The German version of the article “Benefits of Tai Chi Chuan” you’ll find on taiji-forum.de.
MEDICAL BENEFITS OF TAI CHI CHUAN
In the Song Dynasty (960 – 1279Ad) the Chinese had three philosophies or ways that tried to lead people to living a good and productive life and hopefully enlightenment. They were Taoism, Confucianism and Buddhism. These three are thousands of years old and derive from a time when mankind lived with and in harmony with and not against Nature or the environment, before the introduction of science, technology and industrialization. Although many Chinese inventions laid the groundwork for Western industrialization and technology such as gunpowder, the compass, printing and silk weaving to name a few. In those days men lived according to the ebb and flow of the seasons.
TAOISM, CONFUCIANISM AND BUDDHISM
Taoism was a science and study of Nature and in modern terms we could call it shamanism. Confucianism was a way for society to be cohesive and in harmony. Buddhism was a way to understand who we are and why we are here. These three ways or paths were the backbone of Chinese culture and society and were similar in their philosophy and practice. Through this understanding the ancients evolved ways of medical practice that were in harmony and restored equilibrium with the movement and character of the Universe. They each had their paths and practices to achieve enlightenment and true understanding of the world we inhabit. They used that understanding to develop a set of Universal Principles and postures to enact them and this was used to create and formulate Tai Chi Chuan.
WHAT IS CHI?
Tai Chi Chuan means the Great Infinite Path. Chi is a hypothesis used to describe an unsubstantial action or process which gives rise to creation and everyday functions. Every process, function and appearance needs a chi comparison. Consciousness is both Toticious and Totipotent. It knows everything and can do everything and is everywhere. So one can say a convenient way of describing something that cannot be described. A common mistake is to call Chi energy. Chi gives information for energy processes of all kinds. Energy is only found in Three Dimensions and space/time or substance and Chi lies behind that. We can say Chi is an interface with Consciousness as espoused in Zen or Chan Buddhism.
WHY TAI CHI CHUAN
This method is a health regime, a martial art and a way to enlightenment. The practitioner follows the changes of “Ti” or the Universe and is the Micro version of the Macro. Ti, in Mandarin, means Earth or our reality, three dimension plus time/space. Its fundamental principles of the Universe could be applied to all aspects of life. Eastern cultures looked to “see” what is behind this world, what causes and supports it. This led them to formulate Tai Chi to maintain this link and strengthen it. Correct practice of Tai Chi Chuan creates equilibrium and harmony with the world around and inside us as we are also the universe, like in the Russian doll with many smaller versions of itself inside it. We must all keep In One.
FOLLOW THE CHANGES
The practitioner learns to follow the changes in the Environment Nature and evolution and thereby facilitates harmony with their surroundings. Tai Chi Form is a number of postures linked together to create a continuous series of movements of certain length. The Form is a vehicle for the Principles. Like building a boat to cross a river – once on the other side you no longer need the boat.
In ancient times the technology and terminology was different and therefore writings translated to modern times may seem a bit odd or be difficult to comprehend. However we can put those comments and treatises into modern terminology by using Quantum physics and a scientific approach.
One of the Tai Chi Principles is concentration, relaxation and without energy. In Chinese this is called Song. Relaxation in this sense is more about releasing and letting go. Concentration in the body and moving to the center core. We do not use muscle power as in other martial systems. We become empty but full of the Earth’s energy. So we become one with the Earth. Energy is the result of a chemical action between atoms. Tai Chi keeps these energy action harmonious. Quantum Mechanics provides us with a number of scientific theories which help to explain certain of the principles of Tai Chi, as in stationary action or stillness in movement. These are just a few examples for people who may be interested in the science behind Tai Chi Chuan.
CHINESE MEDICINE AND ACUPUNCTURE
Tai Chi Chuan can strengthen the body and heal diseases for the above mentioned reasons. It is not simple exercise but includes many other factors. If one wishes to become a good doctor of Chinese Medicine and acupuncture, to understand the philosophy and methodology behind it, then one needs to be proficient at Tai Chi Chuan.
However there must be no generation gap between teachers or all will be lost so you need to find the right teacher with a direct lineage who can teach according to the right principles.
It is very different to sports such as ball games, athletics, and other cardio activities as most types of physical activity tend to strengthen or exercise only a part of the body. With Tai Chi Chuan the whole body is utilized.
CREATING EQUILIBRIUM IN BODY FUNCTION
When doing heavy exercise harmony of action and breathing are not coordinated. The body is put under a lot of stress, causing the heart to beat faster in an irregular manner and blood to become concentrated in the limbs where more oxygen is needed
Correct energy creation in the cells is important. Too little can cause anemia and poor organ function. Too much energy can lead to super cells out of harmony with their neighbors and cause cancer. Equilibrium must be maintained for good health.
Tai Chi Chuan keeps the mind, body and spirit In One. Contrary to other forms of physical activity it emphasizes softness and relaxation. Also the whole body moves as one unit, no one part is overemphasized. The muscles and internal organs work synergistically. The postures and turning movements stimulate the marrow and increase stem cell production thus affecting the metabolism in a positive way. After practicing for a while the bones and muscles gain elasticity. The body follows the Mind of keeping in one.
