The slow, flowing movements look like a dance, but it is what goes on inside the body that makes Tai chi different: During a class recently, I felt as if my body were getting hooked up to a universal “filling station” and being replenished with energy. The result? Better ease of movement, increased flexibility and a sense of peaceful well-being. I do a “short form” almost every morning that takes all of ten minutes, one of the helpful ways I have found to live with Marfan syndrome.
Tai chi originated thousands of years ago as part of the ancient system of Traditional Chinese Medicine. The movements have their origins in martial arts, but are performed slowly, with controlled breathing and an awareness of the flow of energy inside the body. Tai chi has been called “moving meditation.”
Studies have found that Tai chi strengthens the immune system and can help with pain caused by osteoarthritis of the knee. In other research, Tai chi has been found to improve balance and coordination in older people, and reduce falls. It can also help with osteoporisis by increasing bone density.
All in all, not a bad ten-minute investment of time. Anyone else have Tai chi stories to share?
Do you believe that you are only the total of your physical parts: the bones, muscles and internal organs, and the cells and molecules that make them up? Some people — and I am one of them —argue that there is something more, something invisible — which might be called the soul or spirit — that exists within us as well. This question is important in any discussion of complementary and alternative health practices because most, if not all, of these treatments are based on the second premise: the belief that there is, in fact, some non-material “life force” within us that is the essence of our personalities and that may also play an important role in the health of our bodies.
This hard-to-define and mysterious quality has many names in different cultures. Practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine — a system that is thousands of years old — call this energy Qi (pronounced “chi”). It is believed that Qi — which is also thought to pervade everything in the universe — pulses through our bodies, much like the blood, through invisible but well-mapped pathways called “meridians.” Blockages in the flow of Qi lead to disease or pain, and much of Chinese medicine is directed to removing these blockages, freeing the flow of energy so that the body can heal itself.
The belief in a “universal life force” has been present throughout recorded human history. More than five thousand years ago, Ayruvedic healers and yogis in India referred to Prana as energy that, like the Chinese concept of Qi, is not only within us, but also in the world around us. The Japanese word for life force is “Ki.” The ancient Egyptians called it ‘Ka,’ and the Hawaiians ‘Mana,’ In these cultures, people believe that healers can direct and restore these healing forces to cure disease and relieve pain.
Something to think about.