Tai Chi is an ancient Chinese system of slowly flowing movements and shifts of balance that strengthens the legs while conditioning the tendons and ligaments of the ankles, knees, and hips, increasing their range of motion and making them more resilient, less prone to injury.
The constant weight shifts train balance and body awareness, leading to confident ease of movement within the form and in everyday life.
Tai Chi is a physical exercise that focuses the mind, while conditioning the body.
Practicing twenty minutes a day dissipates stress and reduces stress-related debilities, increases stamina, and strengthens the body and will.
Western Science recognizes the following benefits of practicing Tai Chi:
increased oxygen uptake and utilization (more efficient breathing), reduced blood pressure, slower declines in cardiovascular power, increased bone density, increased strength and range of motion of joints, greater leg strength, knee strength, and flexibility, reduced levels of stress hormones during and after practice, improved immune function, and heightened mood states.
Tai Chi cultivates health benefits beyond those studied by western medicine.
Tai Chi conditions the sleaves between muscles and nerves, the films that separate and support the organs, the facia.
The acupuncture meridians of Chinese Medicine run through the facia.
By conditioning these boundary layers between tissues, Tai Chi reduces chemical cross-linking, cellular rust.
Move it or lose it, the Taoists say.
The turning of the trunk flexes the spine, producing some of the same benefits as twists in Yoga (improved spinal flexibility, release of tension on the perispinal muscles, alleviating imbalances that can lead to back pain while improving blood flow to the discs).
And like Yoga, Tai Chi conditions the psoas, that deep muscle of balance that underlies the lower abdominal organs and mediates the relationship of the spine to the pelvis and legs.
Proper Tai Chi practice places certain demands on the body:
The sinking of the weight, over time, tells the legs to add muscle and bone mass, while the turning of the body, in conjunction with deep abdominal breathing, "wrings out" the organs, flushing blood out as they're compressed and allowing it to flow back in when the movement compresses another part of the torso.
This flexing and unflexing reduces pockets of stagnation in the various organ systems.
Physical strength peaks in the mid-twenties, declines modestly to age 50, and steeply thereafter.
Studies show a loss of one-third
In advanced age, few people are able to stand on one leg for more than a few seconds.
Premature decline need not be the case.
Tai Chi exercises all the joints and major muscle groups in a slow, rhythmic, mindful way, priming the body for whatever demands the day may make.
Leg strength increases with practice, which pays off every step you take, every time you stand in line, every time you climb a flight of stairs.
Your joints stay loose and flexible, so everyday chores around the house and garden don't take as much out of you.
When you practice Tai Chi in the morning, it's just easier to move for the rest of the day, and concentrate on what you have to do.
You waste less energy and attention on body static, so you have the stamina to ride out crazy days and long hours at work and still have something left for your family, your mate, your art.
Tai Chi is for anyone who wants to move with greater strength, grace, and ease as they get older.
Studies have shown that even people in their 70's and 80's can learn a simplified series of Tai Chi forms, and benefit tremendously:
Study subjects show a marked decrease in injurious falls, reductions in blood pressure, and improved measures of balance and confidence.
If Tai Chi can do this for geriatric beginners, think of what it can do for someone who starts a few decades sooner, and stays with it.
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