Health Benefits of Tai Chi

Health Benefits of Tai Chi

By Ilija Bircanin

The Eastern and Western view of health is similar in as much that health can be defined universally. But how we pursue health is very different in the two cultures. Hopefully the following will help define aspects of western understanding with the long established eastern practices of Tai Chi.

The wisdom of old has often been verified by science many years later. Too often the subtle links between an event and relationship to a specific act cannot be readily connected, such has been the western perceptions of Tai Chi.

Huang Ti in 2700BC (Yellow Emperor) practiced Tao Yin to achieve health. He used movement and breathing to improve blood flow, vitalize his blood circulation and nourish the body cells and bring about repair. This simple idea was well founded by today's understanding of health. We take for granted our understanding of how the body draws air and circulates nutrition to every cell in the body, we appreciate that muscles and bones cooperate via the nervous system and the senses activate body responses to sustain life and maintain health.

Tai Chi provides many benefits when practiced regularly over a lifetime:

Muscles become fit

This term is called muscle efficiency and it enables the better use of muscles and a greater effectiveness in the chemistry of energy transfer within the muscle itself. This is separate from our general view of being fit as in cardio/pulmonary fitness.

Muscles act in groups

Because Tai Chi uses total body movement rather than isolated muscle exercises, this results in a better transfer of training into everyday life. The synergy of Tai Chi results in better balance and total body coordination. Muscles act together and rely on each other to give greater stability, endurance and functional benefit as we undertake daily tasks, this sustains people well into old age.

Building a strong skeleton

Few realize the human skeleton rebuilds itself every two years, the resulting process requires the stresses of physical activity to ensure strong bone formation. It is not enough to say I used to swim or run or was a good sportsman or woman, the reality is that as soon as you stop being active, the body declines. If you don't use it you lose it.

Disuse leads to a decline

Humans quickly adapt to the demands that are put on us. The nervous system remembers only what it did last; over a short period - 4 to 12 weeks the brain and the senses begin to forget the lessons of recent times.

The idea that What you do most in your life is what you will become good at… is true as we know that brain cells become less able to transmit messages to each other if they are left for long periods of disuse. By contrast when brain cells are constantly activated they become super efficient and take less effort to be triggered off. Tai Chi draws high demands on mental concentration, memory for movement and total body coordination thereby sustaining the individual for as long as they maintain practice.

The Immune System of the body

This is boosted when exercise is undertaken, this is dependant on avoiding excessive physical exertion.

Running a marathon race is not healthy. Too often more does not mean better, any excesses may be detrimental to health. Tai Chi is a gentle progressive and refreshing activity. Research has shown that light exercise boosts the body immune system by flushing the reticulo-endothelia system and raising the white immune cell count in the circulation.

In all things too much or too little of anything is to be avoided. Try and find a balance - this appears to be the secret to health.

Excess exercise (eg running a super marathon):

  • Suppresses the body immune system
  • Damages joints and bones
  • Damages kidney tissue
  • Alters sleep patterns
  • Upsets body chemistry and body fluid level
  • Produces fatigue and collapse

Gentle exercise (as found in Tai Chi):

  • Produces a refreshed, greater mental focus
  • Creates better sleep patterns
  • Boosts the body immune system
  • Protects joints and bones
  • Creates good body posture and skeletal integration
  • Promotes muscle fitness
  • Stimulates body endorphins production