Beginning tai chi when younger may help avoid problems of aging

Doing taijiquan and its complement, qigong, can add great benefits to the lifestyles of younger practitioners, as well as reducing the effects of growing older. Why younger people don’t get into tai chi is asked often and many reasons have been discussed. One is that “tai chi is for old people,” as discussed in this video clip.

For me, there are many more reasons for younger people to do tai chi than not to do it. For one, I’m convinced that as preventative practices, tai chi and qigong both can help reduce healthcare costs related to aging (which comes sooner these days than we think!). We just don’t expect problems while we’re young and our bodies are still new and healthy. Instead of waiting until we’re sick or breaking down we could do something about it.

But often, you could have greater effectiveness by accepting that you’re going to have those problems sooner or later.

Tai chi and qigong are also complementary activities to many exercises you choose to do for staying shape, which often is a lifestyle choice. We look good when we feel good. These can be enhanced by practicing even just a few principles of tai chi. You don’t even have to do it as a martial art, either.

As a tai chi and qigong teacher, I find more and people in their twenties, even teens, interested in trying tai chi. As a multi-level exercise for mind, energy, and body practice, no other exercise does all that tai chi can. It helps to heal injuries, maintain healthy systems functions, such as nervous and lymph systems and blood circulation. It helps to detoxify and cleanse.

It trains memorization skills, too; like a crossword puzzle for the whole body, not just the brain. Whether you’re in school, on a job, or whatever, that’s a good thing.

Even if you’re in the grips of aging, you might find that a steady, long-term tai chi practice will have positive effects on the flexibility of your brain function.

Neuroscientists talk about “neuroplasticity” to refer to the brain’s ability to disrupt our tendency towards inertia and be more easily changeable. As Catherine Kerr, a Harvard Medical School instructor, says, “For anyone who practices tai chi regularly brain plasticity arising from repeated training may be relevant, since we know that brain connections are ‘sculpted’ by daily experience and practice.” Kerr is investigating brain dynamics related to tai chi and mindfulness meditation at Harvard Medical School.

In addition to tapping into the brain’s capacity, it’s a bio-mechanical stretching method that can maintain and improve elasticity of bones, joints, ligaments, tendons and muscles so we may live longer and better.

All of these reasons to start tai chi sooner than later apply to every stage of life, but if you start sooner, you might just be happy you did. Starting tai chi is only a matter of joining a class and making a habit of practicing regularly over time. This is a relatively simple key to success.

If you’re in your twenties and already practicing, feel free to comment about your experience. Maybe we can spread a little enthusiasm for beginning younger in life to others who may be pondering the possibility of giving it a try.

 

 

 

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Just what I thought, everything is energy

One of the things you’re going to hear and hopefully see for yourself by practicing taiji and qigong is that consistent efforts bridge the body’s physical structure with our energetic essence. I found a very interesting and well-written article about that from the perspective of quantum physics. Science confirms much of what the old Chinese practitioners discovered and acknowledged millennia ago (yogis and Tibetans, too, of course).

Nothing is solid, everything is energy

Qigong is like massage

CHI CharacterQigong is like Massage on the inside of the body. The effect of movement is from the inside out. The organs, ligaments, tendons, all the connective tissue. The fascia. The lymph nodes and channels, the meridians, even the bone marrow, all benefit from movement on the inside. When you are doing Qigong and Taiji keep this in mind.

Research and tai chi benefits

CHIThe benefits of tai chi are numerous and have been known for a very long time, but Americans are really only recently learning about them. It takes time to find out about things even in these times of rapid-fire media. It takes time to to take hold and I’m finding out that people begin to notice more of what I’ve known for almost two decades when articles about research start showing up in media where people get their information.

I’ve found many interesting sources of articles about tai chi on http://news.google.com, the Google news section of Google+. For example, this one on tai chi and other modalities helping to relieve suffering form fibromyalgia: http://www.youthhealthmag.com/articles/3126/20141125/fibromyalgia-and-complementary-health-approaches.htm.

I know about the abilities of tai chi to heal after practicing it for 16 years. I’ve seen it change me and my health and my approach to health. I tell people all the time about what they could learn from doing tai chi, but it is difficult for them to believe and to change their routines in order to spend the time it takes to experience the benefits. I hope more people discover the potential and possibilities from tai chi and qigong, as well as other complementary and alternative approaches to preventative healthcare. If people don’t believe me, maybe they’ll believe references to research that seem to influence our belief systems so much.

