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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.
The Art was introduced to schools nationwide.
Ideal form of exercise
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?
Wear & tear
Suppose you buy a car in 2010 and use it very rarely. In 2016 you decide to sell the car and take it to a dealership. The mileage is unusually low for a car of its age.
Yet the car is still 6 years old chronologically. In terms of wear and tear the car is 6 months old.
Dr Michael Greger (author of How Not To Die) recommends 90 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise every day.
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.
If this sounds like a lot of exercise, why not chop it up into smaller increments spaced throughout the day? How many people watch 90 minutes of TV every day?
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 about using your body carefully. That way, as you get older, your wear and tear is unusually low for a person of your age.
The training is intended to improve health and wellbeing through frequent, regular practice using low effort.
For many people, their fitness regime does not take into account 'motor learning'. Motor learning is about the process of using the body, rather than simply exercising the body.
Agility, mobility, relaxed spontaneous movement, balance, structure, alignment, biomechanics, efficiency, ambidextrous body use, joint health, coordination,skill, emotional wellbeing or psychological flexibility.
Tai chi combines exercise with motor learning.
Invest in your wellbeing
Avoid/offset the common problems associated with 21st Century life:
Lack of mindfulness
Reduced sex drive
No peace of mind
Diminished brain activity
Sarcopenia (muscle loss with aging)
Reduced joint function
Poor lower body strength
Imbalanced body use
Reduced stamina and endurance
Deeply-held muscular tension
Bad poise and posture
Too much sitting
Loss of manual dexterity in the fingers
Lack of ambidexterity
Imagine waking up each morning
full of energy and vitality yet also feeling calm and relaxed about the day
to come. It sounds like a miracle yet this state of abundant health and
wellbeing should be our birthright. In our natural state we would face each
day with joy, peace, and a deep connection with our bodies.
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 Schools 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.
Not all tai chi is
Choose wisely... Not all tai chi classes are the same. There are different qualities and grades of tai chi; some approaches/classes are far more potent than others.
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21 May 1997
Last updated 10 February 2019