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Guest Comment: Tai chi – how it works

November 15, 2017
By FRANK TUMA , Pine Island Eagle

Tai chi has its roots in Taoism, its Zen from Buddhism and the disciplined efficiency from Confucianism. There has been a recent scientific study performed in China in partnership with an American medical university to evaluate, by actual brain measurement, the value of Tai chi and other aerobic activities.

A representative sample of 120 non-dementia elderly people, split into three groups, had two MRIs taken, one before doing their assigned tasks and one after. Significant increases in brain volumes and cognition were measured in the Tai chi, non-aerobic exercises group. The same MRI tests were performed on people who walked and performed other aerobic exercises, and very minimal brain enlargement or increased cognition was measured. The reason assumed for these results is the very extensive brain to body interaction required to learn and perform Tai chi.

In order to learn Tai chi, we must learn its five qualities: slow, balanced, continuous, centered and graceful. All must be practiced when performing Tai chi. The most important aspect of Tai chi is the development of awareness, which is sensing all the energies around us.

The very slow Tai chi movements go in many precise directions of the compass, moving all the body parts as we do in real life. We are living an imaginary battle with continuously attacking opponents coming from many directions around us for 15 to 20 minutes. This is the time it takes to do the entire form, approximately 126 movements. Slow is very difficult, because when you do something slowly you also are showcasing the details of the other qualities, and you do not get to use the momentum from speed, which normally gives you balance.

In Tai chi, we are simulating a real battle, and if you fall down you are at a definite disadvantage. We know from life experiences that the body parts not in use must be relaxed or you are using up energy. We know that relaxation gives us energy and speed that is needed throughout the battle. Continuous turning protects us from the enemy coming from many directions; therefore moves are not only continuous but also they must be very efficient. For many people spatial concepts are very difficult and constant tuning sharpens this skill. Learning to breathe through our entire body helps to bring energy back to the most used body parts. We learn that breathing out is a yang or aggressive move, and breathing in is done during yin moves, which helps keep us as charged up as possible. We need our confidence to be at our peak level and learning the most efficient breathing and movement techniques are very key to our continued success as we age. Increasing our longevity doesn't count for much if we can't enjoy and count on a certain level of quality in life as well.

Please contact me at 239-283-9155 regarding Tai chi. Class is held on Tuesdays and Thursdays, 3-5 p.m., and 6-8 p.m., at the Fishers of Men Lutheran Church on Pine Island, and at Sandoval Club House on Mondays, 4-5 p.m.



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