At some point, each of us arrives at the realization that we are ageing. The conventional view of ageing has been that these changes are a downhill slide that includes loss of reproductive functions, a decline in cardiac capacity and a loss of muscle and bone strength. New research however, is challenging every belief that we have held about ageing. Many researchers believe that most of what we attribute to ageing results from disuse or misuse of the body and mind.
It is possible to slow down the symptoms of ageing and reach longevity through appropriate exercise and diet, and by changing the way we deal with emotional stress.
In ancient China, Taoists regarded 100 years to be the normal natural lifespan for humans and 150 years to be a Long Life. Longevity has always been the first and foremost wish of Chinese people in this life. Their history records numerous examples of individuals who achieved it, such as the Yellow Emperor, who lived to the age of 111 and Lao Tze, who lived to 200 years. The Taoist physician, Hua To, also lived a long, healthy and youthful life until a very late age. He attributed his health and longevity primarily to the practice of Dao Yin and deep breathing exercises.
One of the greatest Taoist physicians, Sun Ssu-Mo, claimed that the secret to living a full and healthy lift is a balanced program of nutrition and regular exercises for the mind and body based on Qi Gong breathing and Tai Chi practices. A Chinese herbalist and Taoist, Lee Ching-Yen, who died in 1933, maintained his youthful vigour and perfect health throughout a long and active life. It was said he was 256 years old when he died. The people who knew him claimed that he looked about 50 when he was over 200. Lee Ching-Yuen left us with his longevity secrets - 3 rules which he followed daily:
- Never hurry through life. Always keep a quiet heart (Mind)
- Avoid extreme outbursts of emotions - it drains energy from the body and disrupts the function of our organs
- Practice daily breathing (Qi Gong) and exercises (Tai Chi)
Yang Sen, a disciple of Lee Ching-Yuen also lived a long, healthy and active life by daily practice of breathing techniques and Tai Chi.
The ageing process can be interpreted according to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) theory. In Chinese Medicine, Kidneys store the Essence. This Essence is the substance that underlies all organic life. It supports and nurtures our body and is the basis of reproduction and development. Our Kidney Essence declines with age, therefore Chinese Medicine sees the process of ageing as the result of the decrease of Kidney Essence throughout life. Essence has two major sources:
- Pre-Heaven Essence
- Post-Heaven Essence
Pre-Heaven Essence is inherited from our parents during conception. This Essence determines our particular growth patterns, strength and vitality. According to Chinese Medicine, the quantity and quality of this Essence is fixed at birth. This means that once we use up some of this Essence, it is difficult to replace. However, we can positively influence the supply of our Essence by aiming for more balance in our life activities ie. Work, rest and diet. The most direct way, however, to preserve our Essence is through Tai Chi and Qi Gong practices.
Post-Heaven Essence is derived from food and fluids, after birth. Food Qi (also called Gu Qi) is the starting basis for the production of all Qi and blood in our body. This is why it is very important to eat the correct foods at the appropriate time and in the right quantity. The Golden Mirror of Medical Collection says The Pre-Heaven Essence originates from the parents, the Post-Heaven Essence originates from food. This Post-Heaven Essence nourishes and helps to add energy to the Pre-Heaven Essence.
Therefore we cannot overlook the importance of a proper diet (according to the principles of Chinese Medicine) and daily Tai Chi and Qi Gong practices for one's health and vitality.
Kidney Qi (Essence) naturally starts to decline. However we can actually slow down this process and preserve our Qi and Essence until a very ripe old age. We are already familiar with the concept that Qi is life, and abundant Qi is abundant life. Thus cultivating and maintaining a high level of Qi strengthens one's connection with oneself and the Universe. The most efficient and effortless ways of doing this is through the practice of Tai Chi and Qi Gong. These practices open and unblock energy in the meridians and actually gives us more energy than it uses up, thus preserving our Kidney Essence to help slow down the ageing process. Ageing gracefully is a direct result of committed daily practice of this unique art.
So enjoy your Tai Chi practice and longevity to you all!!