Tai chi engages mind and body

February 25, 2012

Tai Chi

In the Eastern tradition, the mind is not separated from the body, and tai chi is a practice that engages both.

by Jana Stolins — 

“There was a sense of stillness and meditative gracefulness about it,” said Dr. Bruce McFarlane, a retired family physician, as he described what first attracted him 17 years ago to the ancient Chinese tradition of set movements known as tai chi.

He soon learned to achieve a calm fluidity, which requires not only mental concentration but also physical ability. In the Eastern tradition, the mind is not separated from the body, and tai chi is a practice that engages both. It simultaneously incorporates training in strength, balance, flexibility, endurance and relaxation.

Although tai chi is often compared to martial arts, such as tae kwon do or karate, it is neither competitive nor combative. There are no belts awarded for achievement and no sparring with fellow students. Instead, practitioners perform a set series of 108 movements.

Tai chi can be considered moderate aerobic activity, as it works the cardiovascular system and engages all of your muscles, making them both stronger and more supple. It is practiced to improve balance, strength and flexibility; its purpose is the restoration and maintenance of health.

As a physician, McFarlane says it is the universality of tai chi that appeals to him. The moves can be adapted to people of any physical health, age and ability. People recovering from accidents or illness, those with Parkinson’s disease and older people who are weak and afraid of falling find improved health through tai chi.

And yet it can still be demanding for experienced practitioners, the young and the physically fit. By holding moves longer, reaching farther or bending lower, tai chi continues to challenge the body and retain your interest.

“The moves change as the body changes,” agrees Heather Roper, who became a regular tai chi practitioner, following an accident in which she had broken her foot and sprained both ankles. She hoped tai chi would help her regain some balance and strength, but found it also helped her deal with the stresses of a demanding job. “It helps me balance my life,” she says, adding that she continues to do tai chi almost daily.

Remember tai chi for the restoration and maintenance of health and to improve balance, strength, flexibility and more.

 

Jana Stolins is an instructor with the Taoist Tai Chi Society, a nonprofit organization started in Canada 40 years ago by a Taoist monk. The Arizona branch holds beginner and continuing classes. www.arizona.usa.taoist.org or www.thetigersmouth.org for events and community information. janacathrine@gmail.com or 623-252-0027.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 29, Number 6, Dec 2010/Jan 2011.

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