If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change.
Does Qigong & Tai Chi Really Have Health Benefits?
One of the finest studies documenting the effect of qigong on hypertension was conducted by the Shanghai Institute of Hypertension part of the Shanghai Medical University. A group of 122 patients and a control group of 120 non-practitioners. Both groups took standard hypertension drugs, which subjects were tracked over a thirty year period of time. At the end of this period 47.76% of the control group had died. Only 25.41% of the qigong group had died. These are very significant results, with a probability of less than one in a thousand of being due to chance. The incident of a stroke in the control group was 40.83%, in the qigong group 20.49%, the incident of death due to stoke was 32.5% among the controls and in the qigong group 15.57%. These results are also significant.
When 40 of the patients were diagnosed by ultrasound, the qigong group was found to have stronger heart muscles and better left ventricular function.
The basic protocol and results of the Shanghai study were replicated in a six year study with 204 hypertensive patients conducted at Xiamen University in Fujian Province. At the six year follow up it was found that the combination of qigong and hypertensive drugs was 19% more effective than hypertensive drugs alone. The mortality rate from all causes was 17.31% in the qigong and nearly double, 32% among the controls. Also after just six months the qigong group contained significant higher levels of the good HDL cholesterol.
(Ref: Scholar Kenneth S. Cohen – The Way of Qigong)
I imagine there are a lot of current or past Tai Chi & Qigong practitioners that have either given up practice or are thinking of doing so due to the fact they feel no difference after training for a certain period of time. However, this type of training can be very subtle/refined and the day by day benefits may not be so noticeable in some practitioners, however the long term benefits are HUGE. Keep practicing you only need as little as 10 – 20 minutes a day to improve your health (although the more you put in the greater the results). As more time spent practicing then you become more sensitive to the training and the benefits can be felt not just daily but during practice.
What Is Tai Chi?
Tai Chi is a slow moving meditative exercise for relaxation, health, mind, spirit and self-defence. These very specific movements are designed to stretch the limbs to energise, activate and clear the meridian channels within the body to cultivate chi / energy. One of the secretes of Tai Chi and is rarely understood in the west from Tai Chi instructors is the correct nature of intention, this is were the true power comes from. Tai Chi has gained enormous popularity in England and throughout the rest of the world for its health benefits.
At the time of its development, Tai Chi was a very potent art, jealously guarded by a few families and used for self defence. The proper shapes for the transmission of energy, the methods of single-weightedness, techniques of relaxation and breath control all were developed with the express purpose of prevailing in combat in an efficient, scientific manner. It is important for the Tai Chi student to be able to appreciate and understand this martial context even if one is not interested in this aspect of Tai Chi.
Tai Chi has its origins in Taoism and Martial Arts. Tai Chi Chuan means “Supreme Ultimate Boxing. Tai Chi Chuan practitioner seeks to neutralize his opponent’s use of force before applying a countering force of his own. In this give and take, this interplay of energies, Tai Chi finds its highest expression.
Today we may use Tai Chi to “fight” fatigue, stress, overwork or lack of understanding of oneself and one’s body. Tai Chi can be used to help keep stress from killing you or creating dis-ease. Daily practice of Tai Chi promotes mental clarity and a healthy body, assists with balance and helps the cultivation and circulation of the body’s chi and blood.
Reduces Stress levels
Increases your energy levels
Better quality sleep
Strengthens bones, muscles & joints
Improves Digestion due to internal massage
Improve heart & lung function
Prevent age related ill health
Quiets & focuses the mind
Generates good sound well being & peace within the body & mind.
What Should You Think About When You Do Tai Chi?
Ideally, when practising the form, you should keep your mind empty. No pictures, no words. However, while not thinking any thoughts, pictures or words, you should be feeling the straightness of your spine, the bubbling well spring in your foot, your weight distribution as you go from posture to posture, and the texture of the air. You cannot focus on all these things at one time at first, so add them one at a time. When you can comfortably do one thing, add another. Eventually you will be able to think of nothing and concentrate on all of the feelings in your body as you practice Tai Chi.
