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Despite regular media claims trumpeting tai chi as the 'perfect exercise' - there is no such thing as a panacea. There is no miracle cure for aging and ailments.
It is important to avoid foolishness and naivety when it comes to your health.
Pilates, yoga, swimming, jogging, gym work, weight training, Alexander technique and countless other approaches to health and wellbeing all have their pros and cons. The same is true of tai chi.
Everyone is different and their health needs tend to be specific to the individual. What suits one person may not suit another.
It is important to be open-minded and listen to your body rather than to the media.
Although many people seek to use tai chi as a means of curing illness, this is not where its strength lies. Tai chi is best employed whilst healthy, not sick.
When a healthy person does tai chi they are more apt to remain healthy. It takes far less effort to prevent something than to cure it...
Tai chi differs from other approaches to health because it aims to move in accord with nature. This means no straining, no forcing anything, no excess and no upset.
Compared to other forms of exercise, tai chi is quite mild. It progressively improves health without ever pushing the body. Change occurs quietly and unnoticed.
Flawless tai chi?
Tai chi as an exercise system is not without flaw:
(i) Every class is different
Teaching styles and syllabuses vary quite radically in tai chi. There is no real consensus. Some schools are not professional enough to follow a syllabus. The very nature of 'tai chi' is subject to debate.
(ii) Muscles & joints
Tai chi may arguably exercise every muscle in the body but it does place emphasis upon certain muscle groups to the relative neglect of other ones. This is inevitable in any 'system'.
'Tai chi knees' is a common ailment that can arise from poor tuition and/or poor practice.
If you want to improve your health, start with your diet. Food and drink represent the chemical constituents our bodies require for fuel and wellbeing.
You cannot reasonably eat a lousy diet and expect good health. The intake needs to be nutritious, balanced, wholesome and good for your body.
Do not regard eating as being a leisure activity. Eat what you need rather than what you want.
Many forms of exercise neglect the mind. Tai chi is quite different. It has grown out of Taoism and offers an approach to living that permeates every aspect of your relationship with the world around you.
If you study tai chi and do not read extensively, you are failing to fully exercise your mind and this will diminish your understanding of tai chi considerably.
healthy are you?
In the book Maximum Brainpower, the authors explain how people indulge in different forms of denial:
Denial of personal involvement: It cannot happen to me
Denial of urgency: It can happen, but not for a long time
Denial of vulnerability: If and when it does happen, I can cope with it
Denial of anxiety: I know something is happening, but I am not worried
Denial of emotion: I acknowledge my emotion, but I deny its source. I explain it away. If I suffer from a racing heart, it's because I have been exercising
Denial of threatening information: I filter the information so that I do not perceive any threat
Denial of all information: When presented with the truth, I deny it exists
Denial is a form of pretending. Being
honest about your health and fitness is important. Honesty enables you to
deal with problems before they become
Tai chi is often described as
"meditation in motion," but it might well be called "medication in motion."
There is growing evidence that this mind-body practice, which originated in
China as a martial art, has value in treating or preventing many health
problems. And you can get started even if you aren't in top shape or the
best of health.
Tai chi differs from other types of exercise in several respects. The movements are usually circular and never forced, the muscles are relaxed rather than tensed, the joints are not fully extended or bent, and connective tissues are not stretched. Tai chi addresses the key components of fitness — muscle strength, flexibility, balance, and, to a lesser degree, aerobic conditioning.
(Harvard Medical School’s Harvard Health Publication, May 2009)
Page created 2 March 1995
Last updated 16 June 2023