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The Okinawa Program was a 25 year study into longevity and healthy living. It led to other studies such as The Blue Zones, 50 Secrets of the World's Longest Living People and How Not To Die.
The three doctors who wrote The Okinawa Program maintain that tai chi - with its ancient origins and incredible health benefits - is the ideal form of exercise for modern people of all ages.
Faced with a major health crisis, the People's Republic of China turned to Yang style taijiquan for a solution. Just think about what that means...
Yang style taijiquan's reputation for health was so well founded that the government of China thought to employ the art officially as a means of improving wellbeing.
Tai chi proved to be a very effective form of preventative healthcare and the art was introduced to schools nationwide.
According to the book The Blue Zones it is important to think of exercise in terms of what you can reasonably do long-term.
The ideal form of exercise is moderate enough that you can do it for the rest of your life. It needs to be joint-friendly, provide a gentle workout and be sustainable.
This sounds rather like tai chi, doesn't it?
If we didn't tense our muscles,
we're in good balance, not interfering with our breathing, and if we're
free, tall and expansive in stature, and used a minimum of effort, then we
could say we had done the job really well.
Tai chi is the one exercise that can universally help solve our growing health crisis. It has stood the test of thousands of years. We have a generation of baby boomers with increasing health problems; old people who are sick, in pain, fearful, and cranky; a middle class that is increasingly incapable of affording most of the drugs that are prescribed for their ailments; children that are flaccid, diabetic and asthmatic. People of all ages are addicted to drugs, alcohol, sugar, cigarettes, and caffeine. Stress follows almost everyone like a shadow.
Tai chi is often described as "meditation in motion," but it might well be called "medication in motion." There is growing evidence that this mind-body practice, which originated in China as a martial art, has value in treating or preventing many health problems. And you can get started even if you aren't in top shape or the best of health.
Tai chi differs from other types of exercise in several respects. The movements are usually circular and never forced, the muscles are relaxed rather than tensed, the joints are not fully extended or bent, and connective tissues are not stretched. Tai chi addresses the key components of fitness — muscle strength, flexibility, balance, and, to a lesser degree, aerobic conditioning.
(Harvard Medical School’s Harvard Health Publication, May 2009)
When you do taijiquan, you shouldn't sweat.
Sweating is a sign that energy is being dissipated.
It comes from tension and it's as if you are depleting your bank account.
Doing taijiquan, you want to accumulate energy, not spend it.
So, if you sweat, you should stop and rest.
(Cheng Man Ching)
Our energy is more precious than all the gold in the world. It is a more powerful anti-aging tool than anything else.
Energy regenerates our liver and other tissue cells, flushes toxic waste from the body, helps maintain our ideal weight, keeps our skin smooth and our hair healthy.
The more energy we have, the better we feel and the more beautiful we become.
Consider this: Most people live lives that are not particularly physically challenging. They sit at a desk, or if they move around, it's not a lot. They aren't performing manoeuvres that require tremendous balance and coordination. Thus they settle into a low level of physical capabilities - enough for day-to-day activities or maybe even hiking or biking or playing golf or tennis on the weekends, but far from the level of physical capabilities that a highly trained athlete possesses.
The reason that most people don't possess extraordinary physical capabilities isn't because they don't have the capacity for them, but rather because they're satisfied to live in the comfortable rut of homeostasis and never do the work that is required to get out of it.
The same thing is true for all the mental activities we engage in. We learn enough to get by but once we reach that point we seldom push to go beyond.
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21 May 1997
Last updated 19 September 2019