Tai Chi Chuan

 

TAI CHI CHUAN

What is Tai Chi? 

taichi_button

Tai Chi or Tai Chi Chuan is a gentle exercise program consisting of a series of 20 to 100 movements belonging to the discipline of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Tai chi was created by the marital artist Zhang Sanfeng in the late 16th century. Derived from martial arts, Tai Chi is composed of slow, deliberate movements, meditation, and deep breathing, which are designed to enhance physical health and emotional well-being. Tai chi is based on spiritual and philosophical ideas that advocate a need for balance in the body, mind, and spirit. By imitating movements found in nature, Tai Chi harmonizes the body and unites humanity with the natural world.

 

Health Aspects

Tai Chi Chuan is an ancient Chinese form of martial arts used as a form of exercise. In a recent 25-week study sponsored by grants from the National Institute of Aging and the National Centre for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, researchers found that Tai Chi effectively strengthens the immune system. This was demonstrated by blood tests showing that adults between the ages of 59-86 who practiced Tai Chi had increased immunity to shingles, a condition caused by a resurgence of the chicken pox (varicella zoster) virus compared to their peers who did not exercise but attended health education classes during the same timeframe.

[Practicing Tai Chi Boosts Immune System in Older Adults, Science Daily, March 24, 2007].

A weakened immune system functions erratically, targeting the body’s own proteins. This is an underlying cause of autoimmune disease. Immunity tends to decline with age, which is one reason for the increased risk of autoimmune diseases in the elderly. In addition, the incidence of shingles, influenza, and other infections rises as we age. And vaccines aren’t as effective in the aged population. Results of the Tai Chi study showed that immunity to shingles in the adults that exercised was similar to that of older adults receiving vaccines for shingles. This level was also similar to the normal immunity levels seen in healthy middle-aged adults.

On its simplest level, the Hand Form (using the hands only while standing or sitting still) is an excellent exercise system. However it is not what we, in western culture, usually regard as exercise. How can these slow movements be exercise? In order to understand why, it is good to have knowledge of the concept of Qi (Chi) energy.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), which is believed to be over 2,000 years old, also has, at its roots, the principles of Yin and Yang. It is believed that there are meridians or pathways which travel through the body carrying Qi energy. If there is a problem, or imbalance in the flow of Qi energy, a TCM doctor would use acupuncture needles, or perhaps acupressure - the use of thumbs or hands, to stimulate acupoints, and release the blockages.
Tai Chi Chuan promotes the smooth flow of this energy. By performing the postures of the Form (the exercise), in co-ordination with relaxed, natural breathing and the application of Yi (which is the intent or focus of the mind), we help to keep the Qi (Chi) moving smoothly through the channels. Therefore, whilst doing these external movements, we are assisting the free flow of internal energy.
Aside from promoting the flow of Qi (Chi) energy Tai Chi Chuan can also help to increase flexibility; suppleness; and exercise the muscles. The smooth, gentle movements also aid relaxation and help to keep the mind calm and focused.

 

These benefits are extremely useful in today's stressful society.

 

 

 

 

 

Practitioners say it can have a positive effect on people's health, improving memory, concentration, digestion, balance and flexibility. They say it is also helpful for people with psychological problems, such as depression, anxiety or stress.

The latest study by doctors at Tufts-New England Medical Centre in Boston suggests there is medical evidence to back up those claims. Their findings are based on a review of studies published in English and Chinese. "Overall, these studies reported that long-term Tai Chi practice had favourable effects on the promotion of balance control, flexibility and cardiovascular fitness and reduced the risk of falls in elders," They said the martial art helped to reduce "pain, stress and anxiety in healthy subjects" but it also had benefits for people with serious conditions, such as heart disease and high blood pressure. "Benefits were reported by the authors of these studies in cardiovascular and respiratory function in healthy subjects and in patients who had undergone coronary artery bypass surgery as well as in patients with heart failure, hypertension, acute myocardial infarction, arthritis and multiple sclerosis."

 

Bob Weatherall, secretary of the British Council of Chinese Martial Arts, welcomed the findings. "The health aspects of Tai Chi are well documented," he told BBC News Online. "It is used extensively in hospitals in China to improve the health of patients.

Hospitals in England have started using it too.

 

Tai Chi Chuan is of great benefit in helping to deal with the stress of 21st Century life,

 

French (Fr)English (United Kingdom)