STRESS, AGEING AND COMMON HEALTH PROBLEMS
If the mind is calm then the body will be quick and sensitive and the body follows the mind of keeping in one. If it is relaxed soft and smooth in action then the whole body, joints, cartilage, muscles and internal organs will be working together as one unit.
The above are reasons why after one practices Tai Chi for a long period of time, flexibility of bones, joints and blood vessels are increased or restored so that bones will not get brittle.
It is the most beneficial “sport” with regard to medical benefits, preventing and curing diseases such as arterial sclerosis, hypertension, arthritis and rheumatism. Tai Chi has improved condition such as high cholesterol, anemia and insomnia. This is possible because the body is designed in such a way that it can heal itself if the conditions are right.
When we learn Tai Chi according to the correct principles the central nervous system relaxes so that the body can automatically organize the circulation in turn helping the whole body to become healthy. If you cannot relax then you cannot function properly. If we control the central nervous system then we can control disease. If our movements and breathing are smooth, the heart, circulation and immune system can adjust and function efficiently. If the circulation and lymph systems function well then hay-fever and sinusitis can be eliminated.
Stress and tension in everyday life cause a hormone imbalance causing fatigue.
When one practices Tai Chi one must be calm and concentrated in mind, and be fluid and continuous in action. It is a very good way to exercise the neurons in the brain and central nervous system and has great beneficial effect in curing neurasthenia.
According to pathology all diseases start with changes in the nervous system. Tai Chi can strengthen the central nervous system and it can prevent many diseases.
POSTURES AND PROTEIN FOLDING
Tai Chi regulates the metabolism and optimizes it from a cellular level. It also maximizes and harmonizes organ function. It helps to prevent susceptibility to illness and speeds recovery when one is ill.
The postures of Tai Chi mimic the folding of proteins. Proteins are required for all body functions and forms. They cannot however be utilized by the cells unless they are folded in the necessary required way. The posture and movements of the Form facilitate correct folding in a Macro Micro way. Incorrect folding means the protein cannot be utilized and they tend to from clumps. It is now believed that protein clumping on the brain interferes with neural pathways and cause Alzheimer’s disease. It is also linked to dementia and diabetes and other health issues.
The slow twisting and turning movements keep the body supple and pliable and is good for the spine. The leg muscles directly influence the heart, either strongly or weakly, according to the blood’s fluid dynamic. Using correct stances and stepping regulates the body’s metabolism and improves circulation. Pressure on the leg muscles cause a release of enzymes into the bloodstream which regulates body function correctly.
As pressure in the muscles increases, the central nervous system responds by increasing the blood flow. The heart pumps according to whether the leg muscles are relaxed or tense. If the leg muscles are weak then the heart is also weak. If we do not exercise to keep the leg muscles elastic then the heart muscles also lose their elasticity. On the other hand if we exercise to the extreme, the leg muscles become tight and the heart and main arteries become enlarged.
The fluid dynamic of the blood is related to the flexing and releasing in the leg movements. This is not physical movement of its own accord but works via nerve messages. Physical work is a material function, but behind this is the central nerve function and the nerve directs the function.
CORRECT BREATHING AND CIRCULATION
In Tai Chi practice the breathing is smooth and connects to every action. A larger amount of air can be inhaled when the breathing is gentle and smooth. Forced hard breathing does not achieve this.
A person’s posture directly affects the amount of air allowed into the lungs. To facilitate deep breathing, so the lungs can expand and contract to their fullest, we need to maintain a soft, slightly rounded chest.
Circulation of the blood and lymphatic glands are improved and the blood circulation increases the nutritive supply to the heart muscle. Tai Chi is therefore an ideal exercise for a person suffering from heart disease.
In the hustle and bustle of modern society people are always in a state of tension which causes the greatest amount of harm to the body. Tension causes insomnia which can cause premature death. Only when one learns to relax one can have a long life.
If you wish to work hard without feeling tired, then your muscular actions must be well coordinated with your circulatory system. A tense person may poison their body with an abnormal amount of hormones, the after effects being more dangerous than alcohol. Although you love your work you may exhaust yourself and sow the seeds of ill health.
BALANCE AND HORMONE PRODUCTION
Regular practice of Tai Chi slows the ageing process and improves balance and co-ordination. Older people tend to develop balance problems and become susceptible to falls which fracture bones. Tai chi improves balance and leg strength and also helps to maintain bone density. The kidney function is maximized for hormone and bone production. This retards osteoporosis. As we can see from the above the practice of Ti Chi slows down entropy or loss of function according to information received for vitality.
A person at any age can practice Tai Chi Chuan as it is not physically demanding however with perseverance it gradually strengthens the body and one becomes fitter and more adept.
Note – Not all Tai Chi systems are authentic and based on the Principles of the Tai Chi Treatise and Commentary or Yang Cheng Fu and Cheng Man Ching’s Tai Chi Rules.
If these are not understood, followed and applied rigorously then you are just doing exercise.
Author: Michael Mcloughlin
Images: Taiji-Forum and Ken van Sickle