Health benefits of Tai Chi
When it comes to the art of Taiji Quan there are many things going on underneath the surface and undistinguishable from the untrained eye. Even for the trained eye there always seems to be somethimg revealed after more investigation and practice.
Behind the scenes
-There is specific body alignment or internal structure that ties to principles also found in TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) that is maintained during meditation, the Taiji form and ideally beyond.
-There are breathing practices that enhance relaxation and liveliness. This coordinates with movement.
-Movements are rounded, soft, and fluid encouraging the circulation of Qi (internal energy) throughout the body.
-When one part moves all parts move.
-The mind is quite creating stillness in motion which is consistent to Yin and Yang (great polarities of all existence).
-Yin and Yang are inherint in all aspects of the practice.
Each of these points combine to manifest the therapeutic effects that practioners have been enjoying for hundreds of years.
Here's some compelling evidence of the therapeutic effects of Tai Chi-
Arthritis-A Study from Tufts University found an hour twice a week for 12 weeks reduced pain and improved mood and physical functioning more than standard stretching exercises in people with severe knee osteoarthritis. In a study published in Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 8 weeks of classes followed by home practice for the same time greatly improved flexibility and slowed progression of the disease in patients with ankylosing spondylitis, a debilitating form of arthritis that affects the spine.
Low bone density-Six controlled studies reviewed by Harvard researchers indicated that it may be an effective way for postmenopausal women to maintain bone density.
Heart disease-National Taiwanese University found that a year of tai chi lowered blood pressure, boosted exercise capacity, and improved levels of cholesterol, insulin, triglycerides, and C-reactive protein in people with high risk for heart disease.
Heart failure-A Harvard Medical School study showed it improved participants' ability to walk and reduced blood levels of B-type natriuretic protein which indicates heart failure.
Breast Cancer-A study by the University of Rochester showed quality of life and aerobic capacity, muscular strength, and flexibility improved in women with breast cancer after 12 weeks of tai chi and declined in a control group receiving only standard supportive therapy.
Hypertension-In a review of 26 Chinese and English studies, Dr. Yeh of Harvard Medical School found it lowered blood pressure in 85% of trials. Improvements ranged from 2 to 18 mm Hg in diastolic pressure and from 3 to 32 mm Hg in systolic pressure.
Parkinson's disease-University School of Medicine in St. Louis found that after 20 sessions, people with mild to moderately severe Parkinson's disease showed improved balance, walking ability, and over all well being.
Sleep problems-In a study of 112 healthy older adults with moderate sleep complaints, quality and duration of sleep significantly improved more than standard sleep education after 16 weeks of tai chi. University of California, Los Angeles.
Stroke-After 12 weeks of tai chi for 136 patients who'd had a stroke at least 6 months earlier there was improved standing balance more than a general exercise program of stretching and mobilizing muscles and joints used for sitting and walking.
Taiji Quan addresses the key components of fitness- muscle strength, balance, flexibility, and cardiovascular conditioning-
Muscle strength-Researchers from Stanford University reported benefits in 39 women and men, average age 66, with fitness levels below average and at least one cardiovascular risk factor. After 36 classes over 12 weeks they showed improvement in lower and upper body strength (measured by the number of times they could rise from a chair in 30 seconds and ability to do arm curls). In a Japanese study, 113 older adults were assigned to different 12 week programs such as tai chi, brisk walking, and resistance training. People in tai chi group improved more than 25% in arm strength and 30% in lower body strength. This was almost as much as those in the resistance training group and more than those in the brisk walking group. "Tai chi strengthens both the upper and lower extremities and also the core muscles of the back and abdomen," says internist Dr. Gloria Yeh from Harvard Medical School.
Flexibility-Women in a Stanfford University study significantly improved upper and lower body flexibility as well as strength.
Balance-This practice improves balance and therefore reduces risk of falling. The ability to sense the position of one's body in space or proprioception declines with age. Tai chi helps train this sense. Fear of falling can make one more likely to fall and some studies have shown that training in this art helps reduce that fear.
Aerobic Conditioning-Depending on size and speed of the movements it can provide some aerobic benefits as well.
All these studies point to some impressive results but the only way to this experience them first hand is to start learning Wudang style
Tai Chi in Charleston.