Benefits of T'ai Chi and Qi Gong
Qi Gong and T'ai Chi (or more accurately, T'ai Chi Chuan) are arts of meditation through movement, and therefore quite a gentle form of exercise. Both constitute slow, rhythmic movements with deep breathing, calming down the whole body and bringing inner peace. However, for all its gentle appearance, its effects are incredibly powerful.
Practising T'ai Chi and Qi Gong is about achieving balance, and harmony. It is based on the concept of chi, meaning energy. That energy drives the whole of nature, including your own body, and keeps it alive and moving. The principle of t'ai chi is to align your body, mind and spirit with that chi and maximize the benefits. A person is healthy when there’s a smooth flow of chi throughout the body, and when they work in harmony with the universe around them rather than resisting it.
Physical Stress Management: T'ai Chi and Qi Gong relax the whole body and the mind through focused, slow movements, and the deep breathing. The movements stretch, tense and relax the muscles slowly, making them more flexible, and better at allowing the chi to flow.
Emotional stress management: T'ai Chi induces a sense of perspective which allows people to react to situations without emotional "baggage", and to deal with the situation as it is, rather than as seen through the eyes of the ego.
Mental Strength: Normally the mind is cluttered with a lot of conflicting thoughts. With practice, the mind, nervous system and body become stronger, and able to cope much better with pressure without tensing up.
High Blood Pressure: This epidemic affecting people in the West is easily counter-acted with qi gong and t'ai chi practice, as well as with preventative therapies such as massage, and improvements in diet.
Posture problems: The focus on balanced stances and movements and increased co-ordination results very often in better awareness of imbalances in your own body, improving its overall physical performance.
Insomnia: The increasing stress and workload in society has lead to a huge increase in this complaint. Qi Gong relaxes the body as well as the mind, so the practitioner often finds that one of the first effects of taking up t'ai chi is the ability to sleep properly, allowing the body to recover much faster.
Arthritis: This joint disorder often entails lack of mobility, pain and inflammation. T'ai Chi exercises slowly stretch the muscles and the joints only to the comfort level without over-stretching and thus reducing the pain and inflammation naturally. 15-20 minutes of practice a day does wonders for arthritis patients, and once the chi begins to flow through the joints properly, long-term practice can improve the condition immeasurably.
More and more, the western scientific community is becoming interested in the benefits t'ai chi has to offer. They know it is beneficial, but they want to understand why. This BBC programme gives a flavour of the types of experiments they are doing to see what t'ai chi is doing to the body, and it contains some benefits which certainly seem to be surprising them.
Why not come and have a go yourself, and see how it might help you?