different angles and at different levels, all of which tie in strongly with the practice of Internal Discipline.
When examining the movements of very young children, we see that their movements of arms and legs often originate from their torso, their movements are relaxed and without tension. As we grow older our movements tend to concentrate on our arms, legs and shoulders and less on our torso: also, tension and stiffness start to creep into our movements. Gradually, we lose touch with the torso. We can only do simple movements such as the popular ab exercises but cannot perform the subtle, intricate, and powerful movements that the torso inherently is capable of. We talk about the dexterity of hands or feet, not knowing that the torso can be developed to have just as much dexterity, but think of the torso as a dull part of the body.
Eventually, stagnation in the torso sets in. We often see the elderly walking with a shuffle—the walking movement no longer extends into the torso. With all the major organs and complex circulatory system residing in the torso, it’s easy to understand the adverse effect of inaction and stagnation of the torso on the health of the body. One may assert that the onset of internal rigor mortis actually precedes death!
If you want to maintain youthfulness of internal body systems, you must learn to initiate movements from the internal core of the body, to cultivate your body’s internal energy. Once we’re able to regain our connection with the torso, our body starts to work more effectively and efficiently, resulting in better health.
Classical Tai Chi may be considered as a means to return to childhood. The Internal Discipline of the Form movements first tunes the nervous system in the body so that the complex and powerful internal movements will become natural and spontaneous. In China, a healthy and well-tuned nervous system is considered to be paramount to a healthy body. That is the importance of Qi (see more about Qi here). Physically, the internal movements penetrate to the deep recesses of the torso, stimulating and invigorating the organs and the circulation systems in the torso. Enhancement of the function of the intestine and kidney are immediate when tai chi is played with Internal Discipline. Other benefits are more long term.
Our Western way of exercising can be difficult on the body especially long-term and as we get older. Here is how Tai Chi helps:
Modern exercise routines, including martial arts, are long on external movements and short on internal movements, in other words, exercising the parts of the body which are already over-used for an active person while neglecting the portion of the body which needs exercise. Worse yet, these routines often subject the shoulder, knee, the back and other joints with ill-conceived repetitive, unnatural movements. No wonder many active people eventually develop joint problems. Classical Tai Chi, through the experience of multi-generations of practitioners who practice from a young age until the end of life, fully grasp the importance of proper postures and movements to protect and strengthening the practitioner’s joints for long term, repetitive practice.
Such considerations are pointed out throughout our DVD set, particularly in the segments titled “Insight into Body Mechanics” Vol. I Tai Chi Overview, “Tai Chi Walk” Vol. II, “Stance of the Feet” and “Step Size” Vol. II. These considerations are only understood recently with current understanding of body mechanics and often used by modern physical therapists. Yet, it was put into rigorous practice in Classical Tai Chi centuries ago. As a result, beginning practitioners often cite reduced or eliminated back pain and weakness as the first benefits of practicing Classical Tai Chi.
Synerchi Publishing offers several examples on their website of internal movements that originate from the torso and how such movements affect our health:
In the movement of pushing the arm forward, the elbow points downward and stays in front of the body. In this way, the arm is solidly braced so it can deliver the powerful internal energy to opponent without buckling during martial art application. The position of the elbow also protects the mid portion of the body. From a health viewpoint, this movement fully stretches and relaxes the upper back, tuning and strengthening it. Those who have pain in their upper back often find that playing the Tai Chi form alleviates their problem. Throughout the Tai Chi form movements, the synergy between martial art and health is spontaneous and natural without coercion.
Every aspect of Tai Chi has to satisfy two requirements simultaneously; 1) it has to be useful for martial art applications. 2) useful for health benefits. Classical Tai Chi accomplishes these goals superbly. For example, playing the Tai Chi with Internal Discipline fully utilizes the powerful core of the body, the abdomen and the back, in its motion. It is also a uniquely effective means of invigorating the internal organs, circulatory systems and nervous systems.
If you are ready to learn more about Tai Chi and its benefits, please visit Synerchi Publishing’s informative website at http://www.classicaltaichi.com/index.html. You can also review the contents of their DVD offering here: http://www.classicaltaichi.com/taichi-video-contents.html.
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