When you are able to concentrate on all of the feelings in your body while practising Tai Chi, so many other doors will open to you. Better Chi Flow, improved Push Hands Sensitivity, Deeper Meditation…
Ten Essential Points Of Practice For Tai Chi
No matter how long we may have been practising Tai Chi Chuan, be it weeks, months, years, or decades, these ten points are essential for our continued development.
Approach Tai Chi Chuan with no preconceptions. Experience it as meditation, physical culture, and as an exercise of chi. You may develop self-defence along the way, but you may also develop that which is truly supreme and ultimate.
Every person is an individual. Some things will come quickly, others slowly, and some, perhaps, not at all. Know that each person develops at his own pace. The student competes only with himself. Therefore, a student should not feel that he is falling behind if a fellow student develops a skill in a month that he cannot acquire in six. The student may develop more quickly in another area. But even if not, remember that progress in Tai Chi Chuan, for most of us, is measured not in months, but in years.
While most students experience some benefit from Tai Chi practice within the first few weeks, Tai Chi is the practice of a lifetime. Ever increasing benefits of Tai Chi Chuan accrue with the decades of one’s practice. Practice should be morning and night all the days of one’s life.
This facilitates the flow of chi up the spine.
Breathe in the Dan-Tien
This develops chi.
Empty the Mind
Tai Chi Chuan is meditation. This improves sensitivity to input, ability to react, to concentrate and to be sensitive to and to control chi.
This enhances internal sensitivity and improves balance in the form, push hands, and self-defence.
Feel Air as Substantial
If the air has substance, how much more substance will even your most supple opponent have? Also, this will aid in doing the form smoothly and at an even pace.
Softness Through Root
Develop your foothold so that five or six strong men together cannot push you. Also, develop your ability at neutralising and softness so that you need never use that root. In this way, while having substantial root, you will always feel light and supple.
Never try to harm anyone in practice, teaching, or demonstration. In push hands and self-defence as in form, you are competing with no one except yourself. If you feel a need to overpower your partner in practice, then your real need is to overpower your own ego. Your partner is there to help you develop your skills and you his. When you are pushed by your partner, it is not your partner who has pushed you, but rather your inability to neutralise the push. You will be “un-pushed” when you have sufficiently overcome yourself in body, emotions, mind, and spirit.
Basic Tai Chi Concepts
•The importance of moving slowly through the form cannot be overemphasised. It will improve the smoothness of your motions, which will improve the connectedness of your motions.
•Tai Chi movement is movement that is performed in a connected fashion. This means that motion starts in the spine, goes to the waist, moves down through the legs to the feet, and simultaneously up through the body to the arms, hands and fingers.
•Tai Chi power, or fa-jing, travels differently from Tai Chi movement. The power starts in the feet, moves through the legs, is controlled by the waist, and expressed by the hands and fingers.
•Being disconnected is a serious fault that can only be overcome with slow movements and proper instruction.
•Make sure your shoulders are dropped to eliminate tension.
•The wrists should be straight to form the “beautiful lady’s hand” when performing Cheng Man-Ching’s form. While the other points apply to all Tai Chi forms, this one is a basic and very important characteristic of Professor Cheng’s form to cultivate energy flow.
•The chest should be depressed and the back raised, but without force.
•Focus your breath on your dan-tien, but don’t force it there. As you become more accomplished, you should synchronise your breath with your movements. Consult your teacher as to when you should inhale or exhale.
•The head should feel as if “suspended from above”.
•Keep your knees bent throughout the entire form, and don’t let your height bob up and down. Except for certain points in the form, the height should be maintained at a constant level.
Do not expect to be able to watch all of these at the same time. It is best to pick one to try to master each month and embed it into your form, then proceed to the next point. In time and with patient practice, you can reach a very high level.
The sword form is beautiful to watch and also to practice, but is usually taught in the later stages of your Tai Chi study. You need to be competent in the Tai Chi principles first within the yang short form and then taking those principles to the sword.