A view of the mindful movement of tai chi

White Crane Spreads Wings tai chi posture

Yang Panhou, White Crane Spreads Wings


Normally when we move through life, our attention is divided. We seldom give full attention to anything that we happen to be doing in any given moment. We are multi-tasking to the ultimate, rushing around, moving here and there. Our minds are elsewhere, thinking about things beyond what our bodies are doing. This wearies many of us and stress builds. We have difficulty managing emotions, we react to the world in desperation and despair; and over time, our health even wanes.

Take driving an automobile for example. While driving we are doing many things at once. We are steering, operating accelerator and brakes, reading road signs, watching out for other drivers, making sure we stay in our lane, the rearview mirror thing is happening. At the same time, we’re also thinking about what’s for dinner, or what a friend or relative is doing, or what was said earlier, or about work problems … on and on it goes. If this ever wears you down, then welcome to the club.

For respite we turn to diversions, such as movies or television sports, or participate in sports. These help take our minds off our worries. These activities give us a break from the more stressful stuff … until we’re off again multitasking states of being. Often, we end up doing even more stuff to try and relax from the other stuff we are doing that wears us down. It’s a vicious cycle of endless return.

In contrast, the mindful movement practice of tai chi gives us a chance to move with the fullest attention of our whole being to the very act of movement itself. And when we do this, we feel different, refreshed, whole again. Relaxation is letting go, unburdening ourselves of energetic stagnation and energetic weights that are not us.

Tai chi differs from watching a movie of course, since tai chi is movement you do yourself. You are consciously choosing to give your fullest attention to the movement.

For many practitioners tai chi is the ultimate meditative movement, because it involves all levels of our total being. It’s not just physical, which most western-based exercises or therapies are limited by. Tai chi is mental, energetic, even spiritual alignment in the sense of connecting the very same energies in our beings with those that make up the whole universe. You immerse your whole being completely in the moment, and in return it feeds back regenerative power.

If you discover the wonders of tai chi, you probably will consider yourself extremely lucky and your gratitude will be reflected in your practice. How much should you practice? Even the smallest amount of effort can produce big benefits in terms of how you feel.

Tai Chi and High Blood Pressure

When you have HBP it is more difficult to get blood to deliver nutrients and oxygen to the body’s cells, which of course is where life itself is regenerated. Without this process we don’t live. This is a simple statement, but it helps to be reminded, because many of us neglect the fact that the better our body’s function the better we feel. Okay, that’s a simple statement, too. Yet how well do we live by it? Often life is cut short by things that we can change before it’s too late. In taiji it’s quite simple. Just move the body so that the heart opens fully and let (help) the blood flow more completely to the cells. This is easy to do with minimal training.

Plaque builds up cholesterol, another relatively well-known piece of information; an accurate description of what goes on in the blood vessels as a result of eating certain foods over time and doing little to prevent it. It’s also true that, for most of us, our bodies are fully equipped at birth to heal themselves if they have the nutrients necessary to achieve and maintain optimum function. Okay…another simple statement.

What is within your power to make necessary changes? I know one thing to do in addition to eating better, and even though good nutrition eludes you. Stand in wuqi with good intention, take a deep breath, stretch your body, do qigong moves with attention and affection. Open the body so the blood will flow, so oxygen will feed the cells and stimulate the life force, sending signals to your whole being that you are not prepared to die the slow death that HBP delivers, and that you want to live as fully in each moment as possible.

Standing in Wuchi

Stand in wuchi: sincere and patient, but not neglectful. Stable and rooted, yet agile and poised. Stand in wuchi, the sky comes down to you, the earth rises up within you. Stand in wuchi in movement, the stillness is yin, the conscious center. Zhan Zhuang, or post standing, or Yiquan are similar. Even when you are moving in the form, be in wuchi. Even when moving you are still and within that stillness, there is motion. There is no movement without stillness and no stillness without movement. This stimulating perspective ignites my imagination.

Resistance in Tai Chi

Tai chi is about changing the way you are accustomed to moving. People often work against themselves in tai chi. They provide their own resistance to their attempts to change how they move. You can describe how this is manifested in the physical movements. Though it sounds trite and cliché, we yin when we should yang, and yang when yin is a more efficient use of energy. For example, in horizontal circles or the taiji tu when shifting weight to the back leg, we often can catch ourselves pushing against the direction of the flow with the receiving leg. The yin-yang balance would be to yang out and down the front leg into the Earth and yin inward up into the back leg. A pumping motion moves each leg like a piston pumping up then down while the other receives the energy. The mind directs it and observes changes as they occur, the energy flows and the body follows. If you’re in the Durango area come by and say hello. This summer I will be leading free classes in Schneider Park on the river near 9th Street Bridge on Saturday’s at 11 am. It’s a great way to relax and meet new friends while learning a truly artful movement system. If you decide to come please let me know before you do.